Berkshire Safeguarding Children Board Procedures
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1.5.1 Working Protocol Between Emergency Duty Team and Berkshire Unitary Authorities


  1. Aim of the Service
  2. Access to Service
  3. Service Performance
  5. Training
  6. Management of the Service
  7. Legislation
  8. Unitary Authorities Responsibilities
  9. Emergency Duty Team - Contact Details

1. Aim of the Service

The Service aims to provide an emergency social work service outside normal office hours on behalf of each of the 6 Unitary Authorities of Berkshire. The purpose of the Service is: -

  • To respond to emergencies where immediate Social Services intervention is required to safeguard a vulnerable child or adult;
  • To respond to referrals which are not emergencies, but which good practice standards indicate should be responded to before the next working day and where delay could be detrimental to the individual;
  • To provide advice and guidance about services available and to screen and redirect inappropriate referrals to other services;
  • To provide advice and assistance where appropriate to homeless people.

2. Access to Service

The Service shall be available to the general public 5pm to 9am Monday to Friday and from 4.45pm Friday to 9am Monday to cover weekends on 01344 786543. Bank Holidays will be covered in the same way as weekends. In addition, Emergency Duty Team staff will be available for consultation with Unitary Authorities for 15 minutes prior to the opening of service in the evening and for 15 minutes after closure of service in the morning on 01344 786512.

On Christmas and New Year's Eve the Emergency Duty Team will commence operation at 3.30pm. Social Workers within the Team will be contactable by the respective Unitary Authorities at 3pm on 01344 786512.

Written alerts from professionals about potential issues can be forwarded by e-mail ( to the office at any time providing full details of the family including ICS ref. no. and the current concern. Referrals received during the day are the responsibility of the individual Unitary Authority as the Emergency Duty Team does not have the resources to take on existing work.

The Service will be available to all persons who are ordinarily resident in the 6 unitary Authorities of Berkshire. The Service shall also be available to other persons in respect of whom a Unitary Authority has a statutory power, duty or responsibility and who need an urgent response.

The Service shall not physically receive callers at the premises from which it operates. Staff of the Emergency Duty Team may, where appropriate, visit persons in their own homes or in public buildings. The decision concerning the appropriateness of a visit, either to the service users home or in a public building rests with the Emergency Duty Team.

Language/Communication Issues

The Service will take every practicable step to communicate with service users for whom the use of English presents difficulties. This will involve accessing, where available, the services of interpreters and staff conversant with British Sign Language. These costs will be met from the Emergency Duty Team budget.

The Emergency Duty Team can also be accessed by the general public by Minicom on 01344 786514 or by text 07867 907877.

Prioritising Referrals

Due to the wide geographical and statutory remit and working within the limits of available resources, the Service cannot seek to duplicate that offered by daytime Social Services Departments. Work is limited to crisis which arise outside normal office hours and priority will be afforded to those situations seen to be most at risk and in need. In general terms first priority will be given to Child Protection situations and those requiring the involvement of an Approved Social Worker (Mental Health).

Criteria for Service

The Emergency Duty Team Co-ordinator will determine if the situation is an emergency by applying the following criteria: -

  1. That the Service being requested is the responsibility of the Social Services Departments concerned;
  2. That there are valid reasons why the request cannot await a response until the next working day;
  3. That the request will be considered in conjunction with all other demands being made upon the Emergency Duty Team. Although the situation may require urgent action, the Service cannot guarantee an instant response, but will determine priority according to the perceived vulnerability of the person requiring the involvement of the Emergency Duty Team.

Primary/Priority Tasks for the Emergency Duty Team

Children & Families

  • Child Protection Assessments, joint assessments and Child and Family Assessments, including those for children discharged from hospital where there are welfare concerns;
  • Joint Assessments with the Police;
  • Statutory and voluntary methods to secure the safety of children, e.g. application for Emergency Protection Order, admission to Local Authority accommodation;
  • Provision of Appropriate Adults under PACE, where parents are unable / unwilling to attend;
  • Responding to Youth Courts, e.g. attending where appropriate, arranging remands to Local Authority accommodation;
  • Emergency family support to prevent children entering Local Authority accommodation when families are in crisis;
  • Advice to residential staff and foster carers;
  • Advice to service users regarding family/emotional matters.

Mental Health/Learning Disability

  • Mental Health assessments under 1983 Mental Health Act;
  • Provide Appropriate Adults for Vulnerable People under PACE 1984;
  • Assisting Police under Section 136 Mental Health Act;
  • Advice to Health Service staff/Police regarding the Mental Health Act;
  • Advice to agencies and families regarding placement matters;
  • Responding to individuals who are distressed/suicidal;
  • Securing a property following placement in residential care/ hospital.

Older People/People with Physical Disabilities

  • Assessment of temporary emergency placements for service users requiring admission to residential care homes;
  • Assessment and arrangement of temporary Home Care to avoid placement in nursing homes or residential care homes;
  • Responding to service users' enquiries on existing home care services;
  • Appropriate adult responsibilities under PACE;
  • Support to carers where crises could lead to hospitalisation/residential care;
  • Advice to carers regarding Local Authority resources, welfare rights etc.

Homelessness/Financial Intervention

Acting as agents for other Party's Housing Departments where required in:

  • Placement of vulnerable adults/young people/families under Homeless Persons legislation;
  • Liaison with Benefits Agency when financial crises exist for a service user;
  • Advice regarding Housing and Welfare Rights issues.

