Social services have a statutory obligation to safeguard and promote the welfare of vulnerable children and adults. They can provide a range of services to children and their parents, usually within the own home environment and organised by a social worker.
Families often feel anxious at the thought of social services’ involvement because of experiences they may have heard from others, or just because they are frightened that social workers will remove their children from the family home. These fears are natural, but a child will only be removed if there is very clear evidence that they are at risk of significant harm, and there is a court order in place too. The aim is to work for the best interests of the family.
A parent or other adult family member or an older child may request family support services from social services at times of stress or for help regarding a particular child or family problem. A professional who knows the family such as a teacher, family centre worker or GP can make this request on their behalf.
Referral to Social Services
Referrals to social services can happen in a number of ways. You can request help yourself by calling your local social services - you can find your local Social Services number below.
Referrals can be made by other professionals who are working with your family or children, including schools, GPs, health visitors, and more. If there are concerns that a child is being abused or neglected, professionals, family members or anyone else who is concerned can approach social services, the police or contact the NSPCC for advice.
If they have been in touch to let you know that they are conducting a ‘safeguarding’ or a ‘child protection’ inquiry it is important not to panic. It is natural to feel anxious and frightened in this situation, but you should be informed by Social Services what the process involves and be given leaflets about what you can do. Unless there are particular circumstances preventing them, they may call or write to you and let you know they are conducting an assessment of your child’s needs and any risks to their health or development. They should give you an idea of how long this assessment is likely to take, and if they don’t, make sure you ask them. In most cases these assessments result in them providing support and other services, with your agreement, in the family home.
There are many ways in which social services and their partner agencies can help you and your children, so it is important to try and work with them as best you can.
Local Gateway Teams
- Belfast HSCT - 028 9050 7000
- Northern HSCT - 0300 1234 333
- South Eastern HSCT - 0300 100 0300
- Southern HSCT - 0800 783 7745
- Western HSCT - 028 7131 4090