What happens next

When a referral is accepted by the MASH, they will carry out an assessment of the information received. If this assessment indicates a low level of concern, the case might be referred to a single agency to help the family. Where the child is in need of services from more than one agency a lead professional will be identified.In cases of child protection the lead professional will be a social worker.

Feedback to referrer

It is important to keep the referrer involved. They should be contacted by the MASH within 24 hours of referral, even if nothing has yet been decided about the best course of action.

Feedback should be given by telephone to enable the referrer to ask questions or give any additional information that may be useful. Consider whether your telephone conversation should be followed up by a letter setting out (subject to observing confidentiality) what action was taken and thanking the referrer. Be prepared to reconsider your decision if the referrer gives you more information.

Consideration needs to be given as to what the care arrangements for the child are at the time of the referral being made and whether earlier communication with the referrer is required i.e teachers making referrals should be told by 3pm the same day what action, if any, the MASH will be taking; even if no decision has yet been made. The teacher must be told this before the parents come to collect the child. If there has been no feedback and the child is about to be collected it would be advisable to call the person who took the referral.

When getting back to a member of the public who has made the referral, you must consider issues of confidentiality, but balance these with the need to assure them that suitable action is taking place or to inform them why it is not. Where possible positive relationships with parents should be maintained, this is often more achievable when professionals are able to be open and honest.

Next steps...

Where a referral is accepted an assessment of the information will be completed - if this suggests low level concern, the MASH team may ask a single agency to help the family. It may be that the child is recognised as a child in need of more than one service, in which case a lead professional will be identified. 

If the information suggests that the child may be at risk of serious harm, the MASH team will follow these child protection guidelines.

Response to referrals

The MASH team will:

  • treat every referral seriously
  • keep the referrer informed about progress
  • work together and decide how best to progress the matter
  • gather together all of the information available
  • jointly assess and analyse this information
  • make decisions based upon such information

Except in urgent situations, children's services or the police will not independently enter into any course of action without due consideration with partner agencies.

In deciding what course of action to take, the social worker and their manager will consider:

  • whether the child is at risk of serious harm
  • what, or who, is posing a danger
  • how serious the situation is
  • how urgent it is
  • whether the parents or carers are requesting help
  • whether it is possible to work with the parents or carers.  If so, what will need to be done to achieve this?
  • what are the views of the child or young person
  • whether there are others who may also be at risk.

Any agency accepting a referral must keep children and their parents involved and informed throughout the assessment, planning and implementation stages, unless this would place the child at further risk.

All workers who continue to have a role should keep themselves and other professionals involved and informed throughout, but the person taking the referral carries the responsibility to feedback to the referrer promptly. When this hasn't happened the referrer should call the MASH team to find out what feedback is available.

What does research tell us?

In many cases, children who have needs, and who have been the subject of child protection inquiries, do not get offered services once it has been decided that they are not at risk of serious harm.

See Child protection: Messages from Research, HMSO (1995).

Workers in the Victoria Climbie case began to mirror the distorted belief system of her great aunt, Marie-Therese Kouao, that somehow Victoria was herself responsible for all their problems. Workers failed to act, because what they saw was too painful to acknowledge. We often fail to acknowledge the emotional impact on workers; supervisors and practitioners should take this into account. See Cooper A: Surface and Depth in the Victoria Climbie Report, in Child and Family Social Work, Vol 10, Issue 1 (2005).

Assumptions and pre-judgments about families may lead to observations being ignored or misinterpreted. Workers should ask, what were my assumptions about this family? What, if any, is the hard evidence that supports, or refutes, these assumptions?

See Cleaver H, Wattam C and Cawson P: Assessing Risk in Child Protection, London, NSPCC (1998).

This page was added to the website on 2 July 2015
20 January 2016 to include MASH process