Multi-Agency Thresholds Document

Document control and record of amendments

Version / Reason for amendment / Amended by/ Date
2 / Learning from Case Review / Feb 2012
3 / Reviewed and amended following changes to assessment framework / June 2014
4 / Reviewed to reflect the changes in Early Help working and update areas in relation to CSE, hate crime, FGM and EFM / February 2015

Thresholds Document Overview

This Threshold Document is to be used a as tool to help all those who provide services to children, young people and families to make decisions about the need and risk for those children and young people, and to support the delivery of timely, responsive services.

The Threshold Document has been reviewed and updated following Eileen Munro’s report “A Child Centred System” in March 2011, the revision of “Working Together to Safeguard Children” and the publication of “In the child’s time: professional responses to neglect” Ofsted March 2014.

The Threshold Document has been further reviewed and updated in February 2015 to reflect a number of developments:

·  Development of Early Help arrangements in Northumberland including an Early Help Strategy

·  A review of Northumberland’s Child Sexual Exploitation Strategy and Action plan

·  Clearer evidence about the risk factors in relation to Female Genital Mutilation and Early Forced Marriage

·  A greater emphasis on understanding and preventing hate crime and radicalisation

Child Sexual Exploitation (hereafter referred to as CSE) is recognised nationally as one of the most important challenges facing all local authorities and their partner agencies. CSE has a devastating impact on children, young people, their families and communities. It has a serious, long term and lasting impact on every aspect of a child or young person's life including their health, physical and emotional wellbeing, educational attainment, personal safety, relationships and future life opportunities. CSE is therefore a key priority for Northumberland County Council and their partner agencies. All agencies, across all tiers of intervention, need to be aware of the risk factors around CSE and to follow the appropriate referral routes to children’s social care.

The Threshold Document has included a range of low, medium and high risk indicators indictors of CSE. This is based on the Derbyshire ‘Children Abused Through Sexual Exploitation Risk Assessment Tool’. The risk indictors provide a helpful guide for professionals to heighten awareness around CSE across all tiers of intervention. It should be noted that the risk indictors are a guide and should support professional judgement.

Although the risk indicators within this Thresholds document are placed in tier two ( ‘low level risk indicators’) this should support professionals in this tier to identify early any concerns around CSE and to refer to children’s social care. The earlier the identification (and the referral to children’s services), assessment, intervention and support, the better the chance of success and preventing the child or young person from slipping further into CSE.

The revised Thresholds document communicates an important message to all professionals. There is an expectation that any identified concerns around Child Sexual Exploitation would be beyond the completion of an Early Help Assessment and this would immediately be referred into children’s social care (tier 3 and 4) for a statutory children and family assessment to be completed. Part of this assessment would be to consider conducting a Section 47 child protection investigation with a view to convening an Initial Child Protection Conference, or to complete a Vulnerability Checklist (VCL) with a view to being presented to the multi-agency Risk Management Group. Consideration should also be given to accessing specialist intervention and support from the Barnardo’s Missing Children’s Social Worker.

There is additional information within each of the threshold levels in relation to the identification of children and young people either at risk of suffering or actually experiencing hate crime and radicalisation based upon the risk factors which have been established over the last few years. The governments PREVENT strategy published in 2011 has supported multi agency training which familiarises professionals with the signs which might mean a young person is at risk of radicalisation.

There have also been further developments in relation to the risk factors associated with girls and young women being subjected to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Female Genital Mutilation comprises all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. It has no health benefits and harms women and girls in many ways. It involves removing and damaging healthy and normal female genital tissue, and hence interferes with the natural function of girls’ and women’s bodies. The practice causes severe pain and have several immediate and long- term health consequences, including difficulties in childbirth also causing danger to the child. FGM is a deeply rooted tradition, widely practiced, mainly among specific ethnic populations in Africa and parts of the Middle East and Asia, which serves a form of social control of women’s sexual and reproductive rights. The age at which girls undergo FGM varies enormously according to the community. The procedure may be carried out when the girl is newborn, during childhood or adolescence, just before marriage or during first pregnancy. However, the majority of cases of FGM are thought to take place between the ages of 5 and 8 and therefore girls within that age bracket are at higher risk.

Early Forced Marriage (EFM) is also reflected within this document. Early Forced Marriage (EFM) is primarily an issue of violence against women. Most cases involve young women and girls aged between 13 and 30 years, although there is evidence that as many as 15% of victims are male. There have been cases involving families from East Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa. Some forced marriages take place in the UK with no oversees element, while others involve a partner coming from oversees or a British citizen being sent abroad. Forced Marriage is a form of domestic abuse and can constitute child abuse. From 16 June 2014 forcing someone to marry is an offence under the Antisocial Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014

Finally, the Thresholds Document needs to be read and understood alongside Northumberland’s Assessment Framework which was written and brought into practice following the revision of Working Together to Safeguard Children in March 2013, in addition to single and multi-agency procedures.

Northumberland’s Single Assessment Framework

The Northumberland Single Assessment Framework document is intended to provide an agreed range of assessment domains whether the assessment is an ‘early help assessment’ or a ‘statutory assessment’ undertaken under statutory guidance. It is intended to provide the practitioner with an understanding of what factors need to be understood within the assessment, and practice pointers when considering the domains of the assessment.

