Compass - children's social care
Calls made to Shropshire Council’s First Point of Contact (FPOC) will either be directed to Compass or to Targeted Early Help.
What is Compass?
Compass is the front door for children’s social care for receiving new enquiries regarding concerns for the welfare or protection of children and young people in Shropshire. Compass promotes the offer of early help to children and families in the first instance, where it's safe to do so.
What happens in Compass?
Whenever anyone is worried about a child, for example a school teacher, they contact Compass to discuss their worries. This is called an ‘initial contact’. An initial contact can identify that a child may be a 'child in need', and by this we mean they may need services to promote their welfare. Where this is the case, the initial contact will be progressed to a 'referral', where there's parental consent to do this.
It's very important that professionals discuss concerns and worries in the first instance with parents (except in cases of significant harm) and gain parental consent before contacting Compass. Compass professionals will share information that their own agency holds to gather a fuller picture to inform the decision on the most appropriate next steps. A child in need is often referred to as a Section 17 child in need, referencing the Children Act 1989.
Where a concern identifies that a child might be at risk of significant harm, a social worker will liaise with professionals within and outside Compass to decide what actions need to be taken to keep a child safe. A situation involving a child at risk of significant harm is often referred to as Section 47 child protection, again referencing the Children Act 1989.
The Compass team comprises a range of agencies and professionals working together, including:
- Social workers
- Child sexual exploitation/missing coordinator
- Information coordinators
Take a look at the procedure document attached to this page for additional information on the pathways and processes.
Can information be shared without a parent’s permission?
Practitioners working with families at a universal, early help or targeted level will need to get the consent of the family before any information is held or shared with other agencies. Practitioners need to be open and honest with families from the outset as to why, what, how and with whom their personal information will be shared. Information will be treated as confidential and won't be shared without the parent or young person’s agreement, unless it's required by law or it's considered that a child, young person or adult is at risk of harm to themselves or others.
With the exception of child protection matters, contacts into Compass can't be accepted without parents having been consulted first and a MARF having being completed.
Consent isn't required for child protection referrals where it's suspected that a child may be suffering or be at risk of suffering significant harm. However, the referring practitioner would need to inform parents or carers that you're making a referral, unless to do so may:
- Place the child at increased risk of significant harm; or
- Place any other person at risk of injury; or
- Obstruct or interfere with any potential police investigation; or
- Lead to unjustified delay in making enquiries about allegations of significant harm
The child’s interest must be the overriding consideration in making such decisions. Decisions should be recorded.
The next steps
If the Compass Team believes that the child would benefit from extra help, or that the parent/carer needs support, they will signpost the family/professional to the right service, ensuring that support is provided quickly.
No further action
If the Compass Team believes that the child’s needs can be appropriately met by services and support already in place, then no further action will be taken and the contact will be closed down.
Social work assessment
If the Compass Team determines the child is a 'child in need' or at risk of harm, the referral will progress to a social work assessment (where there's parental consent to do so, except in circumstances of significant harm), and a social worker from one of the assessment teams will be allocated to complete the assessment.
Can a parent access help and support directly?
Yes! As a parent you can contact First Point of Contact on 0345 678 9021 for advice and/or support if you're not already working with a professional who can help.
For more information on the definitions of children in need and our duties and responsibilities, refer to the Children Act 1989 and/or the Shropshire Safeguarding Community Partnership procedures on referrals and thresholds.
1. What is the timescale in which the parental letter would be sent out after a contact has been made with Compass?
We currently aim to make a final decision following a contact being raised with Compass within five calendar days (clearly this does not include those where child protection concerns raised), at which point the contact is closed down and the letter is sent to parent without delay. The professional referrer will be copied into the letter sent to the parent.
2. If the decision was made by a professional caller to override parental consent to share information with Compass and it met threshold for a referral would a letter still be sent and if so how long after the referral?
Should the professional caller override parental consent and share information with Compass requesting a referral, and the threshold is met there are two options:
- If the threshold of significant harm is met then NO we wouldn't require consent, and a letter to parent wouldn't be sent (although the parent would be informed of who made the referral through the assessment process).
- If the threshold for significant harm isn't met then YES we would require consent and we would send a letter to the parent. The letter would briefly outline the concern and the referrer (if professional) and offer the parent the option of contacting Compass directly should they wish to access support, where they'll be able to self-refer. Again, the referrer will be copied into this letter. It's important to note (as stated in the MARF) that unless Compass have accepted the referral, the information will remain as a contact (a referral won't be progressed unless there's parental consent or significant harm).
