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1.2.3 Action Following Referral of Safeguarding Concerns


This chapter describes the process that happens after a practitioner has made a referral to Children’s Social Care or the Police regarding concerns about a child, including harm or risk of harm or the need for assessment as a Child in Need or Early Help services.

Within Rotherham, the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) is the principal point of contact for welfare concerns relating to children.


Referring Safeguarding Concerns about Children Procedure

Multi-Agency Threshold Descriptors

Children's Assessment Protocol

Assessment Procedure

Early Help Guidance: Integrated Working With Children, Young People and Families With Vulnerable or Complex Needs

Persons who Pose a Risk to Children Procedure

Information Sharing Procedure

Practice Guidance: Significant Harm - The Impact of Abuse and Neglect


Information Sharing: Advice for practitioners providing safeguarding services to children, young people, parents and carers

National Referral Mechanism: guidance for child first responders (Home Office)


In June 2022, this procedure was significantly amended and should be read throughout.


CAPTION: contents list
1. Introduction
2. Contacting MASH
3. Next Steps
4. The MASH Process – Screening and Outcomes
5. Multi-Agency Information-Sharing and Decision-Making
6. Multi-Agency MASH Meeting
7. Escalation of Decision Making
8. Managerial Oversight
9. Action if a Criminal Offence May Have Been Committed
10. Children in Specific Circumstances
11. Children Moving Across Boundaries
12. Data Sharing and Fair Processing
  Appendix A: Haringey Judgment (2013)

1. Introduction

See Referring Safeguarding Concerns about Children Procedure.

The Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) has been developed by Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council (RMBC), South Yorkshire Police (SYP), the Rotherham Integrated Care Board (ICB), The Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust (TRFT) and Rotherham, Doncaster and South Humber NHS Trust (RdaSH) in order to improve multi-agency information sharing, decision making and responses to child safeguarding concerns.

The MASH is a team of co-located multi agency safeguarding partners, operating in a secure fire-walled environment with access to their agency’s electronic data, who research, interpret, and determine appropriate information sharing in relation to children, young people (and vulnerable adults) at risk of immediate and / or serious harm.

The MASH receives concerns for children and determine situations where multi-agency partners can add value by researching, interpreting, and sharing additional information to provide the fullest picture possible to support the decision-making process and allocation to the relevant operational team. In these circumstances, all partners complete a Multi-Agency Information Sharing form, which informs discussion and decision making.

Following a referral to MASH, it may be that emergency action to protect the referred child or any other child is necessary. For more information Section 12, Immediate Protection.

MASH provides the referral pathways to:

  • Advice and support;
  • Universal services;
  • Early Help support;
  • Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub information sharing (MASH);
  • Duty & Assessment / Children’s Social Care Services.

2. Contacting MASH

See the Multi-Agency Threshold Descriptors.


If you are worried that a child is at risk of or experiencing significant harm you should ring MASH on 01709 336080 and speak to a social worker who will listen and have a conversation with you. They will be able to advise on what needs to happen next.

There may be other occasions where you are concerned a child is experiencing harm, and they require support. After seeking consent from those with parental responsibility, you can call MASH to discuss this further.

It is anticipated that the quality of the conversation will assist in making timely, proportionate decisions for children.


If you are working with child and family and are concerned about emerging additional needs, you should start by completing the Early Help Assessment (EHA) with the family to understand the issues and develop a plan with actions to stop things from getting worse. Families need to consent to this work.

For more information, see Early Help Guidance: Integrated Working With Children, Young People and Families With Vulnerable or Complex Needs.

The EHA can be led by a single agency or can involve partners if issues become more complex. The EHA and Team Around the Family (TAF) is important to ensure appropriate support is in place and all-important information is shared across agencies. The completed EHA should always be submitted to the Local Authority via so that there is shared visibility of concerns. For support with this, the existing processes will continue, and you can speak to an Integrated Working Lead, or a Locality Manager for advice, guidance and support with next steps.

If whilst supporting a family using the Early Help Assessment you think that more targeted support is required, you can ring MASH and speak to a Rotherham Information Officer who will offer advice, guidance and support with next steps. This could include allocating a targeted family support worker, or advice about which agencies are best placed to join the TAF.

