CSCP Threshold Guidance

This guidance provides a framework for professionals who are working with children, young people, and families. It aims to help identify when a child may need additional support to achieve their full potential. It introduces a continuum of help and support, provides information on the levels of need, and gives examples of some of the factors that may indicate a child or young person needs additional support. By undertaking assessments and offering services on a continuum of help and support, professionals can be flexible and respond to different levels of need in different children and families. The framework recognises that however complex a child’s needs, universal services e.g. education and health, will always stay involved and provide support even if there are needs that can not be addressed. 

As the level of need increases, the services provided become more specialised and focused to better address the specific needs of the child, young person, or family. Individual circumstances are not static, and they may experience different needs – at different points on the continuum – throughout their childhood years. 

The Threshold Guidance and assessment matrix can be downloaded using the following links:

Download Full Threshold Guidance

Assessment of Need Matrix

Quick Reference


Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children can be defined as:

  • Protecting children from maltreatment
  • Preventing impairment of children’s health or development
  • Ensuring that children grow up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care
  • Taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes

Working Together to Safeguard Children sets out a clear expectation that local agencies will work together and collaborate to identify children with additional needs and provide support as soon as a problem emerges. 

Providing early help is far more effective in promoting the welfare of children – and keeping them safe – than reacting later when any problems, for example, neglect, may have become more entrenched. The importance of using a child-centered approach in following the child’s journey is also emphasised. All services that are provided must be based on a clear understanding of the needs and views of the individual child in their family and community context. 

This guidance should be used in conjunction with The London Child Protection Procedures. The continuum of need matrix does not provide an exhaustive list but provides examples that can be used as a tool to assist assessment, planning, and decision-making when considering the needs of children and their safeguarding needs. When assessing needs and risks, it’s essential to consider any safeguarding indicators of concern in conjunction with any related needs. Keep in mind that some children may have additional vulnerability due to their disability or complex needs, and it’s crucial to evaluate parental response to the child’s vulnerability. For some areas of need, there may be specialist tools available to assess those needs such as the Graded Care Profile 2 and the CAADA DASH domestic violence risk assessment tool. Additional guidance and training can be found on the London Safeguarding Children Partnership website. 

Remember – where there is an urgent and immediate need to protect a child, dial 999 to contact the Police. Otherwise for all other children who may be at risk of significant harm, contact the relevant Local Authority, Children’s Social Care Service as soon as possible. 

Multi-Agency Training

If you work with children and families in Croydon, you may have heard of the new Croydon Threshold Document. This document is a guide to help you identify the level of need and risk for the children and families you support, and to decide what kind of intervention is appropriate. It also explains how to make a referral to the right service, whether it is universal, early help, targeted, or specialist.

The new document was re-launched in July 2023, and it aims to provide a clear and consistent framework for professionals across different sectors and agencies. It is based on the Signs of Safety model, which focuses on building relationships, identifying strengths and resources, and working collaboratively with families to achieve positive outcomes.

In the Threshold workshop we will explore how you can use the new Croydon Threshold Document in your practice, and what benefits it can bring to you and the families you work with. We will also introduce you to Operation Encompass, a new initiative that supports children who are affected by domestic abuse.

Book a place here

You will learn how to use the new Croydon Threshold Document

The new document is divided into four sections:

  • Section 1: Introduction and overview of the document, including the principles, values, and legal framework that underpin it.
  • Section 2: The continuum of need and response, which describes the four levels of need (universal, early help, targeted, and specialist) and the corresponding response from services.
  • Section 3: The threshold guidance, which provides detailed information on how to assess the level of need and risk for each domain of the child's life (health, education, emotional and behavioural development, identity, family and social relationships, social presentation, self-care skills, and parenting capacity).
  • Section 4: The referral process, which explains how to make a referral to the appropriate service using the Multi-Agency Referral Form (MARF), and what happens after a referral is made.

The workshop will discuss the benefits of using the new Croydon Threshold Document

By using the new document in your practice, you can expect to:

- Have a clear and consistent understanding of the needs and risks of children and families in Croydon

- Provide timely and appropriate support to children and families according to their level of need

- Work more effectively with other professionals across different sectors and agencies

- Enhance your skills and confidence in assessing needs and risks

- Improve your communication and collaboration with children and families

- Promote positive outcomes for children and families

Introduction to Operation Encompass

Operation Encompass is a new initiative that aims to support children who are affected by domestic abuse. It is a partnership between Croydon Council, Croydon Police, Croydon schools, and other relevant agencies.

