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GloucestershireChildren's Social Care Procedures Manual

Essential Reporting for Children's Services - Need to Know Procedure


This procedure outlines the circumstances and/or events which must be notified to the Operational Lead, other Directors, and the Chief Executive by Children's services staff across health, education and social care.


  1. Definitions
  2. Implementation and Review
  3. Mandatory Procedure
  4. Circumstances where a 'Need to Know' Briefing is Always Required
  5. Procedure and Individual Responsibilities
  6. Appendix 1: Email Template

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. If there is any doubt, staff must consult with their line manager about the possible need to report an event or incident.

2. Implementation and Review

Immediate implementation.

Review: April 2013.

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. Failure to follow these procedures may be grounds for disciplinary action or capability proceedings.

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

The following 6 key areas represent categories of events which must be notified 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 consult with their line manager about the possible need to report an event or incident.

  1. Serious incidents involving children known to Children's Operational Services
    • Serious child care incidents or accidents;
    • Sudden unexpected child deaths;
    • Allegations against people who work with children;
    • Notifications of serious incidents in fostering or adoptive placements, or children's residential establishments in the GCC local authority area;
    • Cases of serious communicable diseases in residential premises;
    • Children known to Children's Services who are missing overnight, or for more than four hours if the child is aged under 12;
    • Any actual or likely media coverage relating to a child in need, a child with a Protection Plan, or a child Looked After.
  2. Serious Incidents involving Children's Services Staff
    • Assaults or threats to staff;
    • Serious illness, injury or death of a member of staff;
    • Allegations against a member of staff (not involving a child) that might lead to disciplinary action;
    • Any media coverage relating to members of staff, where that may impact on the County Council.

    N.B. Some of these incidents have separate reporting procedures under H&S legislation via the SHE unit.

  3. Service Premises and Schools
    • Serious or significant damage resulting from floods, accidental fire, etc.
    • ICT system failures or faults which may impact upon operational functioning;
    • Significant vandalism or burglary;
    • Any incident of arson.

    N.B. Some of these incidents have separate reporting procedures under H&S legislation via the SHE unit.

  4. Significant Legal Proceedings
    • Legal proceedings involving children and young people (not including care proceedings - these are dealt with through the councils delegated decisions document);
    • Staff working for or with Children's services;
    • Any that relate to the business of the County Council;
    • Proceedings likely to attract public and/or media interest. This will include criminal trials resulting from child protection proceedings;
    • Those with potentially high financial or policy implications;
    • Inquests.
  5. 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 Director. The Head of Service is responsible for notifying the corporate complaints team and ensuring that a response is provided within the specified timescale. They will also be responsible for briefing the 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.
  6. Requests for information from representatives of regulatory bodies or DofE

    All contact with regulatory bodies (e.g. Ofsted. CQC) or government bodies must be reported to the responsible Head of Service. 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 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 Director.

5. Procedure and Individual Responsibilities

During normal office hours: All notifications that fit the above criteria should be made as soon as practicable, on the day that frontline staff become aware of them.

Outside normal office hours: Should the Emergency Duty Team become aware of any of the above events, they should inform the Duty Senior Manager as soon as practicable. The Duty Manager will make a decision, based on the seriousness of the event, about whether to escalate through immediate notification to the Operational Lead, or initiate the "Need to Know" process on the next working day.

Frontline workers, (social workers, residential staff, health visitors) 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. Service Manager and through them on to the relevant Head of Service. If the responsible Service Manager is not available then notification should be made directly to the Head of Service.

If there is 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 Service Manager.

In cases that involve acts of commission or mission by staff or carers that have or may result in harm to children or young people, Team Managers after consultation with their Service Manager are responsible for informing the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO).

The Receiving Head of Service is responsible for onward notification of events to the Operational Lead but they may determine that an incident does not meet the Need to Know threshold.

The Operational Lead 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.

If it is an emergency or a very serious incident, contact should always be made with the Service Manager or with another member of the senior management team by telephone, or in person. Emergency contact numbers for out of hours contact have been issued to relevant staff. 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 Service Manager/Head of Service.

The Service Manager must take responsibility for onward circulation including sending the notification to the GCC user account 'Need to Know'.

The purpose of the 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.


As the situation develops, it will be necessary to provide regular updates to the Service Manager for onward circulation. Updates should be provided whenever there has been a significant change to the situation.


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

For formal incidents there will be a formal debriefing meeting where learning points can be identified.

Appendix 1: Email Template

Click here to view Appendix 1: Email Template.