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Child protection information

Multi-agency threshold guidance

The multi-agency threshold guidance aims to provide professionals and agencies with an overview of the different levels of need which may arise within a family at any given time. This guidance supports professionals and agencies who are worried about a child or young person to identify and assess the most appropriate action to take to ensure that families receive the right support at the right time, in the most effective way. 

As part of recognising when a family requires support, there may be concerns around a child’s safety and welfare and the multi-agency threshold document sets out the safeguarding thresholds to provide a common understanding of what support is available and the appropriate referral routes.

This guidance should be used in conjunction with the pan-Berkshire child protection procedures as well as your individual agency’s policies and procedures around safeguarding children and information sharing.

This guidance and any referenced appendices are also available to download as a PDF. If you need this information in any other format, please contact:

Our aim is to help children to live safe, happy and successful lives. By working together and adopting Signs of Safety as our core approach, we can improve outcomes for children, young people and families. 

The Signs of Safety model takes a whole system approach to its implementation that enhances how the service engages and works with partners in meeting the needs of children and families. The approach originated in child protection work, but can be adapted to early help work including with partner agencies, and permanency work with our children looked after and 
care leavers. The approach brings a range of practice tools that support social workers and practitioners in their direct work with children across all ages and stages of child development.

Signs of Safety is a strengths-based, solution-focused approach. It places an emphasis on professionals building relationships, both with families and with other professionals. It values simplicity of language and values ‘what works’ in any given situation. This approach is combined with a risk assessment and planning framework. All work undertaken with the family, and their naturally connected network of support, is to create a practical and realistic plan which will protect the child.

Four domains for inquiry 
  1. What are we worried about? (past harm, future danger, and complicating factors) 
  2. What is working well? (existing strength and safety) 
  3. What needs to happen? (future safety) 
  4. Where are we on a scale of 0 to 10? Ten means there is enough safety to close the case and 0 means it is certain the child will be abused.

Safeguarding children and young people is everybody’s responsibility. All professionals from all agencies who work with children, young people and their families have a shared responsibility to keep children safe and to provide efficient and co-ordinated services to support their health and wellbeing. 

Safeguarding can be defined as:

  • protecting children from maltreatment
  • preventing impairment of children’s mental and physical health or development
  • ensuring that children grow up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care
  • taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes

A safeguarding concern is when an individual believes that without support and intervention the child or young person may be at risk of harm and in need of support to meet their full potential. Remember that any safeguarding concern should be referred through to Achieving for Children’s (AfC’s) Single Point of Access team.

Abuse can occur in many forms, some of which are described in Appendix 1: Types of abuse, how to spot the signs, including additional resources. The appendix is available in the PDF version of this guidance on page 17. 

If a child’s needs are not being met, the child should be referred using the right pathway. It is essential that during delivery of services to children, young people and their families, any additional needs are identified as early as possible and intervention is put in place with a focus on providing early help and preventing the need for specialist services. Our partner agencies as well as family members and members of the public are key to identifying the needs and risks to children.

It is vital that the journey of the child is considered while reflecting on the variety of services available. The levels of need and thresholds are colour coded and divided into four categories to enable a person to use it as a quick-reference guide when thinking about any concerns they may have. 

When making a decision about a family’s level of need, it is important to remember:

  • the child’s safety and wellbeing is paramount
  • safeguarding and early help is everyone’s responsibility. Put yourself in the child’s place and ask ‘what is their lived experience’? 
  • do not fail to act. Your piece of the jigsaw could make the difference
  • a child is aged 0 to 18. However, if they have a disability this extends to age 25

Most children in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead (RBWM) will have their needs met through support from their own family or carers and by accessing universal services. 

Further information is available for professionals under Appendix 2: Threshold indicators and descriptors. The table provides examples of signs and behaviours across the four thresholds that may occur within a family. This is to help agencies and practitioners identify what help and support a family may need. The appendix is available in the PDF version of this guidance on page 22.

