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7.1.1 Criteria and Referral to Children's Centre


This chapter should be read in conjunction with the Children's Centres Child Protection Policy and What to do if you're worried a child is being abused from the Department for Education website.


This chapter was updated throughout in May 2014 as a result of local review. A new Section 2.5, Measuring Outcomes has been added.


1. Referral Criteria
  1.1 Who can Receive Support?
  1.2 Who Can Refer for Individual Work with Families?
  1.3 How to Refer (for Individual Work)
2. The First Meeting Between Support Worker and the Family
  2.1 Empowering Families
  2.2 Who Else is Involved with the Family
  2.3 Where there are Child Protection Concerns
  2.4 CAF Assessment and Procedures
  2.5 Measuring Outcomes
3. Examples of Good Practice on Referral Making

1. Referral Criteria

1.1 Who can Receive Support?

Families living in reach area of Children's Centre (CC) with child under 5yrs can request individual support or a referral can be made on their behalf following discussion with the family and the family giving their agreement to the referral (see Section 1.2, Who can Refer for Individual Work with Families).

The family must have a child aged under 5yrs who is the focus for the request for support, for example it would not be appropriate for the Children's Centre to accept a referral to work with a family where the main focus was the behaviour of a 14 year old-even though they may also have a pre-school child. In this case it may be more appropriate to sign post the family to another more relevant agency depending on the circumstances.

1.2 Who can Refer for Individual Work with Families?

  • The family;
  • Other professionals or agencies working with the family.

1.3 How to Refer (for Individual Work)

Referrals must be made on a Children's Centre Referral for Family Support form (though preliminary discussion can take place with CC staff about suitability of referral).

The CC should acknowledge receipt of referral within 5 working days and indicate the next course of action, i.e. when the referral will be allocated, time of home visit or visit to Centre by parents etc.

The referral will only receive consideration if the parent or carer has given their written consent to the referral and is in agreement. The process of referral must be collaborative. Parents/carers must be involved in the referral process by giving written permission for the referral to be made and by participating in the process of filling in the referral form.

(Participating can mean talking through the referral and deciding what goes on to the form and the referrer completing the form, or the parent completing the form after discussion with the referrer.)

2. The First Meeting Between Support Worker and the Family

2.1 Empowering Families

Whether it takes place at the Children's Centre or the family home at the first meeting the worker needs to confirm again that the family do want to work with the CC staff and to clarify what support the parent is requesting. From this information an initial plan can be drawn up with the family detailing what is expected of each other. i.e. what the support worker can reasonably do and what the family can do. (see Family Support Plan Form) The work should always proceed with the aim of involving the family in decisions and empowering the parents to gain confidence and to be independent rather than creating dependency.

2.2 Who Else is Involved with the Family?

It is important to check out with the parent or carer who else is giving support to the family. It is important to inform other agencies that you are working with the family to ensure that support is co-ordinated and not duplicated. The CC will need to obtain the family's consent before approaching other agencies who may be involved with the family to share or seek further information. This should be strictly on a "need to know" basis and the minimal information that you require to proceed with your work.

2.3 Where there are Child Protection Concerns

If there are clear Child Protection concerns apparent from a referral or a first meeting the support worker should discuss the matter with their line manager, Head of Centre or Area Social Worker for consideration for referral to Social Care Direct in line with local Safeguarding Procedures. If a referral is to be made to social services the family should be informed but their consent is not required if a child is considered to be at risk of significant harm.

2.4 CAF Assessment and Procedures

In all family support cases a CAF Assessment should be completed unless one is already in place or is an open case or recently stepped down from Children and Young Peoples Service as their assessment supersedes a CAF.

If more than one agency is involved in supporting the family, then a multi-agency CAF meeting should be called in line with Wakefield CAF Policies and Procedures. The support worker would discuss this in supervision with their line manager. The purpose of the assessment would be to gather information from all the relevant agencies and the family to inform decisions about planning further support and ensuring good communication and co-ordination between the workers involved. The aim is to give a better service to the family and lead to improved outcomes for the child concerned.

