Thresholds for Assessment and the Continuum of Need

Tameside Safeguarding Children Board (TSCB) has developed this ‘thresholds guidance’ to support decision making processes and to provide guidance to professionals across all agencies.

It has been produced to help professionals, concerned with supporting and safeguarding children, understand how to identify the needs of children and young people and the actions required to meet those needs. It should be read alongside the Tameside Children’s Needs Framework.

Tameside’s Continuum of Need

The continuum of need in Tameside has four levels of descriptors agreed by TSCB. These levels help professionals to decide what assessments and support children, young people and their families require. The continuum of need recognises that the needs of children and their families are dynamic and depend upon a range of circumstances. The response from professionals will need to reflect where families are on the continuum at any given point. Children and families level of need and vulnerability across the continuum can increase or decrease at any time. The majority of children will have their needs met via the provision of universal services. An estimated 20 to 30 per cent of children have additional needs at some point in their lives and require targeted support from a range of service that offer early help. A smaller number will require specialist or statutory support.

Assessment of Need

Family CAF Assessment

All practitioners, regardless of the service or organisation they work for, must complete the Family Common Assessment Framework (CAF) when they are working with children, or their parents/carers, and recognise that the family are in need of additional support at level 2 of the Thresholds. After obtaining consent the Family CAF should be stored by the agency that has completed it and shared with all appropriate services that are working with the family. All of those services must work together to provide support to the child and their family and a lead professional should be appointed to coordinate that support.

Each agency will have an identified CAF Champion and that person will be asked to submit quarterly returns on the CAFs they have completed

Requests for additional and targeted support from the Tameside Families Together and Inspire should be made via the Children’s Hub. All agencies will be required to submit the completed CAF when they make a referral. This will be used to help determine whether the Threshold for that additional and targeted support has been met.

Statutory Assessment

Where practitioners have safeguarding concerns and think that levels 3 or 4 of the Thresholds have been met they must report their concerns immediately to the Children’s Hub. It is not appropriate to initiate a CAF but if a CAF or other assessment, such as the Graded Care Profile, has been completed practitioners will be expected to share that information. This will be help to determine whether the Threshold for Level 3 Child in Need support, or Level 4 Statutory Child Protection intervention has been met.

  • are child centred.
  • are rooted in child development and informed by evidence;
  • are focused on action and outcomes for children;
  • are holistic in approach, addressing the child's needs within their family and wider community;
  • ensure equality of opportunity;
  • involve children and families;
  • build on strengths as well as identifying difficulties;
  • are integrated in approach;
  • are a continuing process not an event;
  • lead to action, including the provision of services;
  • review services provided on an ongoing basis; and
  • are transparent and open to challenge.

Reporting a Safeguarding Concern

Safeguarding Concerns

All safeguarding concerns should be reported to the Children’s Hub using the Online Electronic Referral form. Referrals can also be made via the telephone.

  • Monday to Friday during office hours - 0161 342 4101
  • Monday to Friday outside office hours and weekends and public holidays – 0161 342 2222

The safeguarding functions within the Children’s Hub bring together all the multi-agency resources to provide a quick and robust response to safeguarding children at the front door. The Children’s Hub will ensure:

  • professional children’s social care management oversight.
  • all contacts, which meet threshold for statutory children’s social care assessment, are provided with a response within 24 hours.
  • all contacts, where there are potential or presenting safeguarding concerns are triaged from a whole-family perspective with the multi-agency team.
  • a clear, transparent and informative response to professionals when dealing with safeguarding concerns.
  • there is a clear step-up/step-down process in place
  • there is a clear multi-agency escalation process in place under the auspices of TSCB.
  • compliance with Working Together 2015 statutory guidance.

Decision Making

A Social Work Practice Manager makes the case management decision following triage within the Children’s Hub. When the threshold for children’s social care are met contacts are referred immediately (within 24 hours) in accordance with Working Together to Safeguard Children (2015) guidance. The Social Work Practice Manager will advise and consult with other agencies regarding safeguarding concerns and managing risk.

