Taking an enquiry

All enquiries alleging that a child has been abused or is at risk of serious harm must be regarded as serious and actions taken immediately, according to the level of risk presented.

Child abuse enquiries should be taken by an experienced social worker knowledgeable in child protection procedures. Any child abuse enquiry should be entered onto the electronic record, for that child, on the day of it, or the next working day if received outside office hours. The relevant manager should be informed about the enquiry without delay, when there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering or is likely to suffer, serious harm.

Professionals making enquiries cannot do so anonymously though members of the public may do so.

It is important that the person making the enquiry and the social worker build a good working relationship during this process as this will further protect the child and improve inter-agency working. The discussion should be a dialogue, not simply a question and answer session.

Information which should be gathered for an enquiry

The person taking the enquiry should try to gather as much of the following information as possible and record it, along with the date, time and method of enquiry. They need be mindful of the fact that some of this information might not be available to the person making the enquiry:

  • the name, address and contact phone number of the person making the enquiry;
  • the relationship of the person making the enquiry to the child and/or the agency employing them;
  • information on whether the parent or carer who has parental responsibility is aware of the enquiry being made;
  • the name, age (DOB) and address of the alleged or suspected abuser and whether they are aware of the enquiry;
  • details of the nature of the alleged abuse, suspected abuse or general concerns;
  • the name, age (DOB) and address of the child alleged to have been abused and of other children in the household;
  • if other children may have had contact with the alleged abuser, their names, addresses and age (DOB);
  • details of the date, time and place where the abuse is alleged to have occurred;
  • the name, age (DOB) and address of the child's parent and main carers and the names of all those with parental responsibility;
  • details of the current whereabouts and care of the child;
  • if the child is not currently with their parents, who are they with;
  • the names and ages (DOB) of all other members of the household, both adults and children;
  • details of significant family members who are not members of the child's household;
  • the name, age (DOB) and address of any other person known to have information on the alleged or suspected abuse;
  • information on whether the child has been recently medically examined and, if so, by whom;
  • the name and address of the child's GP, the health visitor, school nurse and any other health professional involved with the family, including the adults;
  • any other information which could be relevant, e.g. school or playgroup the child attends and any involvement with the School Attendance Service, police etc;
  • the child's ethnic origin, language of choice of the child and any difficulties the child has with communication.

Next steps

It is essential that information regarding allegations or suspicions of abuse are recorded as fully and as accurately as possible as this also forms the first phase of assessment. The social worker receiving the enquiry should read the written record of the enquiry to the person making it and check any interpretations being made of the information.

When taking an enquiry from a member of public, about someone else's child, the person making the enquiry should be told that feedback is not possible due to confidentiality. They should be reassured that their information will be followed up and told that if they remain concerned they should phone again. Anyone making an enquiry about children left unattended, screaming, being hit etc. should be advised to phone the police while it is happening.

Conduct agency checks

On receiving an enquiry, if there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, serious harm the social worker will:

This should be done immediately when the enquiry is made using the agency checklist (remembering that some agencies, e.g. health, may have more than one service involved and you will need to contact all the relevant service areas). If the child has siblings then the professionals involved with them should also be contacted.This can be done at the MASH or through a telephone call to other agencies involved with the child, when there is a need to act quickly. Once done the information will be shared at the MASH.

There may be times when it is not possible to check with all agencies prior to deciding what next steps need to be taken. This is likely to be the case when an enquiry is received outside office hours, or when an agency is not contactable and information has already suggested that urgent action needs to be taken.

Consent from the parent who has parental responsibility needs to be considered prior to making any agency checks. This consent is not necessary if such consent would place the child or others at risk of serious harm.

If the child has spent time in another area or abroad (other than just on holiday), the relevant agencies in that area or country should be contacted. For further information you may wish to contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Tel. 0207 008 1500.

What does research tell us?

Workers often fail to realise that a large agency (like Health) have many sub-departments and one person may not be able to give all the information. It's Everyone's Job to Make Sure I'm Alright, Scottish Government, 2002 .

This page was added to the website on 2 July 2015
19 January 2016 to include changes for School Attendance Service (previously Education Welfare) and MASH
10 January 2017 amend 'referral' to 'enquiry'