3. In a case of where parents are known to be dangerous and volatile and intelligence is that there are guns/ drugs in the property and therefore consent has been overridden due to concerns about the professionals safety, would a letter still be sent out identifying who the professional was?
In situations as described above we would likely share this information with police and encourage the professional to do the same. If there are children identified as being at potential risk of significant harm we would hold a strategy meeting. If the outcome of this was an s.47 investigation, a letter would NOT be sent to the parent. As with point 2 we wouldn't be able to progress a referral for a s.17 social work assessment without parental consent. The MARF clearly asks for any risks to be identified in terms of a perceived risk that could place those making contact with this family in danger, ie violence to staff, dangerous dog, etc we'd suggest using this form to raise this particular issue, and on the basis of the nature and degree of risk a decision could be made as to whether or not a letter would be sent.
4. As childminders work from their own homes and there is potential for a volatile/aggressive parent turning up at their home address, would a letter still be sent out identifying them?
Should a childminder raise a concern regarding a child in their care, as with any other concern we would require parental consent to progress a child-in-need referral. Should the concerns meet the significant harm threshold parental consent isn't required and a letter wouldn't be sent out. However, as stated at point 2 the nature and source of the referral would be shared with the parent during the investigation. Where a referrer’s home address is known to a parent this is discussed within Compass so that any potential risk can be considered and mitigated against, including consideration as to whether a letter should be sent.
5. Some professionals feel that naming individual members of staff potentially puts them in a vulnerable position and therefore creates a further safeguarding risk. What situations would there be where their agency is named on the letter rather than the professional's name.
Prior to the current pathway a social worker from Compass would have contacted a parent upon receipt of a concern being raised which didn't meet the significant harm threshold. Through this discussion the nature and source of concern would be discussed with the parent, including details of who had made contact with Compass. All individual professionals are accountable for the referrals that they make into Compass. It has always been our practice to share details of referrers with parents. This is no different to any other local authority. As this has been our practice for a number of years there's no evidence that sharing the referrer’s details has increased safeguarding risks. The practice of sending a letter is no different to a social worker contacting the family directly, the context of the information being shared with the parent remains unchanged.
For reasons set out within SSCB training and in an SSCB podcast outlining changes in Compass, it's best practice that professionals discuss any concern that they have with parents prior to contacting Compass – unless the matter is of a safeguarding nature. The issue of professionals not seeking consent prior to contacting Compass on non-safeguarding matters has been raised as an area of concern in the last Local Authority Ofsted Inspection (2017) and the most recent Joint Targeted Area Inspection (2018).
6. In situations of domestic abuse, is Children’s Social Care assured that the sending of the letter doesn't increase risk or safety to the child(ren) and non-abusive parent?
Compass has been sending letters to parents where there are concerns of domestic abuse since the implementation of the daily domestic abuse triage in 2016. There's no evidence, to date, that this letter has increased risk to the child and/or non-abusive parent. These letters were co-produced with Shropshire Domestic Abuse Service and provide signposting for the parent regarding services they can access should they wish to. Where the threshold of significant harm is met, as with any other case, a strategy meeting will be convened whereby a multi-agency decision is made around risk and next steps.
7. Does consent have to be from both parents? Parents living together, parents who are separated?
Consent from the resident parent is required. Where both parents reside together and share parental responsibility then consent from one parent will suffice.
8. Does the letter go to both parents if separated?
The letter will be sent to the resident parent.
9. What if a young person consents but doesn’t want parents informed as this would make things more difficult for them at home or cause friction?
Unless the threshold for significant harm is met, parental consent is required in order to progress a referral. I would suggest in the situation described above the referrer would need to be clear what the purpose of sharing information is and what is the expected outcome, as we're unable to assess a child without the parent’s participation or knowledge. The referrer in these instances should be clear with the young person that, depending on the information shared, we may not be able to uphold their confidentially. The young person can then make an informed decision about consent.
10. What if a professional has no contact with a child or young person’s parents, ie a community youth worker?
Where a professional has no contact with a parent then, depending on the circumstances, either Compass will attempt to establish contact or a letter will be sent advising of the concern, the outcome and again if the threshold for a s.17 SWA is met, inviting the parent to contact Compass directly where they can self refer.