Operation Encompass works by:

- Notifying schools when a child has been exposed to a domestic abuse incident that was reported to the police

- Providing schools with information about the incident and any relevant safeguarding concerns

- Supporting schools to offer appropriate support to the child in school

- Linking schools with other services that can provide further support to the child and their family

Operation Encompass was launched in Croydon in September 2023, following a successful pilot in 2022. It is part of a wider strategy to tackle domestic abuse in Croydon, which includes raising awareness, improving prevention, increasing reporting, enhancing support, and reducing harm.

If you want to know more about Operation Encompass, you can visit their website at or contact them at

What is a Threshold

A threshold is a point at which something happens, stops happening, or changes for a child or family. Thresholds are a way of describing transitions between levels of need and the types of services and support required. They are also ways of identifying the points at which professionals should engage in dialogue with each other and with families to assess what has happened and what, if anything, needs to happen next or needs to happen differently. The voice of the child should also be integral to this process. 

There is now a significant body of research that shows that preventative services and those that provide early help deliver the best outcomes for children and their families. Working Together to Safeguard Children (July 2018) describes how providing early help is more effective in promoting the welfare of children than reacting later. As such our approach deliberately seeks to encourage prevention and early help to reduce demand for the more reactive, intrusive, and expensive services. 

“Everyone who works with children has a responsibility for keeping them safe. No single practitioner can have a full picture of a child’s needs and circumstances and, if children and families are to receive the right help at the right time, everyone who comes into contact with them has a role to play in identifying concerns, sharing information and taking prompt action” 

(Working Together to Safeguard Children, 2018) 

This guidance is for practitioners and managers in all agencies that work with or are involved with, children, young people, and their families. This guidance covers the period from pre-birth up to 18 years and outlines the joint working vision, principles, and aims. It also identifies how joint working will deliver timely, robust interventions at the point that children and young people most urgently need them. 

It is essential that the needs of children, young people, and their families are identified and addressed at the earliest opportunity before they escalate into more serious problems that might require greater levels of intervention. 

This guidance will assist practitioners and managers in assessing and identifying a child’s level of need and matching that need to the right service response within joint working. The purpose of this document is to help us provide the right support, at the right level, at the right time. We know that failing to do this often means that there is an escalation of need, poorer outcomes for children and families, and increased risk for the child. 

To support children and families effectively we need to share information across different agencies and professional disciplines. This is important when providing early help where a family has emerging problems, and it is essential when putting in place effective child protection services. Information sharing amongst partners is essential in identifying and meeting a child’s needs and to keeping them safe. 

Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children can be defined as: 

  • Protecting children from maltreatment 
  • Preventing impairment of children’s health or development 
  • Ensuring that children grow up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care 
  • Taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes 

Children and their families have a right to expect that we will be open and honest with them when we are worried about them and think they need some help. Professionals should not make a referral without seeking the consent of the family unless there is a risk of immediate harm to the child. 

The Indicators of Possible Need

The indicators on the following pages are designed to provide practitioners with an overarching view of what level of support and intervention a family might need. This is not intended to be a ‘tick box’ exercise, but to give a quick reference guide to support professionals in their decision-making, including conducting further assessments, referring to other services, and understanding the likely thresholds for higher levels of intervention. The assessment matrix should be used to record your findings. If there is a combination of indicators of need under Level 2, the case may be a Level 3 case overall. 

Also, remember that need is not static, the needs of a child, young person, or a family will change over time. Where a plan has been agreed upon, this should be reviewed regularly to analyse whether progress has been made to meet the child’s needs and the level of risk faced by the child. This will be important in cases of neglect where parents and carers can make small improvements, but an analysis will need to be undertaken on whether this leads to significant improvements for the child or young person. 

If you have child protection concerns, you must also consult the London Child Protection Procedures and you must inform your safeguarding lead or line manager. 

However, even with the most effective forms of prevention, early intervention, and Early Help, there will always be a need to provide specialist services to the most vulnerable and those in need of protection or alternative care. 