If at any time during the EHA support a child become subject to or at risk of significant harm you should ring the MASH.


Children’s Centres are a valuable resource where families with children can go to enjoy facilities and receive support and advice. The facilities and activities that are offered are designed especially for parents who may be expecting a new baby, or for those with a child under the age of five. See Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council, Register with a Family and Children's Centre.

Work has begun to consolidate a digital single point of access for existing universal support, that children and families can be signposted to; this includes sleep hygiene programmes, online or in person evidence based parenting programmes, mental health support through Kooth (Child Mental health) without having to contact MASH.

Key messages

Ring MASH on 01709 336080 if you have concerns about a child. We want to have conversations with you to determine next steps for children and their families. We will also be able to offer advice. There is no longer a need to complete a ‘Worried about a child’ form.

Existing systems for South Yorkshire Police, CAFCASS, Yorkshire Ambulance Service etc continue.

For those working outside of office hours with immediate concerns about a child, ring 999. For those professionals where work patterns do not allow telephone contact with MASH the next working day, such a night and weekend shifts, and the matter does not require an immediate response, an online form (Request for Help or Support) is available to complete.

3. Next Steps

On receiving information, MASH through telephone discussion we will establish:

  • The nature of the concern;
  • How and why it has arisen;
  • What the child and family’s needs appear to be;
  • Whether there is any risk of Significant Harm to the child/ren, and if so, its nature;
  • Whether there is any previous or current Social Care intervention for the child or other children in the family or household;
  • Explore consent;
  • Any need for urgent action to protect the child or any other child within the same household or any child who is in contact with an alleged perpetrator - for more information, see Section 12, Immediate Protection.

The referrer might be asked to participate in further assessment of the child, either by undertaking and leading on an Early Help assessment, through a Child in Need assessment (Section 17 of the Children Act 1989) or a Child Protection Enquiry (Section 47), which will be led by a social worker. For more information, see Children's Assessment Protocol.

MASH will consider the level of need and risk against the Multi-Agency Threshold Descriptors.

4. The MASH Process – Screening and Outcomes

The remit of the MASH within the context of the CYPS First Response Service is as follows:

  • All new incoming contacts will be received, clarified, and logged;
  • All contacts will be subject to triage process to determine what is best for children and their families. This will include exploring existing services, needs, risks and circumstances can be considered in the context of any existing information already held by CYPS;
  • Apply appropriate screening to help determine thresholds in order to make informed decisions about next steps for children and their families and the appropriate levels of support required;
  • If a concern relates to a child who is already ‘open’ to social care, this will be transferred immediately to the named allocated social worker;
  • If a concern relates to a child who is already ‘open’ to early help, this will be transferred immediately to the named worker unless the information is suggestive of harm.

In this situation, MASH will consider the new information alongside the existing information, as well as speaking with the early help worker/manager.

  • If a concern clearly does not meet the “in need” threshold for social care intervention but would benefit from early help support, consideration will be given as to who is best to support the family with an early help assessment;
  • Where the initial information is suggestive of harm, and a strategy meeting is being recommended to consider threshold for child protection enquiries (s47 Children Act 1989), this will move quickly to the appropriate team to ensure no delay for children. For more information, see Strategy Discussions/Meetings Procedure and Child Protection Enquiries - Section 47 Children Act 1989 Procedure;
  • If discussions do not clearly determine threshold for a single assessment, information sharing will explored within the MASH to gain a good understanding of the child and family, ensuring sound threshold application.

If the threshold for social care assessment / intervention is not met and no further action is required by Children’s Social Care or the Early Help Service - MASH close the contact down. The referrer and family are advised of this action.

If the threshold for social care assessment / intervention is met and there was a recent allocation to social care (within the last 12 weeks) – new information submitted will be passed to the previous team to complete the necessary follow up work. No information sharing is required within the MASH.

If the threshold for social care intervention is not met, MASH will determine the next steps and advise accordingly. The referrer and the family will be advised.

If the threshold for social care intervention is clearly met under section 17 of the Children Act 1989 and a “Child in Need” assessment is required – this will progress to the duty team for allocation. No Information sharing will be completed. The referrer and the family will be advised.

