Need to Know Procedure


This procedure outlines the circumstances and/or events which must be notified to the Director of Children's Services, Directors, and the Chief Executive by Children's Services staff.

The purpose of the Need to Know form is to alert senior officers to an incident and to provide information needed to form an initial opinion on what, if any, action is required. It is not intended to be a full report.


This chapter was revised throughout in January 2021.

1. Definitions

Serious incidents in a range of contexts are outlined below. The guidance aims to be as comprehensive as possible but will inevitably omit some circumstances. In all events staff must always consult with their line manager about the possible need to report an event or incident.

2. Implementation and Review

Immediate implementation from 1st January 2021.

Review: December 2021 or as required.

3. Mandatory Procedure

This guidance sets out the mandatory reporting requirements for all Children's Services staff. Failure to report incidents may mean that a child or young person, parent, or member of staff is placed at risk of being harmed and may also impact on the reputation of the service and Council. This expectation also fulfils the requirements of regulatory bodies for children's services staff.

All Children's Services staff are required to act in accordance with relevant legislation, statutory guidance, local policies and procedures, including standards and codes of conduct laid down by regulatory bodies for registered professionals.

4. Circumstances where a 'Need to Know' Briefing is Always Required

The following 6 key areas represent categories of events which must be notified by all staff up the line management chain using the "Need to Know" procedure. Each category has listed examples but note that these may not be exhaustive. If there is any doubt about the need to notify senior managers, staff must always consult with their line manager about the possible need to report an event or incident.

4a. Serious incidents involving children known to Children's Services

  • Serious incidents or accidents which are life changing or life threatening;
  • Sudden unexpected child deaths;
  • Allegations against people who work with or support children known to the service;
  • Notifications of serious incidents in fostering or adoptive placements, education or childcare establishments or children's residential establishments. (This includes children placed in in the GCC local authority area and those placed 'out of county');
  • Cases of serious communicable diseases in residential premises, this should include confirmed outbreaks of COVID-19;
  • Children who are missing overnight / 24 hours, or for more than four hours if the child is additionally vulnerable, including but not limited to, a very young child, a disabled child, a child with a health condition that requires regular medication that they do not have in their possession and a child who it is believed has been trafficked or exploited;
  • Any actual or likely adverse media coverage relating to a known child;
  • Complex investigations, events or incidents involving multiple children or specific areas in Gloucestershire.

4b. Serious Incidents involving Children's Services Staff

  • Assaults or threats to staff;
  • Serious illness, injury or death of a member of staff;
  • Allegations, threats or defamations made against members of staff via social media or other outlets This could include stalking;
  • Allegations against a member of staff (including those not involving a child) that might lead to disciplinary action and/or fitness to practice;
  • Any adverse media coverage relating to members of staff or providers where that may impact on the County Council;
  • Significant impact on the delivery of a service due to disruption including outbreaks of diseases/infections/multiple illnesses;
  • N.B. Some of these incidents also have separate reporting procedures under H&S legislation via the SHE unit.

4c. Service Premises

  • Serious or significant damage resulting from floods, accidental fire, etc.;
  • ICT system failures or faults which may impact upon operational functioning;
  • Significant vandalism, burglary or targeted attacks on services/premises;
  • Any incident of arson;
  • N.B. Some of these incidents also have separate reporting procedures under H&S legislation via the SHE unit.

4d. Significant Legal Proceedings

  • Legal proceedings, in the Family Proceedings or Youth Courts, involving children and young people known to Children's Services which may attract media and/or public attention (please note, it is not usually necessary to prepare a Need to Know notification for decisions about issuing care proceedings, unless there is something of particular note, as these are routinely managed through the council's delegated decision making guidance);
  • Legal proceedings involving a professional officer / member of staff working for, or with, Children's Services, including permanent, agency, temporary and commissioned staff, both past and present;
  • Any legal proceedings, including anything that is critical, costly, contentious or a complaint, which may seriously affect the business of the Council or risk bringing the Council into disrepute;
  • Any legal proceedings which may attract public and/or media interest including criminal trials or judicial reviews arising from child protection concerns and the maltreatment of children known to Children's Services;
  • Any inquests conducted by the Coroner relating to a child, young person, foster carer or member of staff known to Children's Services.