This guidance describes at what point support should be provided, covering the delivery of universal services (Level 1), supporting children and families with emerging unmet needs through the Early Help processes (Levels 2), to those requiring statutory support, including safeguarding services, as set out in Levels 3 and 4. 

When applying this Guidance, professionals must consider the following principles: 

  1. Intervention in a child’s life should be at the lowest level appropriate to meet the needs of the child and prevent the need for targeted/ specialist services 
  2. The level of need may be increased by a multiplicity of factors, including the family’s history and context and the effectiveness of previous interventions. Professional judgment must be applied 
  3. All child protection concerns (Level 4) must result in a referral to Children’s Social Care. 



It can be particularly difficult for practitioners to recognise the signs of neglect because it is unlikely to have been a significant incident or event that highlights the concerns; it is more likely that there will be a series of concerns over some time that, taken together, demonstrate that the child is in need or at risk. 

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs succinctly illustrates the five stages of human needs that motivate our behaviour. This theory helps us to understand what children need to thrive. At the very minimum adequate food, clean water, shelter, warmth, protection, and health care are essential. They also need their carers to be attentive, dependable, and kind. 

The presence of a single sign does not necessarily indicate that a child is experiencing neglect. However, the persistence of multiple signs over a period of time may indicate a more significant issue. Children and adolescents who are being neglected may exhibit the following indicators*: 


table breaking down definitions of signs of neglect

In considering whether or not a child has been neglected, it is important to consider the quality of care they have received over some time, as this could vary to the extent to which it impacts their development. It is also important to consider the age of the child to the nature of the neglect and the length of time for which the concerns have existed. 

Some adults lack the resources and support to properly care for their children, but some have more complex problems. In both cases help and support from professionals is essential. 

Adult Services 

Practitioners who work in organisations that primarily provide services for adults will understandably have a specific focus on the needs of their service users. However, in doing so, it is important to consider the needs of any other children or young people who are living in the household or who have regular contact with the adult concerned, especially if this is in a caring capacity. If a parent or carer has complex needs, it is always necessary to consider the impact of these issues on any children or young people to establish whether they require any specific services in their own right. This is especially important if the adult's needs are such that they result in an increased risk of significant harm to a child or young person. Those working in adult services can contact the MASH team if they believe a child or young person is at immediate risk of significant harm (or 999 in an emergency). Similarly, those working with children and young people also have a responsibility to ensure any vulnerable adults they come into contact with during their work with children are also safeguarded from harm. 


CSCP Child Wellbeing Tool

The CSCP Child Neglect Strategy SEEN | HEARD | HELPED – provides a shared approach and direction to preventing and responding to child neglect. The key to preventing neglect is early identification of needs. For a child to develop well, their physical, emotional, and developmental care and their safety, have to be provided for. If on an ongoing basis, a child doesn’t have these needs met, then the child’s immediate and long-term health, learning, and emotional development may be negatively impacted.

The CSCP Child Well-being Tool will help early identification of needs. It is important to exercise caution when using the CSCP Child Well-being tool, as it is not intended as a substitute for the Graded Care Profile 2 (GCP2) in cases where child neglect is known or suspected. While the tool can be used to help evidence needs in onward referrals, it is not a referral or assessment tool and should not be relied upon as such. It is crucial to follow proper protocols and procedures in cases involving child neglect and to seek appropriate professional guidance and support as needed. This tool along with more guidance for its use can be downloaded from the Neglect Strategy page. 

Learn more about the Neglect strategy and the Child Well-being tool


What is it?

  • If you have concerns about a child’s well-being, you’ll want to consider if the family needs support or advice. This tool is a short and simple way to clarify those concerns and identify what advice or support is needed.

When to use it?

  • This tool is best used when areas of concern have first been noticed. It can help you have a conversation with the parent/carer to explain what you’ve noticed and talk through what could help address this concern.

Who should use it?

  • Those working with children and families within community settings nurseries, dentists, GPs, adult support workers, childminders, school staff, pharmacists, housing officers, police officers and, youth workers, and volunteers. 

Table describing different levels of need.