If the threshold for social care intervention is clearly met and consideration needs to be given to s strategy meeting, due to a reasonable cause to suspect a likelihood of significant harm – this will progress to the duty team for a Strategy meeting to be chaired by the Team Manager. This will determine any necessary protective action that day. The referrer and the family will be advised.

If the child is not deemed at risk of significant harm under section 47 of the Children Act 1989 currently but action is required to prevent a situation arising whereby a child may become additionally vulnerable, and potentially at risk in the future - these situations require MASH information sharing. Where there are concerns of Female Genital Mutilation (for more information, see Safeguarding Girls and Young Women at Risk of Abuse through Female Genital Mutilation or Breast Ironing Procedure), this will automatically progress to MASH information sharing, in line with learning from previous audit work.

5. Multi-Agency Information-Sharing and Decision-Making

5.1 Agencies that May Hold Relevant Information

Agencies that may hold relevant information are listed below. This is not an exhaustive list but identifies a range of key agencies, services and individuals that may hold additional relevant information:

  • Health – Rotherham Integrated Care Board (ICB) (including GPs), The Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust (TRFT) and Rotherham, Doncaster and South Humber NHS Trust (RdaSH);
  • RMBC Social Care, Early Help Services and Education & Skills;
  • Schools – nursery, primary, junior, special, secondary, academies, Pupil Referral Units, private schools and colleges and alternative education providers;
  • Private nurseries & early years providers;
  • National Probation Service;
  • Housing Agencies;
  • RMBC Adult Social Care Services;
  • Voluntary sector and community-based providers;
  • Private sector providers;
  • Fire Service;
  • Extended Family Members;
  • Other Local Authorities.

5.2 Information Sharing

When further information is required to assist in decision making for children, the MASH partners will, using the Multi-Agency information Sharing form (MAIS) to share information.

MASH Social Care staff will have responsibility for contacting key partners if they feel information from that organisation may be relevant.

The decision to request further information needs to be made with the “Haringey judgment” (2013) in mind – for more information, see Appendix A: Haringey Judgment (2013) and Multi Agency Working and Information Sharing Project - Final report (July 2014).

Each partner should review their databases and/ or consult with agencies they represent and insert relevant information into the relevant section of the Multi-Agency Information Sharing Form (MAIS). Partners will also be asked to analyse the information they record. It is important that all partners use their professional judgement based on the factual information they are presenting and analyse the relevance of this within the context of the referral concerns that have been shared. The key question that all MASH partners should ask is “so what?” – “so what does my agency’s data and intelligence mean for this child/ren?”.

It is also important that partners record if they have requested information from within their organisation but are still awaiting a response. Again, partners need to record when they requested the information, using what method and the name and designation of the individual they are awaiting a response from.

Partners should record on their own systems the information that they have provided for each case, the decision made and any challenge.

If at any stage, a partner feels that their information heightens the concerns relating to a child/ren, this needs to form part of the partnership discussion.

5.3 Sensitive Information

Any multi-agency information which exists that is additionally sensitive e.g., matters of national security, active surveillance operations etc. that partners do not wish to be recorded can be shared but referred to as “confidential”. The fact that additional sensitive information is available and who has access to it should be recorded on the MAIS form to enable social workers to gain that additional information as part of their assessment, but no further detail provided.

5.4 Repeat Referrals

If this is repeat concerns about a child, this will be stated in the request for multi-agency information sharing, and considered as part of the decision making. This will allow partners to retrieve the information shared previously and simply update this record with any further information that has come to light since the last request for information sharing. This will reduce duplication of work for all partner agencies.

5.5 Review, Decision Making, Transfer and Feedback

The information and recommendation from multi-agency partners will be collated and analysed by a Social Worker for consideration by the Team Manager. The Social Worker will take all the available information and intelligence into account and analyse this in the context of any previous history and the current referral circumstances. The Social Worker will record their analysis, provide a recommended outcome, and explain the rationale for this on the MAIS form for consideration by the Team Manager.

This MASH Team Manager will then:

  • Review the social worker’s recommended outcome and where appropriate, agree/disagree with this, they will then ensure that the case is passed to the appropriate team for the actions to be completed.

6. Multi-Agency MASH Meeting

Where multi-agency partners identify that the presenting issues, background information and chronology for the child is particularly complex a Multi-Agency Meeting should be convened to bring agency/service representatives together to discuss the available information. The structure of the meeting will follow the same format as information sharing request.