Prevention and building individual family 

When a child’s need is relatively low level, individual services and universal services can take swift action. Universal services are sometimes referred to as public services or mainstream services and are available to all children, young people and their families. Such services are designed to meet needs that all children have, but can also provide advice, guidance and low level support to families when they need it.


These are children who make good overall progress through appropriate universal services. No additional, unmet needs, or there is a single need identified which can be or has been met by a universal service.

Universal services include:

  • private voluntary and independent nurseries
  • GPs and midwives 
  • school nurses and health visitors 
  • immunisation programmes 
  • leisure centres 
  • libraries 
  • schools and colleges 
  • support available on-line 
  • voluntary and community sector provision 
  • Welfare Support Service 
  • youth centres and clubs

All universal service providers should focus their efforts to promote and build resilience in children, young people and their families and create an approach aimed at reducing risk factors, addressing early indicators and preventing problems from occurring.

Please note that universal services are available to families at any stage of a child’s journey and that successful partnership working is facilitated by effective information sharing and transparent communication.

Targeted, preventative support

Early help aims to identify needs early, so the right services can work together with families, at the right time, to provide targeted support before problems become more complex. Children and families may need support from a wide range of local organisations and agencies. Where a child and family would benefit from co-ordinated support from more than one organisation or agency (for example: education, health, housing, police) there will be an inter-agency assessment, known as an ‘early help assessment’.


Children whose needs cannot be met through universal services alone and who require additional support. This includes children whose needs are currently unclear. An early help assessment is needed and a lead professional to coordinate support.

In addition to high quality support in universal services, specific local early help services will typically include family and parenting programmes, assistance with health issues including mental health, responses to emerging thematic concerns in extra-familial contexts, and help for emerging problems relating to domestic abuse, drug or alcohol misuse by an adult or a child. Services may also focus on improving family functioning and building the family’s own capability to solve problems.

Children in need and those with complex needs

A child in need is defined under the Children Act 1989 as: 

  • a child who is unlikely to achieve or maintain a reasonable level of health or development
  • whose health and development is likely to be significantly or further impaired, without the provision of services 
  • a child who is disabled

Under the Children Act 1989, local authorities are required to provide services for children in need for the purposes of safeguarding and promoting their welfare. Local authorities and partners have a duty to ascertain the child’s wishes and feelings and take account of them when planning the provision of services.


Increasing level of complex and multiple unmet needs where statutory support is required to prevent concerns escalating. A multi-agency team with an allocated social worker and a robust child in need (CIN) plan is required to prevent further escalation of concerns.

A child in need plan will be developed in a child in need planning meeting. These meetings should be attended by the child (depending on age and understanding) along with parents, carers and agencies whose contribution is recommended by initial assessment. 

The aim of the child in need plan is to support families to increase resilience to better cope in everyday life, be more resourceful and build support networks by giving them the tools, education, skills and information they need to make positive changes to their lives and prevent or reduce the need for intervention from services like children’s social care.

We expect professionals to talk to the family first (when safe to do so) about making a referral for a child with complex needs. It is important to recognise that when there is a statutory duty to assess the local authority does not require consent to do so, however, consent is required from any person with parental responsibility to gather information from partner agencies unless there is a safeguarding risk.

Addressing the safety of children

Some children may be suffering, or be at risk of suffering, significant harm and need protection and care because of neglect, sexual, physical or emotional abuse, or risk outside the home such as contextual safeguarding.

There are other areas of concern that could leave a child in acute need, such as female genital mutilation (FGM), honour based violence, radicalisation, domestic abuse, modern slavery, gang involvement, criminal and sexual exploitation and county lines (drug trafficking). Many of these children will require specialist or statutory integrated support through Social Care, Youth Offending, CAMHS and other specialist services.


These are children who have experienced significant harm, who are at risk of significant harm (Section 47) and includes children where there are significant welfare concerns. A combined assessment and more immediate response, coordinated by a social worker, is required to determine the level of support or intervention.