2.5 Measuring Outcomes

In all family support cases the Children’s Centre should have in place a method of evaluating and evidencing impact and outcomes for the child and the family.

3. Examples of Good Practice on Referral Making

The referral must indicate clearly what the parents need and want to achieve from attending the Children's Centre and also the referrers expectations (see examples).

The referral should demonstrate an honest opinion of the referrer, based on fact and first-hand experience. Unsubstantiated information or supposition should be avoided, E.g.

I have heard that Tom runs wild and is often left on his own or with unsuitable people; Rumours suggest that his Mother is very irresponsible.


Ann, Tom's Mother is aware of rumours about Tom being left on his own or with unsuitable people, she tells me that this is not true, but she does have problems with child care and because she has a cleaning job in the evening she sometimes leaves Tom with her younger sister, who can be irresponsible. I think Ann would benefit from talking this through with a worker from the Children's Centre.

Example 1. Information on Referral

Mother's Perspective.
Mary Smith has recently moved on to the estate and feels lonely and isolated, she says that she is not coping very well with the children's behaviour and they are 'behaving badly in nursery and at home'. She says that they 'won't do as they are told and are getting into trouble on the street by fighting and breaking things'. Mary would like some advice on 'getting the children to behave'.

Nursery Perspective
We are just getting to know Joe, he has some very good qualities and but he needs help to develop his concentration skills in other aspects of the early years curriculum, as he quickly loses interest and then begins to tease the other children. When given clear boundaries he usually responds well and he has shown that he can be very caring to other children.
Joe has an older sister who attends school and her teacher says that she is a bright, happy and sociable little girl.

I agree with Mary that she needs help to find ways to provide the children with clear boundaries. I also feel that Mary would benefit from getting to know other parents in the area and she is keen on the idea of attending any groups at the Centre.

Mary is very supportive of the setting.

I have suggested to Mary that she needs some help to build her confidence, because she has many strengths and is clearly a very caring Mother. She agrees with this.

This example demonstrates that:

  • The setting have heard what the mother is saying;
  • The dialogue builds rapport and develops trust;
  • There are no hidden agendas;
  • The Children's Centre knows what is being asked of them and has valuable information on which to build;
  • The Mother knows what the Children's centre knows about her and she has clear expectations of what both she and the setting are asking for.

Example 2

Parents Perspective
Joanne and Alf Brown are telling us that the Lucy 'has something wrong with her' Alf says that it is Joanne's fault because she is 'too soft'. Joanne says 'Alf drinks too much' and doesn't help her. Joanne and Alf found it difficult to say what they thought was 'wrong' with Lucy but agree that they need help. They were not sure what kind of help they need and feel that really it's Lucy that needs help. Alf said that he wouldn't be willing to come to the Children's Centre but Joanne said 'she would give it a go'.

Setting Perspective
Lucy is 2 years old and attends part time nursery. Her keyworker has said that she has a wonderful personality and her antics make the other children laugh, which she enjoys and she has a lot of friends. Lucy needs help to develop her speech and language and at times she finds it hard to follow instructions, but this is not unusual with young children.

I think it would be good for both Joanne and Alf to spend some time at the Children's Centre to talk about Lucy and what she does at home which makes them feel that 'there is something wrong with her', but at the moment Alf doesn't feel that he needs help-maybe in the future. I think Joanne would benefit from talking to someone about how children develop and the stages that they go through so that she can express some of her worries. Joanne thinks that this is a good idea.

This demonstrates that:

  • The father's wishes are respected but the referrer's opinion is also clear;
  • The child's strengths are clearly identified;
  • No judgements are made as in example 1;
  • The referrer has had to express their opinion about the family's needs more strongly because the family aren't sure what they need;
  • The process is clearly collaborative.