Some safeguarding concerns reported to the Children’s Hub will not be deemed to have met the criteria for statutory intervention at levels 3 or 4 of the Thresholds. At this stage professionals may be advised to complete a Family CAF and work with other professionals to provide a coordinated multi-agency package of support. Tameside Families Together or Inspire might also be offered to support this process although work to assess, and support, the needs of the family should not wait until a worker from those services has been allocated.

Professional Disagreement & Respectful Challenge

Professionals that report safeguarding concerns often know the family well and together with their line manager, or safeguarding lead, have a carefully considered view on whether the concerns meet the criteria for statutory intervention at levels 3 and 4 of the Thresholds.

In many cases, deemed not to meet the criteria for statutory intervention, it is reasonable for the Children’s Hub to advise professionals to complete a Family CAF and to support the family through other multi-agency support.

However, all professionals, regardless of their position or profession have the right and duty to challenge that decision if they disagree with it and believe the child to be at risk of harm.

In these circumstances professionals should refer to the Greater Manchester Resolving Professional Disagreements/Escalation Policy.

Furthermore if professionals are not informed of the decision, at the point of contact or within 24 hours, they should contact the Children’s Hub to check what decision has been made. Professionals should never assume that by contacting the Children’s Hub and sharing their concerns they have fulfilled their responsibilities.

Level 1 Universal Services

Children whose needs are being met by universal services, such as housing, mainstream education, primary health care, community resources and children’s centres, with telephone advice and occasional home visits.

Area of Need

These examples are to illustrate levels of need; it is not an exhaustive list and will not replace professional judgement

Health
  • Children who appear to be emotionally well adjusted
  • Children who are reaching developmental milestones and normal growth patterns
Education
  • Children whose educational achievement is in accordance with their age, ability, aptitude and attachments
  • Children who are engaged in their school and community
  • Young people who are in education, training or work.
Social, Emotional and Behavioural, including identity
  • Children who have effective support networks
  • Children’s cultural needs are generally met
Family and Social Relationships
  • Family have positive family and social relationships
  • Significant other family members are available to support the child
  • The wider family produce positive role models for the child
Child’s Environment
  • Children who have a stable and safe home environment
  • Accommodation is appropriate for the size of the family
  • Cleanliness of the house is adequate
  • Parents can manage on income
  • Family is accepted within the community and neighbourhood

Services available to help meet identified needs

  • Acute & Primary Health Care
  • Universal and Youth Services
  • School Provision
  • Housing
  • Leisure
  • After School Provision (Extended)
  • Religious Organisations
  • Children’s Centres
  • Voluntary Organisations
  • Home Based Care
  • Play groups
  • Advice and Information Centres
  • Libraries
  • Neighbourhood offer

Referral Pathways

Universal services are available to all children and families and do not require specific referral pathways.

Desired Outcome

Better informed families, children and young people able to access universal service provision and achieving optimised outcomes.

Level 2 Early help for children with emerging problems

Children and Young people who have emerging problems or are presenting with additional needs, requiring a coordinated response from two or more services/agencies.

Area of Need

These examples are to illustrate levels of need; it is not an exhaustive list and will not replace professional judgement