Safeguarding concerns may arise in many different settings, including outside the home and community setting, see Appendix 1: Types of abuse (the appendix is available in the PDF version of this guidance on page 17).

For example, residential, day patient or outpatient settings that specialise in health services for children and adolescents with severe and complex health problems. Children who are suffering or at risk of harm will be assessed by Children’s Social Care and may require statutory child protection planning to prevent further escalation of risk and be supported by other statutory services. 

The primary aim of Children’s Social Care is to prevent family breakdown and keep families together in their communities. On occasions, this is not possible and some children are taken into care, either on a voluntary basis or by way of a court order, to protect them from harm. 

Children with acute needs require multi-agency involvement, levels of need are changeable along with circumstances, so consistent review is essential. In cases where the level of response has been agreed, agencies will be required to participate in regular reviews to evaluate progress and continuously monitor the needs and level of risk faced by the child. 

If you have immediate safeguarding concerns about the safety of a child or young person please call 999.
Level At this level the child or family... What needs to happen next?  Referral process

Level 1:

Universal services thriving without requirement for additional support and all needs are being met by universal services, for example health visitor, school nurse, dentist or school. The first step is to have a conversation with the family and offer support or signpost to an agency that can. All your in-house resources should be tried before considering involving another agency. Please check RBWM AfCinfo site for other services in your local area. Signpost families to local support - RBWM AfCinfo.
Level 2:
Early help or prevention
…may require or would benefit from additional input or support from an agency.

The first step is to have a conversation with the family and agree what help is needed. More information about early help and the services available here. Be resourceful and research online for other interventions, use the RBWM AfCinfo site to identify local resources.


If the family is unable to make sufficient progress through accessing universal services alone and you feel intensive early help is likely to be the most appropriate support for the family, with consent from the family you could use the Single Point of Access referral form.

Complete a referral to the Single Point of Access.


This process should result in an agreed family plan that should be coordinated by your agency with an identified lead practitioner.

Level 3:
Statutory safeguarding (children in need) unlikely to achieve or maintain a reasonable standard of health or development without the provision of 
services. The child’s health or development is likely to be significantly impaired, or further impaired, without the provision of additional services, or the child is disabled.

If you are unsure if your concern meets Level 3, discuss your concerns with your agency designated safeguarding lead (DSL) in the first instance. Further advice can be sought from Achieving for Children’s Single Point of Access Team.


As the child’s and family’s issues continue to escalate, or if interventions are not working and it is felt that the needs cannot be met without the intervention of social care, there should be a sound record of interventions and support offered previously by services to highlight why social intervention is required. This should be included on the referral form.

Complete a referral to the Single Point of Access.
Level 4:
Child Protection at risk of or suffering significant harm and is in need of help and protection (Section 47). Has a high level of unmet and complex needs requiring statutory interventions.

If you have a safeguarding concern about the safety of a child or young person please call Achieving for Children SPA team on 01628 683150, Emergency Duty team (out of hours service) on 01344 351999 or 999. 


These children require social care intervention and protection to ensure continued safety and positive development and to prevent significant harm. This may lead to them becoming subject to a multi-agency child protection (CP) plan or becoming a child in care.

If you have immediate safeguarding concerns about the safety of a child or young person, please call 999.


Referring agency to call the SPA and follow up in writing by completing a safeguarding referral urgently.


If a family requires additional support additional to hat can be offered by Universal Services, or there are safeguarding concerns, then a referral should be made to Achieving for Children’s SPA team

The SPA team is the front door for all referral routes into children’s social care and early help. Once the referral has been received into the SPA, they will decide within 24 hours what action should be taken next. 

For safeguarding concerns, the referral will be reviewed by the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) who form part of SPA. The team comprises professionals from different agencies, including social care, police and health. They will use the information provided, alongside information held on their respective databases to ensure that the child, young person and family receive the right level of intervention.

If you have concerns that a child may be a potential victim of modern slavery or human trafficking then as well as referring into SPA, a separate referral should also be made to the National Referral Mechanism, as soon as possible. 