Whilst Working Together 2013 supersedes previous editions and the Department of Health (DOH) ‘Assessing children in need and their families’ (2000) practice guidance, the new guidance restates that the three domains previously contained in the ‘Assessing children in need and their families’ (2000) framework remain applicable. Regionally it has been agreed that whilst these domains must be applied to any assessment a further domain that considers risk should be added.

Working Together 2013 also describes early help and the effective assessment of the need for early help. This should be considered within the terms of early identification of possible need, regardless of age, with an assessment process that identifies how the child will be helped to have their need met promptly in order to negate the need for the provision of help at a point higher up the continuum of need. With this in mind this document will consider this aspect of assessment within the context of a single assessment and planning process that facilitates ‘step up and down’ interventions from practitioners and services.

It is well understood and agreed that children and families who receive coordinated early help, from a range of appropriate services, are less likely to develop difficulties that require interventions when problems have become chronic and meet the threshold for statutory assessments under the Children Act 1989.

Working Together 2013 emphasises the importance of local agencies working together to help children who may benefit from early help assessment and services. Sections 10 and 11 of the Children Act 2004 articulate the requirements on the Local Authority and its partners to make arrangements with a view to improving the wellbeing of all children in the area.

Northumberland’s Early Help Strategy is a multi-agency document which has been signed off and endorsed by all partners of the LSCB. This sets out the importance of providing families with early help and the ways in which all agencies will do this in Northumberland. The development and delivery of the Early Help offer within Northumberland is overseen and monitored through the Early Help sub group of the LSCB.

The Early Help Assessment is the key mechanism by which the Local Authority and its partners meet their duty to work together to identify what help the child and family might need to reduce the likelihood of an escalation of needs that will require interventions at a higher, statutory level. To support this and aid more local coordinated arrangements multi agency Early Help locality Hubs are being developed across the county which allow for a single point of referral for any family or child who needs support below the statutory threshold. It is planned that these will be fully implemented within the next twelve months.

To support this each Local Authority will have a threshold document such as this which acts as an aide to determining the appropriate level of assessment and service provision.

To support how the level of support required is determined then this thresholds document has been developed and is reviewed on a regular basis to reflect changing evidence and practice. It has been widely consulted on and presented to both the NSCB and FACT boards for them to endorse and to feedback to their agencies.

The document is used in both NSCB and Children’s Services training. Feedback from the training has been very positive with all agencies reporting that they felt it was a clear way of understanding the thresholds and that it gave them the language and understanding of need versus risk. It should be widely referred to by all agencies when determining the level of need a child, young person or family may have and how those needs might best be met.

1.  Introduction

Most children and young people have a number of basic needs that can be supported through a range of universal services. These services include education, early years, health, housing, youth services, leisure facilities and services provided by voluntary organisations. However, some children have more complex needs and may require access to specialist services to support them. One such service is Local Authority Children’s’ Services for ‘Children in Need’.

This document provides guidance for professionals and service users, to clarify the circumstances in which to refer a child to a specific agency to address an individual need, to carry out an Early Help Assessment (EHA) to refer to Children’s Services.

This document describes:

·  The criteria for access to Children’s Services in Northumberland and how that fits
within the wider context of multi-agency services and a range of needs;

·  The legal definition of ‘Children in Need’ and eligibility for Children’s Services;

·  The process by which Children’s Services assesses eligibility for ‘Children in Need’.

However some children may have more complex needs including a range of additional needs and disabilities which may require access to universal and specialist support.

2.  Children’s Needs and Multi-agency Tiers of Intervention

Northumberland have adopted a common approach to describing the levels of need and the intervention that may be required by children, young people and their families. These form a continuum as follows:

Figure 1

Date Developed: February 2011

To be Reviewed: working document to be updated as required following learning from CR’s

and changes to national and local guidance/procedures


3. Principles

The following principles should be considered in applying the framework:

(i)  The descriptions in Appendix 1 provide illustrative examples about how need might present itself, rather than an exhaustive list of fixed criteria that must be met. The tier of need will always be increased by the multiplicity of factors.

(ii)  Intervention should be at the lowest tier appropriate to meet the needs of the child and prevent the need for specialist services.

(iii)  Consideration should always be given to undertaking an Early Help Assessment ( EHA) and forming a team Around the Child/Family(TAC/TAF) to resolve the child’s difficulties and prevent the need for a specialist service.

(iv)  If there are child protection concerns about a child’s health, development or welfare professionals must follow the Northumberland Safeguarding Children Procedures and make an immediate referral to Children’s Services.

(v)  Appendix 3 shows a flowchart of what to do if you are concerned about a child.

4. Tiers of Need

The four tiers of need identified in the windscreen diagram on page 2 have been developed into a matrix of needs and risks below to help describe the circumstances in which an EHA should be considered and when a referral to Children’s Services may be necessary. All professionals across all tiers of need should be aware of the risk indicators regarding CSE and be aware of referral pathways to children’s social care.

When considering the needs of children with additional needs and disabilities professionals will need to use sound professional judgement, dialogue and evidenced based practice and be mindful of the impact of disability on family circumstances, children’s development and life chances. The indicators can aid decision making, but there will be variances for disabled children and decisions should not be reached based on comparisons to developmental stages of non disabled children.

When assessing the needs for a disabled young person the local authority requests that the definition of disability as contained in the Equality Act 2010 is considered.