Multi-Agency MASH Meetings take place daily where needed. A Social Work Team Manager will chair the meeting, and the analysis and recommendations will be recorded onto the MAIS form. All MASH agencies will receive a copy of the MAIS for their own records.

7. Escalation of Decision Making

All partners within MASH are working to the same goal – ensuring good outcomes for children. This is done through a collaborative, restorative approach, however, it is inevitable that at times, agreement may not be reached.

If agreement cannot be reached, a conversation should be held with the First Response Service Manager for review.

The MASH Team Managers will coordinate and manage daily activity in the MASH and hold partners to account for delivery. The MASH team manager does not have line management responsibility for any of the co-located staff from other agencies. All staff will continue to be employed and line managed by their own agency.

Should there be concerns about decisions made or conduct within the MASH, staff should seek to resolve these issues themselves, at the lowest level in the first instance, but should they not be able to, they should inform their line manager. The line manager will engage with the MASH Service Manager and seek to resolve any issues/ disputes in a restorative way.

If there are disputes regarding the MASH recommendations this should be discussed and resolved by the relevant Team Managers.

If it is not possible to resolve the issues the matter should be escalated to the relevant Service Managers so that consideration can be given to the relevant issues and conflicting perspectives in order that a resolution can be reached. Failure to reach a resolution at this stage should prompt an immediate escalation to the relevant Heads of Service and if necessary, the Assistant Director who will make a final decision. This escalation process should be resolved within 1 working day to avoid any drift or delay for the children and his/her family.

For further information about resolving disputes, see Practice Resolution Protocol: Resolving Professional Differences of Opinion in Multi-Agency working with Children and their Families.

8. Managerial Oversight

It is the responsibility of the Social Work Team Manager, as the designated decision maker, to:

  • Oversee the screening processes to ensure timely responses and throughput of contacts and referrals;
  • Address any outstanding issues of consent;
  • Manage and coordinate the MASH information sharing on a daily basis;
  • Liaise and consult regularly with multi-agency partners, and their line managers where appropriate, and address any specific issues that may arise;
  • Convene and chair MASH Multi Agency Meetings;
  • Make clear decisions about outcomes and next steps (e.g. NFA, Early Help,section 17 or Section 47);
  • Ensure that decisions and rationale for them are recorded on Liquid Logic;
  • Process referrals to Early Help Services and Duty and Assessment / Children’s Social Care as necessary and appropriate;
  • Ensure that feedback is provided to the referrer and families;
  • Maintain a daily overview of workload, practice standards and performance measures;
  • Undertake dip sampling and audit work;
  • Write performance reports and attend fortnightly Performance Meetings.

9. Action if a Criminal Offence May Have Been Committed

Whenever MASH receive concerns that constitutes, or may constitute, a criminal offence against a child, South Yorkshire Police will always be informed at the earliest opportunity.

In dealing with alleged offences involving a child, the Police work in partnership with Children’s Social Care and/or other agencies. While the responsibility to instigate a criminal investigation rests with the Police, they should consider the views expressed by other agencies. There will be less serious cases where, after discussion, it is agreed that the best interests of the child are served by a Children’s Social Care led intervention rather than a full Police investigation.

For more information, see Achieving Best Evidence in Criminal Proceedings Guidance on interviewing victims and witnesses, and guidance on using special measures (Ministry of Justice).

10. Children in Specific Circumstances

All contacts received in relation to Domestic Abuse are reviewed by the MASH within 24 hours (working week) to assess the risk and formulate a safety / protection plan if the risk is high. This will be referred to MARAC for review. For more information, see Safeguarding Children at Risk because of Domestic Abuse Procedure, MARAC. For high risk cases, schools and health practitioners (e.g. GP, health visitor, school nurse, CAMHS etc.) involved with the family are alerted to ensure the child is supported and monitored after witnessing a Domestic Abuse incident the night before. Where there is notification of a high-risk domestic abuse incident, a Multi-Agency Domestic Abuse (MADA) meeting is held the next working day to consider any immediate safeguards that may be needed. This meeting brings partners together in a timely way to safety plan for the child. It does not replace the function of a strategy meeting.