Following your referral, feedback will be given within 72 hours, with the outcome of the decisions taken. Where appropriate, this feedback will include the reasons why we feel that the family would not benefit from statutory intervention at this time. Advice will be given to how the family can be supported by other agencies and support services. 

If you are not satisfied with the response, then you can follow up by emailing

When you refer a child, you will be asked to consider what you are worried about, including past wellbeing or harm. When thinking about past wellbeing or harm try to be specific, think about how often, how severe, the duration and the impact on the child.

  • What has happened, what have you seen or heard that has made you worried about this child or young person?
  • What is your biggest worry for the child or young person if nothing changes?
  • When did incident(s) occur and when were observations made?
  • Consider any information available on the child’s developmental needs. If the worries are related to the parent’s needs or abilities, what is the likely impact of this on the child or young person? 
  • Are there challenges or factors contributing to the parents or carers capacity to provide safe care?
  • What has already been done to address the need or concern? Have other agencies been involved?
  • Why am I referring today? What has made me feel this needs to happen now?
You should also consider the family’s strengths and what is working well for them

When considering strengths think about the following:

  • What are the good qualities of the family? What are the positive things you have noticed about the relationships or the way the children are cared for?
  • Do the family have access to existing resources? How are they using these?
  • Is there already existing support from the family, friends and the community? 
  • What are they already doing that helps?

If making a referral for a child who has a disability, additional information should be considered to include, such as the following:

  • What is the disability, special need or impairment that affects the child? Provide a description of the disability or impairment: for example, ‘learning disability’ could mean many things and does not tell you much about the child or their needs.
  • If you do not know how to spell a word that describes an impairment or condition ask how it is spelt. This will be important if further enquiries are required about how the condition might be expected to affect the child.
  • How does the disability or impairment affect the child on a day-to-day basis? 
  • How does the child communicate? If someone says the child can’t communicate, simply ask the question: ‘How does the child indicate they want something?’.
  • How do they show they are happy or unhappy? 
  • Has the disability or condition been medically assessed or diagnosed? 

In addition, you should consider what service and outcomes you are seeking for the child and outline the work you or your service have completed with the individual or family. 

With poor information, MASH is unable to make appropriate and proportionate decisions. This can put a child or young person at risk or lead to overly intrusive intervention that is disruptive to the child and family.

A good quality referral:  A poor quality referral:
Is typed electronically Handwriting is difficult to read, poor spelling
Uses clear, simple language Uses jargon or acronyms
Provides details, such as: 
  • telephone numbers and email addresses 
  • any previous assessments
  • name of unborn child’s father
Very short with no detail. It is not clear if the concern is in the past or present. No contact details means MASH has to chase for information making referral process times longer.
Provides context Does not provide context – for example how often has this happened?
Is accurate and evidence-based It’s not clear who, what, where, when, and encourages assumptions
Includes specific details and times Is vague and unclear whether it is describing an existing or past concern
Provides specific information relevant to the agency completing the referral, for example: school attendance and health visits  It is not clear what action the agency has taken or what their concerns are
The referral form is submitted to MASH as soon as a disclosure or incident occurs for example in the morning The referral is delayed, meaning opportunities to speak to the child or collect evidence are missed
Completes all appropriate sections in the referral form 

Leaves gaps 


See Appendix 3: A good practice example referral. The appendix is available in the PDF version of this guidance on page 38. 

National guidance on sharing information working together to safeguard children (2018) states:

‘Working together is a guide to inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children’. It says that ‘practitioners should be proactive in sharing information as early as possible to help identify, assess and respond to risks or concerns about the safety and welfare of children, whether this is when problems are first emerging, or where a child is already known to local authority children’s social care’ (Paragraph 25 and Appendix A). Information guidance sharing therefore applies to all children and young people in all circumstances, not only when undertaking an assessment of risk. Working Together is clear that child protection ‘is part of safeguarding and promoting welfare’ (See Appendix A). The appendix is available in the PDF version of this guidance on page 17. 