4e. Serious Complaints and Controversies

Serious complaints and representations about Children's Services, or about persons employed by them, must be notified to the relevant Head of Service and the Operational Director. The Head of Service is responsible for notifying the corporate complaints team and ensuring that an agreed response is provided within the specified timescale. They will also be responsible for briefing the Operational Director about:

  • Matters of public debate or anxiety;
  • Major complaints implicating the service;
  • Matters likely to attract adverse local or national press coverage;
  • Any matter which has, or is likely to attract the attention of the media, Members of the County Council, or Members of Parliament;
  • Requests for information from representatives of regulatory bodies or DfE.

Historic abuse allegations

All contact with regulatory bodies (e.g. Ofsted. CQC) or government bodies (including MP's office) must be reported to the responsible Head of Service by the Team Manager. If a meeting is being requested or a substantive written reply (including e-mail) is required, this should be notified to the Head of Service by the Team Manager before the meeting takes place or written communications are sent.

The relevant Head of Service should be notified immediately of any routine inspections of regulated services and they will be responsible for informing the Operational Director / Director of Children's Services.

5. Procedure and Individual Responsibilities

  • During normal office hours: All notifications that fit the above criteria should be made as soon as practicable. The Manager should be notified on the same day by frontline staff;
  • Outside normal office hours: If the Emergency Duty Team become aware of any of the above events, they should inform the senior manager on call as soon as practicable. The senior manager on call will make a decision, based on the seriousness of the event, about whether to escalate through immediate notification to the Operational Director, or initiate the "Need to Know" process on the next working day;
  • Frontline workers, (social workers, social care and education staff) must in the first instance notify their immediate line manager/Team Manager as soon as they become aware that any of the events listed above have occurred;
  • All serious incidents must be reported in the first instance to the immediate line manager for the team e.g. to the Team Manager and through them on to the relevant Head of Service. If the responsible Head of Service is not available then notification should be made directly the covering Head of Service;
  • If there is ever any doubt about whether a particular event falls within the remit of this policy the appropriateness of onward notification should be discussed with the responsible Head of Service;
  • Allegations Management: In all cases that may involve actions by staff or carers that have or may result in harm to children or young people, Managers after consultation with their Head of Service are responsible for informing the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO);
  • The Receiving Head of Service is responsible for onward notification of events to their Director, but they may determine that an incident does not meet the Need to Know threshold;
  • On receipt of a Need to Know notification the Director will decide about the need to notify other Directors and/or the Chief Executive's office. They will also determine whether or not there is a need to inform the Lead Member, Communications Team and/or Human Resources;
  • In the event of an emergency or a very serious incident, direct contact should always be made with a Head of Service who will then speak to a member of the senior management team by telephone, or in person. The initial contact should be followed by e-mail as soon as is practicable;
  • The e-mail notification using the template below should include the words 'NEED TO KNOW' in the subject heading. The e-mail should be marked as urgent and sent to the responsible Head of Service;
  • The Head of Service must take responsibility for onward circulation including sending the notification to the GCC user account 'Need to Know'.


As the situation develops, it will be necessary to provide regular updates to the Head of Service for onward circulation. Updates should be provided whenever there has been a significant change to the situation, at an agreed point or at conclusion/resolution.


When a situation has been resolved, this needs to be confirmed with the operational director by e-mail and the message copied to the 'Need to Know' e-mail box.

A formal debriefing meeting may be called by senior management where learning points can be identified.


For issues linked to an individual child, young person or family member then the 'Need to Know' should be uploaded into the 'documents' section of the child's Liquid Logic record (Or Capita if an education only issue). Redaction should be undertaken if the form makes reference to another child or family. Additional management oversight should be added into case notes wherever necessary and appropriate to do so. It is important to ensure that the need to know notification remains a short and concise account of the salient points to be shared with senior leaders and escalated to elected members where required. The need to know record should not be 'cut and paste' from the Liquid Logic record as members of the senior leadership team can access the Liquid Logic record if necessary for any additional information that may be required. Recording skills for a need to know notification should include a brief precis with headings, sub-headings and bullet points to avoid overly long descriptions and narrative.

Where the issue links to a member of staff this will need to form part of HR records and should be recorded in the next supervision.

All notifications received will be stored via the 'Need to Know' inbox which is overseen by Executive Support.


Appendix 1: Email Template

These documents are in the Practice Guidance section of the Resource Library:

Appendix 2: 08-007 Need to Know Process Chart

Appendix 3: 08-008 Need to Know Notification Form