Health
  • Slow in reaching developmental milestones
  • Limited take-up of universal health services
  • Children with some special needs/health needs (including mental health) requiring co-ordinated support from a range of services
  • Obesity / poor diet / serious dental decay
  • Frequent attendance at A&E for minor illnesses
  • Frequent attendance at GP for minor illnesses
Education
  • Children regularly absent from school or not reaching their potential educational targets
  • Children at risk of school exclusion or have been excluded
  • Children with SEN
  • Children with limited access to educational materials, books or toys
Social, Emotional and Behavioural, including identity
  • Low self-esteem
  • Children living in poor home conditions where concerns arise about neglect
  • Victim of crime or bullying with no risk of significant harm
  • Children engaging in anti-social behaviour, at risk of offending or beginning to offend, concerns of possible radicalisation
  • Parents under stress
  • Early onset of sexual activity/teenage pregnancy/teen parents
  • Onset of self-harming
  • Low level of alcohol/drug misuse
  • Lack of age appropriate behaviour and independent living skills that increase vulnerability to social exclusion
  • Children who are occasionally reported as missing from home
  • Children suffering from the impact of domestic violence
  • Children with challenging behaviour whose parents are unable to cope without the provision of services
  • Children being clingy and withdrawn
  • Children who occasionally harm other children and attempts at resolution have not been successful
  • Parents struggling to manage children’s behaviour
Family and Social Relationships
  • Parents/carers who have relationship difficulties which may affect the child
  • Children who fall within the definition of a young carer
Child’s Environment
  • Concerns/suspicions that domestic abuse could be a feature within the home environment
  • Homelessness, risk of homelessness, overcrowding
  • Family requires support as a result of social exclusion or harassment (including racial harassment)
  • Family socially isolated within the community/wider networks or lack access to local facilities/ or victims of anti-social behaviour.
  • Concerns that a young person could become vulnerable to Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) (CSE checklist to be used)

Services available to help meet identified needs

All level 1 services with the addition of:

  • Acute Health Services – In Patient/Out Patient
  • Primary Health Service Provision of:
    • Physiotherapy
    • Speech and language Therapy
    • Occupational Therapy
  • Pupil Support Services
  • Home Start
  • Drug and Alcohol Services
  • Housing Support Workers
  • Bridges
  • Portage Service Support to Families
  • Women’s Aid
  • Young Carer’s Service
  • Parenting Support Services
  • Integrated Services for Children with Additional Needs (ISCAN)
  • Young Families
  • Tameside Families Together & Inspire
  • Careers Guidance and Support Services (Positive Steps)

Where emerging needs are identified a co-ordinated response is required. Support will be provided at this level through early help and intervention with a coordinated assessment and support plan, providing a co-ordinated approach to prevent the escalation of need.

Support at this level should be provided by universal services via the CAF Process Early assessment and intervention is important. This is because a child’s welfare will often depend on parents/carers being able to access services to meet the child’s needs and because situations where abuse is developing can, at times, be resolved by a range of early help services for children and families. In Tameside we recognise the importance of parents and carers being able to access, at the point of request, appropriate early help and support to prevent escalation of need and ensure positive engagement and improved outcomes.

Additional Assessment

Universal services may need to undertake additional assessments/checklists to determine the level of risk, or vulnerability, in relation to certain issues. Completing these will help provide the child with the most appropriate service. It may also prompt a safeguarding referral in which case they will be required as supporting evidence.

Desired Outcome

Co-ordinated, universal and, where required, targeted frontline service support is provided that addresses emerging difficulties to ensure child achieves optimised outcomes.

Level 3 Child in Need (section 17 Children Act 1989)

Children in Need are defined under the Children Act 1989 as those who are unlikely to reach or maintain a satisfactory level of health and development or their health will be significantly impaired without the provision of services, including children who have disabilities.

Critical factors on deciding whether a child is in need are:

  • What will happen to a child’s health and development without services being provided?
  • The likely effect the service will have on the child’s standard of health and development.

Such children are at risk or moving onto level 4 without the provision of services based on assessed needs.

