If you are worried that a child or young person under the age of 18 might need help and/or is being neglected or hurt, it is important that you share your worries. Many people feel nervous about making a referral because they do not want to interfere and make things worse, or get it wrong, but it’s better to be wrong than to do nothing. Your action could help protect a child from being harmed.

I am a member of the public who is worried about a child or young person

If you want to talk to a social worker, you can contact the Children’s Services Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) at the number below. If you are concerned that by calling you may be put in a difficult position, you can make a referral anonymously.

I am a professional worried about a child or young person

  1. if you are a professional working with children, talk through your worries with the safeguarding lead in your agency, they will be able to advise you what to do next
  2. if you are not sure and would like some advice, you can contact the Children’s Services Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) at the number listed below and ask for a consultation to talk it through with a social worker
  3. as a professional (voluntary or paid), you cannot make an anonymous referral. Therefore it is good practice to discuss your worries with the parent/s first and explain why you plan to make a referral to Children’s Social Care. Unless you think that this will place the child at further risk of significant harm as a result of the parents' reaction. In suspected sexual abuse, it is common practice not to let parents know about the referral immediately in case the child is intimidated and cannot provide evidence to the police and social workers
  4. you will need to complete a referral form. On completion of this referral, it will be automatically sent to the MASH Children's Team and you will receive a unique reference number (via email if you have put your email details into the form)
  5. the MASH Children's Team will then contact you within 24 hours to confirm the outcome of the referral

How to contact the MASH

Telephone: Daytime hours (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm) 020 3045 5440.
Out of hours (5pm to 9am Monday to Friday and 24 hour cover at weekends) 020 8303 7777 or 020 8303 7171.

Early Help and Children's Social Care referral form (Word, 237KB).

Send the referral form to the MASH at: 

Secure email: Childrenssocialcare.admin@bexley.gov.uk

Visit the office: Civic Offices, 2 Watling Street, Bexleyheath, Kent DA6 7AT.

What might happen if I make a referral to Children’s Social Care?

A senior social worker in the MASH will review the information received, check their records and if necessary make some additional enquiries. This will be done within one working day and a decision will be made about the level of safety and what service would best help and protect the child.

In most circumstances, the social worker will contact the family to talk through the worries, find out more about what happened, give the family an opportunity to share their views and enable the social worker to explain what will happen next. One of the following three things will happen:

  1. if the MASH decides the child is not at risk of serious harm, but the child and family could benefit from some help. The family or professional making the referral may be given advice and signposted to a local service for help. If the criteria are met, the family may be directed to the Family Wellbeing Service
  2. if the child appears to be ‘in need’ and requires support services to prevent their health and development being impaired, the family will be directed to the Children’s Social Care. An assessment social worker will be allocated, who will meet with the family and carry out a child and family assessment. The purpose of the assessment is to explore what’s going well, what people are worried about and decide what support the child and family require. If the family require support, they will be offered support through a ‘Child in Need Support Plan’, family members and key professionals will be invited to meet with a family support social worker to plan what the child needs and what everyone will do to support the family.
  3. if the child is believed to have been harmed, or be at serious risk of harm a child protection strategy meeting will be held and a social worker will be allocated to carry out a child protection enquiry. If a crime has been committed, the police will also be involved. If the enquiry finds that the child remains at risk of harm, there will be a Child Protection Conference, a child protection social worker will be allocated and a Child Protection Safety Plan will be developed to protect the child

For more information about these processes see London Child Protection Procedures.

Everyone working in family support and child protection tries to keep children with their families as long as that is a safe place for them to be and most children remain with their families. Children are only removed from their parent’s care if the Local Authority thinks the child is in immediate danger and/or the child protection safety plan is not working and there is no other safe option. The social will discuss each step of this process with the family and encourage them to seek legal advice.

For a child to be removed from their parent/s care the Local Authority has to either get permission from the parent or seek a legal order from a family proceedings court. When this happens it means the child becomes ‘Looked After’, the Local Authority shares parental responsibility with parent/s and the child is allocated a looked after social worker and independent reviewing officer. The social worker will develop a care plan with the child and family, to look at the whether the child can return home safely in the future, or whether another carer in the family can be found to look after the child. If no family or friends can care for the child, the Local Authority will seek alternatives such as a foster carer.

You can find out more about these processes at Family Rights Group.