All contacts received in relation to reports of children and young people missing from care or home will be reviewed by the Missing Coordinators. If the child is currently an open case to Children’s Social Care, the information will be forwarded to the allocated social worker for action. If the child is not open and there is additional vulnerability identified, the case may be passed to MASH for multi-agency screening – see Section 4, The MASH Process – Screening and Outcomes. If the threshold for Significant Harm is met, a Strategy Meeting (see Strategy Discussions/Meetings Procedure) will be held to determine if Section 47 Enquiries are required. If the threshold is not met but there are additional vulnerabilities identified for the child, a multi-agency meeting may be held to determine what action should be taken. For more information, see South Yorkshire Children Missing from Home and Care Protocol 2021 and Referral Pathway for Children and Young People who go missing.

12. Immediate Protection

Where there is a risk to the life of a child or a likelihood of serious immediate harm, a social worker or the police should use their statutory child protection powers to act immediately to secure the safety of the child.

If it is necessary to remove a child from their home, a local authority must, wherever possible and unless a child’s safety is otherwise at immediate risk, apply for an Emergency Protection Order (EPO). Police powers (Police Protection Order) to remove a child in an emergency should be used only in exceptional circumstances where there is insufficient time to seek an EPO or for reasons relating to the immediate safety of the child. An EPO, made by the court, gives authority to remove a child and places them under the protection of the applicant.

When considering whether emergency action is necessary an agency should always consider the needs of other children in the same household or in the household of an alleged perpetrator.

The local authority in whose area a child is found in circumstances that require emergency action (the host authority) is responsible for taking emergency action.

Planned emergency action will normally take place following an immediate Strategy Discussion.

Social workers and the police should:

  • Initiate a strategy discussion to discuss planned emergency action. Where a single agency has to act immediately, a strategy discussion should take place as soon as possible after action has been taken;
  • See the child (this should be done by a practitioner from the agency taking the emergency action) to decide how best to protect them and whether to seek an EPO; and
  • Wherever possible, obtain legal advice before initiating legal action, in particular when an EPO is being sought.

If a child is in immediate danger and there is no time to discuss the matter with colleagues, a practitioner should phone 999 to access emergency services immediately and then contact their Line Manager to make an immediate referral to Children’s Social Care and the police. A Strategy Discussion or Meeting should follow as soon as possible after the safety of the child has been secured.

14. Children Moving Across Boundaries

Where a referral is received regarding a child normally resident in another local authority (responsible authority) area, the local authority in whose area the child is found (the host authority) is responsible for taking any emergency action required to safeguard a child. This includes children who are looked after or subject of a Child Protection Plan. The host authority is also responsible for convening a Strategy Discussion/meeting to establish how a Section 47 Enquiry is to be carried out and who will be responsible. Where agreement cannot be reached between two local authorities, the matter should be referred to Senior Managers within 24 hours of the initial referral.

Only when the responsible authority explicitly accepts responsibility (to be followed up in writing) is the host authority relieved of its responsibility to take emergency action.

Both local authorities should ensure that all agreements are recorded.

Where a child resident within one South Yorkshire authority is found within another South Yorkshire authority in circumstances that warrant emergency action and a Strategy Discussion/Meeting, the originating authority should progress any Section 47 Enquiry/Child's Assessment.

For more information, see Children Moving Across Boundaries Procedure.

15. Data Sharing and Fair Processing

All partner agencies have committed and signed up to Rotherham’s MASH Information Sharing Agreement that specifies what data can be shared in the MASH and the legal basis for doing so. All partner agencies are required to ensure that staff are fully trained and aware of their responsibilities under the Data Protection Act 2003. Multi Agency partners and their staff are responsible for ensuring that all information sharing is undertaken in accordance with the Information Commissioner’s Data Sharing Code of Practice.

Section 10 of the Children’s Act 2004 places a duty on key agencies to cooperate to improve the safety and wellbeing of children and young people. This includes the proportionate sharing of information, where appropriate, to facilitate decision making for children and young people. It is the responsibility of all professionals to ensure they are aware of their responsibilities in this regard in order to ensure they are able to respond within the required scales so that children and young people are safeguarded and protected.

Appendix B: Haringey Judgment (2013)

Click here to view Appendix B: Haringey Judgment (2013).