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Signposting and Referrals

Good signposting and referral is the cornerstone to receiving effective advice and support to meet the needs of the child/ren and family.

Using the Continuum of Need Incorporating Threshold Guidance will help you to identify if you need to provide signposting or if a referral may be required.

What is signposting?

Signposting usually takes place before in depth work has taken place or when a new problem is shared or identified.

It describes the process of giving a client the details about another agency or organisation that will be able to help them. It is normally left to the clients themselves to make arrangements for support, however depending on their level of ability and your role and organisation it may require you to support the client to make contact or attend an appointment.

Often when signposting you may have very little information about the case or are not be in a position to explore all aspects of the problems and issues. You may then consider exploring with the client an alternate practitioner who may be in a better position to make a detailed referral (school, health visitor etc.) as these organisations may have more information and a well-established relationship in order to complete a full referral.

When considering what service may be appropriate for a family and their situation.  Buckinghamshire Family Information Service website provides a wide range of extensive services.

What is a referral?

There are two key differences with a referral:

Firstly, with a referral an agency is more likely to have started work with the child/family. Secondly, the agency will make the contact with the referral agency directly on behalf of the client.

A referral is a more detailed process than signposting. Making a good referral takes skill and patience. A good referral ensures there is enough information for robust decisions to be made and therefore ensures children and families are getting the right support at the right time.

It is far better to spend time doing one good referral than 10 poor ones

 What Makes a Good Referral?

A good referral gives enough information to inform the decision making process and ensure that any assessment is as comprehensive and accurate as possible. We value your professional expertise and analysis.

Consult with the child/young person and family to ensure you have a clear understanding of the situation and what the needs are.

Consider the following questions:

  1. Have I included all of the child/young person (YP) family details available to me? Including:
    • Name address and especially contact numbers for all the family members including postcode.
    • Date of birth for all family members (if you don’t have all DOB then put ages in)
    • Any other household members or regular overnight visitors (if known)
  2. Have I provided my contact details? Including:
    • Name, address, phone number , mobile and email
    • Availability (especially if part time, shift or term time only) consider including alternate arrangements if you won’t be available for any follow up.
  3. Have I made it clear why I am making this referral now? Including
    • Telling us about your involvement with the child/YP/family
    • Explaining why you believe Early Help is required
    • Telling us what strategies or interventions you have put in place to address your concerns
    • Helping us to understand this child/YP/family by giving us your overall opinion and analysis from your perspective, what potential outcomes are expected, taking into account your role and professional expertise.
  4. Have I included all the information available to me about the relevant professionals working with the family? Including:
    • Addresses, phone numbers, e-mails and roles
    • Schools each of the children attend
  5. Have I included information on how I obtained information or reached my concerns? It might be helpful to ask yourself these additional questions and include:
    • How do I know this information?
    • Did I witness/hear something directly, or is this hearsay information?
    • Was I told something by someone who witnessed or heard an event?
    • Has the child/YP/family told me this information
  6. Have I included the views and information from the child/YP/Family? Including:
    1. CONSENT- discussing fully with the family the referral and Fraser Guidance checklist 

There are noticeable common themes that result in referrals being declined so don’t fall into these traps:

  • Not meeting the thresholds – please make sure you have used the Continuum of Need Incorporating Threshold Guidance to assess if this is an appropriate referral – it may require a single agency referral i.e. CAMHs, Youth Service.
  • Not enough information– many referrals have very brief information so decisions can’t be made.
  • No consent – Early Help support and interventions are consent based it is vital that consent has been sought, not just for the referral to be made but with full understanding that they are consenting to work with agencies and make positive changes.
  • Request for a service– frequently referrals simply state the request for a service without the description of what the needs are or support requested. For example ‘referral for ‘Family Resilience Service’ however what is it and what the support will look like i.e. the family need support with routines and boundaries and behaviour management.’ It will be the Early Help Panel decision on which service will take the lead, based on the information regarding the family’s needs.
  • No consideration for other support- in the first instance, parenting support is a common request however a parenting group may not have not been consider, if it has why was this not been seen as appropriate. Parenting support cannot always be offered on a 1:1 home visiting basis and a parenting group needs to considered in the first instance

Early Help Panel referrals are for those issues at level 3 on the Continuum of Need Incorporating Threshold Guidance and require a multi-agency response to the unmet needs.

When considering making a referral, there are a number of steps and considerations to take before completing a form:

  • Use the Continuum of Need Incorporating Threshold Guidance to help assess and identify the level of need you are considering making a referral for.
  • Speak to the family to gain a better understanding the situation and to gain CONSENT.

There may be a number of reasons you are considering a referral to Early Help or another agency for specific support. You may have been supporting a family in Early Help at level 1 or 2 in line with the Continuum of Need Incorporating Threshold Guidance.

Hints & Tips

It is important that when making a referral for Early Help that you do not promise a specific intervention. The panel will decide the most appropriate service and if this differs from what a family think they have been promised it can hinder and even prevent engagement and lead to a withdrawing of consent.