Area of Need

These examples are to illustrate levels of need; it is not an exhaustive list and will not replace professional judgement

Health
  • Children living in an environment that poses a risk to their safety or wellbeing, where concerns in relation to neglect are increasing.
  • Children with a significant level of special needs, whose parents are unable to meet their needs without the provision of support
  • The physical care or supervision of the child is inadequate and is impacting on their health and wellbeing
  • Weight anomalies which are impacting on health and wellbeing (not explained by a diagnosis)
  • Missed health appointments which are impacting on health and wellbeing, chronic health problems not being treated or badly managed.
  • Child with permanent severe and profound learning, physical or sensory disabilities or complex physical/mental health needs.
Education
  • Children underachieving significantly in school, attendance issues below managed 80%, and not supported or encouraged by parents.
  • The child has been permanently excluded resulting in a risk of family breakdown
  • Children not in education, employment or training (NEET)
Social, Emotional and Behavioural, including identity
  • Children with challenging behaviour, which results in serious risk to the child or others, which parents are unable to manage.
  • Children who are often reported as missing from home
  • Children involved in regular substance misuse
  • Children who self-harm where parents are not responding appropriately
  • Children who often harm other children and the involvement of services have not resolved the behaviour
  • Children who are fire setting and are placing themselves/others at risk of harm
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  • Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking children/young people
  • Children where there are CSE concerns
  • Children who are 16/17 who are living away from home who require support advice and guidance. insecurity for the child
  • Children exhibiting attachment disorders, i.e. severe separation anxiety
  • Children where there has been a breakdown of relationship with parent/carer
  • Children where the parent/carer is unable to cope and there are no alternative carers
Child’s Environment
  • The child is living in an environment where there is domestic abuse/neglect
  • Home environment or hygiene is beginning to place the child at risk of significant harm
  • Child living independently in unsuitable accommodation e.g. hostel, B&B
  • Concerns with children/young person who could be involved with extremism
  • Concerns that a young person could be involved in gang activity
  • The child is living in prison/ secure accommodation
Family and Social Relationships
  • Parents have found it difficult to care for previous child
  • Children under 16 who are looked after in a private fostering arrangement for more than 28 days.
  • Children where there is a risk of breakdown of relationship with parent/carer
  • Children who have multiple carers who may have no significant relationship to them, creating inconsistency
Parental Factors
  • Parent/Carer has a physical disability or history of mental health problems or learning disability which significantly affects their ability to care for the child or the parent is currently in crisis
  • Parents whose criminal and/or anti-social behaviour threatens the welfare of the child
  • Concerns about how the above will impact on an unborn child
  • Non-compliance with previous interventions
  • Parent/carers frequently put own needs ahead of child
  • Parent/carers struggle to set appropriate boundaries

Services available to help meet identified needs

All level 1 and 2 Services with addition of more specialist child care services:

  • Social work assessment and support
  • Healthy Young Minds (CAMHS)
  • Specialist Health Teams
  • Domestic Violence Service (Bridges)
  • Statutory Assessment of Special Educational Needs
  • Tameside Families Together & Inspire
  • Educational Psychology

Where children’s needs cannot be met by universal services it may be appropriate for a children’s social worker to undertake a statutory assessment. They will build on earlier assessment and analysis thus providing a continual process of single assessment rather than drawing families into repeat cycles of assessment.

Desired Outcome

Coordinated support, with identified key worker from Children’s Social Work or commissioned services, addresses difficulties to ensure child achieves optimised outcomes.

Level 4 Statutory / Child Protection

(Section 47 (risk of significant harm), section 31 (care orders), section 20 (duty to accommodate) of the Children Act 1989)

When it is believed that a child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm the local authority must enquire and make an informed decision to ensure the safety and welfare of the child is protected.