Working together defines safeguarding as:

  • protecting children from maltreatment
  • preventing impairment of children’s mental and physical health or development
  • ensuring that children are growing up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care
  • taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes

All practitioners should not assume that someone else will pass on information that they think may be critical to keeping a child safe. If a practitioner has concerns about a child’s welfare and considers that they may be a child in need or that the child has suffered or is likely to suffer significant harm, then they should share the information with local authority children’s social care and the police. All practitioners should be particularly alert to the importance of sharing information when a child moves from one local authority into another, due to the risk that knowledge pertinent to keeping a child safe could be lost. 

Knowing when you can share confidential and personal information with another professional or agency can be challenging. Fears about sharing information must not be allowed to stand in the way of the need to promote the welfare and protect the safety of children (Working together to safeguard children, 2018).

What does it mean when I have a concern about a child?

The use of terminology like GDPR, lawful basis, data processing, data controller or processor, special category data and references to the Data Protection Act can give the impression that there are numerous barriers to information sharing. There are not. 

‘No practitioner has ever been disciplined nor removed from a professional register for data sharing to safeguard and promote the welfare of children or young people.’

Consent is not needed to share personal information. You do not need consent to share personal information. It is one way to comply with the data protection legislation but not the only way. The GDPR provides a number of bases for sharing personal information. It is 
not necessary to seek consent to share information for the purposes of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of a child provided that there is a lawful basis to process any personal information required. The legal bases that may be appropriate for sharing data in these circumstances could be ‘legal obligation’, or ‘public task’ which includes the performance of a task in the public interest or the exercise of official authority. Each of the lawful bases under GDPR has different requirements.

Legal obligation - Article 6 (1)(c)

The processing of information is necessary for you to comply with the law – relevant legislation would include the Children Act 1989 and Section 11 of the Children Act 2004 which places duties on a range of organisations, agencies and individuals to ensure their functions, and any services that they contract out to others, are discharged having regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

Public task - Article 6 (1)(e)

Where a specific task is carried out in the public interest which is laid down by law, or the processing is needed in the exercise of official authority (such as a public body’s tasks, functions, duties or powers) which is laid down by law.

It continues to be good practice to ensure transparency and to inform parents or carers that you are sharing information for these purposes and seek to work cooperatively with them.

See ‘Myth-busting guide to information sharing’ in ‘Working together 2018’ on page 21, and the government's ‘Information sharing advice for practitioners 2018’ for further information. 

Where possible, consent should be sought from the parent, guardian or young person (if over the age of 16) before making a referral for early help support. Consent means giving people genuine choice and control over how you use their data.

When obtaining consent you must:

  • protect children from maltreatment
  • prevent impairment of children’s mental and physical health or development
  • ensure that children are growing up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care
  • take action to enable all children to have the best outcomes

Remember that the individual has given clear consent for you to process their personal data for a specific purpose and consent should be sought for each type of referral, if referring and sharing information with different agencies as part of our offer of support through the early help offer. 

Consent is one of the lawful ways to share information but not the only way. Information can be shared legally without consent, if it is to keep a child or individual at risk safe from neglect or physical, emotional or mental harm, or if it is protecting their physical, mental, or emotional wellbeing.

Working together to safeguard children 2018 
The overarching procedures that explain how agencies should work together.

Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Safeguarding Partnership (LCSP)
The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead’s Safeguarding Partnership is led by representatives from the local authority, police and Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) working with other key agencies involved with children, young people, families and adults with care and support needs.

Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Safeguarding Partnership procedures manual
The manual is devised to provide agencies with a set of chapters that comply with 'Working together to safeguard children’. The content has been written in a succinct style that is intended to be accessible to a wide range of users from all the agencies within the Safeguarding Children Partnership and the third sector.

Early help and intervention information (via LSCP website)
Achieving for Children delivers a wide range of well coordinated early help services that are improving outcomes for children and families. This information provides various links and information to those services as well as information on the early help strategy.