Other Agencies

An information and advice service shall be provided to other appropriate statutory and independent sector agencies out of normal office hours. This part of the Service is limited to urgent queries, which if left unanswered could impact on any of the Parties, e.g. the passing on of contact telephone numbers for domicilary care services.

The above list is illustrative, not prescriptive

3.Service Performance

All referrals shall be responded to promptly, advising the referrer where delays may occur as a result of workload volume, complex cases, the availability of other services or other key persons. Priority will be determined according to the perceived vulnerability of the person receiving the Service.

On the basis of a direct assessment of a vulnerable person or child in need, such arrangements as may be necessary for his/her care shall be made until day time staff can assume responsibility. This may include taking statutory action under the appropriate legislation, e.g. application for an Emergency Protection Order under the Children Act 1989, undertaking assessments under the Mental Health Act 1983 etc.

Action taken in response to referrals shall be recorded in sufficient detail to enable day staff to progress work promptly. The appropriate Party shall be advised by email on the next working day of the action taken by the Service. A member of Emergency Duty team administrative staff will normally be available during normal office hours (9.00am to 5.00pm) on 01344 786512 to co-ordinate a response to any further requests for information from any of the Other Parties in connection with action taken by the Service.

Emergency Duty Team Social Workers will make every effort to attend planning/review meetings and contribute to care plans where appropriate.

In providing the Service the staff shall have regard to the Bracknell Forest Borough Council Social Services and Housing Department Policies and Procedure (provided that it is recognised however that not all such policies and procedures are relevant to an Emergency Duty Team covering 6 different Unitary Authorities)

Method of Service

The current arrangements for the Service involves office based professional Social Workers who take all the initial contacts to the Service. An answer-phone is used to record contacts when the Social Workers are engaged on other calls. A substantial number of contacts are dealt with by telephone and do not result in a visit being made. The decision to send an Emergency Duty Team Social Worker out on an assessment visit rests with the Co-ordinator.

Social Workers within the Emergency Duty Team can authorise expenditure on behalf of the respective Unitary Authority up to £50 per day per client. Any expenditure above this will need to be authorised by the respective Unitaries on call manager.


The comments of persons using the Service shall be invited, collected, recorded and taken into account in service planning, by means of regular liaison and annual surveys.

Where a complaint is made against staff at The Emergency Duty Team in the first instant this will be dealt with by the Emergency Duty Team Manager or Assistant team Manager (Stage 1). If the complaint is not resolved at this point it becomes the responsibility of the respective Unitary Authority.

5. Training

The Emergency Duty Team Social Workers and Managers will identify any gaps in training and skills during supervision sessions, appraisals and team meetings.

Bracknell Forest Borough Council shall provide training such that staff are suitably qualified and trained to perform their duties.

6. Management of the Service

The day to day running of the Service shall be the responsibility of the Emergency Duty Team Manager, reporting to the Emergency Services Manager of Bracknell Forest Borough Council. The Manager can be contacted on 01344 786512 during normal office hours.

Each Unitary Authority needs to provide the Service with details of whom to contact if there is a significant issue outside office hours.

The Service will provide an Annual Report Unitary Authorities each August and will host an annual Emergency Duty Team Budget Setting Meeting each September. At this Meeting the Service will also provide relevant information as requested by the respective Authorities (such as Management Performance Indicators / Statistical Data) in line with the standards set out by the Social Services Inspectorate in 1998.

Any Director of one of the Unitary Authorities can invoke a Strategic Review of the Emergency Duty Team.

7. Legislation

The Service shall operate in accordance with all relevant Social Services Health and Safety, Housing and other legislation.

8.Unitary Authorities Responsibilities

  1. To ensure the smooth and effective running of the Service the respective Unitary Authorities have a responsibility to provide details of their respective establishments and teams and notify the Service of any developments or changes both within and outside their service. This is particularly important for services also working outside office hours for instance home care contact numbers, family placement support line and mental health extended hours services;
  2. Unitary Authorities will need to provide details of any relevant contracts outside of office hours with other service providers (e.g. repairs to hoists) to ensure that these providers are used;
  3. Each Unitary Authority will provide details of available placements for children in the event that the Emergency Duty Team needs to place a child in Local Authority accommodation. This list of placements will need to be up to date. Unitary Authorities should advise the Emergency Duty Team of available placements each Friday and notify the Team of any alterations during the week. The Team Manager or Assistant Team Manager will keep this list;
  4. Respective Unitary Authorities will responsible for the costs of services provided (e.g. additional home care, Bed & Breakfast accommodation).However any costs above £50 must be agreed with the Unitary on call manager. The Emergency Duty Team will provide drivers/ escorts where possible and there will be no charge if this is within the County of Berkshire. The Emergency Duty team will also cover any travel warrants issued by the Team. However respective authorities will be responsible for all Taxi fares/ escort agencies used on their behalf. The Emergency Duty Team will attempt to use local firms and Respective Unitary Authorities will need to provide details of approved taxi/escort firms.

9. Emergency Duty Team - Contact Details

Telephone Number:   01344 786543
Fax Number: 01344 786535
Minicom Number:  01344 786514
Text   07867 907877
Forestcare Main Contact Number:  01344 786500
Daytime Contact Number:     01344 786512

Address (not to be disclosed to the public):

Emergency Duty Team
Central Depot
Old Bracknell Lane West
Berkshire RG12 7QT