Area of Need

These examples are to illustrate levels of need; it is not an exhaustive list and will not replace professional judgement

Health
  • Situations where the physical care or supervision of a child is severely neglected
  • Children who seriously self-harm including eating disorders where parents are not working with professionals or accepting support
  • Children where there is a sufficient body of evidence to indicate they are at risk of Female Genital Mutilation
  • A child whose serious and/prolific offending is putting their health at risk, e.g. aggravated vehicle taking, knife crime
  • A child who is seriously misusing drugs/alcohol in a manner that is likely to seriously impact on their health
  • Fabricated illness
  • Refusing medical treatment, endangering life
Education
  • Chronic non-attendance at school or other educational provision attributed to lack of parental support, or in the context of environment or other risk factors
Social, Emotional and Behavioural, including identity
  • Children who are experiencing acute emotional rejection by parents/carers including unrealistic expectations, ‘scapegoating’ and inconsistent parenting
  • Children at risk of suffering significant harm, including physical, sexual abuse and exploitation, emotional and neglect
  • Children who disappear or who frequently go missing from home for long periods
  • Children who cause, or are at risk of causing, significant physical or sexual harm to another child
  • Children where there is a sufficient body of evidence to suggest they are the subject or trafficking and exploitation
  • NAI or unexplained injuries
Family and Social Relationships
  • Children needing to be looked after outside their own family as a result of an immediate risk to the children.
  • Unaccompanied asylum seeking children
  • S47 investigation required under LADO procedures
  • Transfer in Child Protection Plans
  • 16-17 Assessed under Homeless protocol
Child’s Environment
  • Children living in an environment where there is a high level of domestic violence that puts the child at risk
  • Home environment or hygiene places a child at immediate risk of harm
  • Children who are homeless
  • Young person significantly involved with gun/gang activity
Parental Factors
  • Both or only parent/carer is suffering from several physical or mental health problems or learning disability and are failing to adequately care for a child
  • Both or only parent/carer is involved in severe alcohol or substance misuse which is significantly affecting the child’s wellbeing
  • Parent/carer has a predisposition to violence and /or extreme anti-social behaviour which is placing the child in immediate danger
  • Parent/carer who has a conviction against a child or is known by police intelligence or other assessment to pose a risk to children
  • Children/unborn child who are living with a parent/carer who is known to have a previous child removed under a court order

Services available to help meet identified needs

All Level 1,2 and 3 Services with the addition of statutory specific child care services

  • Legal Services to Safeguard Children
  • Inpatient Provision for Children with Mental Health Problems/Substance Misuse
  • Police
  • Child Care Services Care Assessment and Plans
  • Youth Offending Team
  • Specialist Care Placement for Looked After Children including:
    • Residential
    • Fostering
    • Adoption Services
  • Specific Therapeutic Intervention Services

In instances where there are clear child protection and safeguarding concerns it will be necessary for a social worker from the local authority to exercise their statutory duties.

Child protection is part of safeguarding and promoting welfare. This refers to the activity that is undertaken to protect specific children who are suffering, or are likely to suffer, significant harm. Section 47 of the Children Act 1989 requires the Local Authority to make enquiries to enable it to decide whether the child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm and to assess whether action is required to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare. Police, Health, Education and other services have a statutory duty to help the Local Authority social care services to carry out Section 47 enquiries.

It will be necessary for multi-agency child protection processes to be agreed in accordance with Greater Manchester Safeguarding Children Procedures

In all such situations it will be required that a children’s social worker undertakes a statutory assessment. They will build on earlier assessment and analysis that have been undertaken, thus providing a continual process of single assessment rather than drawing families into repeat cycles of assessment.

Desired Outcome

Children at risk are identified early, responded to promptly and timely action taken to reduce risk, or to intervene more formally when parents and carers are unable to meet children’s needs within their timeframe.

What to do if you are worried about a child

If you think a child is being abused or mistreated or you have concerns about a child’s well-being please contact one of the numbers shown on this page.

Your phone call could help to safeguard a child who may be at risk.

If the situation is immediately dangerous for the child then ring 999 and ask for the Police.

If the child is not in immediate danger contact:

Children's Hub

  • Monday to Friday during office hours - 0161 342 4101
  • Monday to Friday outside office hours and weekends and public holidays – 0161 342 2222
  • GM Procedures Manual
  • Safeguarding concerns can be reported to the Children's Hub using the Online Electronic Referral form