Referral Protocols

A Child in Need is considered as: 

  • A child who is unlikely to achieve or maintain, or have the opportunity of achieving or maintaining, a reasonable standard of health or development without the provision of services by a local authority 
  • A child whose health or development is likely to be significantly impaired or further impaired, without the provision of services. 
  • A child who has a substantial and permanent disability. 

This could also include: 

  • A child whose parent/s are in prison 
  • A child who is an asylum seeker 

What is significant harm/child protection (CP)? 

Section 47 of the Children Act 1989 introduced the concept of significant harm as the threshold that justifies compulsory intervention in family life in the best interests of children. It gives local authorities a duty to make inquiries to decide whether they should take action to safeguard or promote the welfare of the child who is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm. 

Cases meeting this threshold generally, but not exclusively, involve physical, emotional, or sexual abuse where parents or care givers are the perpetrators, or chronic neglect coupled with parental incapacity or unwillingness to change.  Modern slavery, human trafficking, and the exploitation of children would also meet this threshold. Some circumstances meet this threshold and, these are considered on a case-by-case basis. 

What happens following a referral to Children’s Social Care? 

MASH will triage contacts and referrals and gather information about the case including the context and history of the family (current and previous involvement of services, presenting issues and concerns and known protective factors). 

A decision will then be made to progress the case to: 

  • A Child Protection Strategy Meeting (Level 4)  
  • A Child in Need Assessment (Level 3) 
  • An intervention from the Early Help 
  • Service (Level 2); or 
  • An Early Help intervention (Level 1) led by the most appropriate agency (most often by the original referring agency) 

Child in Need Assessments at Level 3 or Level 4 are completed by a qualified Social Worker and will necessitate the Social Worker obtaining contributions from other professionals involved with the child/family in order to gain a full picture of the child’s circumstances. 

The purpose of the assessment is always to; 

  • Gather important information about a child and family 
  • Analyse their needs and/or the nature and level of any risk and harm being suffered by the child 
  • Provide support to address those needs to improve the child’s outcomes to make them safe 
  • The maximum time-scales for completion of an assessment at Level 4 which is more urgent is within 15 days as part of S47 enquiries. 

Where cases do not meet the Level 3 threshold, an Early Help Worker will complete an assessment. As the needs are not so urgent, the whole-family assessment may take up to six weeks. 

Occasionally a referral will not meet the Level 2 threshold, so support will be discussed with the original referrer for Early Help support at Level 1. Advice for agencies around the Early Help processes can be obtained from the MASH team. 

At any point during an assessment, a case may be ‘stepped up’ to a higher level of concern or ‘stepped down’ to a lower level. 

This threshold guidance employs the Assessment of Need Triangle to evaluate a child’s requirements and make a judgment regarding their level of need. The triangle consists of three main domains: child development, parenting capacity, and family & environmental factors.  By using this framework to consider the interplay between these domains and how they impact a child’s overall well-being, better outcomes can be created for children and young people. 

Children with a substantial and permanent disability 

  • For advice and guidance on how a child with a substantial and permanent disability can access services through the SEND Local Offer. 
  • For advice and guidance on how a child with a substantial and permanent disability can access a CIN assessment, please contact Croydon MASH. 

Children who are privately fostered 

  • A child aged under 16 who is privately fostered should be assessed as a Child in Need. 
  • A 16-17 year old young person who is disabled and privately fostered should be assessed as a Child in Need. 
  • Please contact Croydon MASH. 

Other reasons for making a referral for a Child in Need Assessment 

  • The following children and young people are also entitled to a Child in Need Assessment under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989: 
  • Those diagnosed with a terminal illness 
  • Those sectioned under the Mental Health Act 

Assessement of need triangel

Assessment of Needs

Which Level?

The list of indicators contained in this guidance is not an exhaustive one. Where any intervention is deemed necessary, multiple factors are likely to be present and decisions as to whether the criteria are met for a particular level of intervention remain a professional judgment. It is also important to remember that the signs that a child or young person has particular needs may not be found in a single piece of evidence but in a combination of factors or indicators. For example, within the framework described in this document, a cluster of indicators in Level 2 when considered together may indicate the need for a Level 3 assessment. There will also be, in some situations, a single indicator that is so obviously significant that it will demand assessment at a particular level even in the absence of any other indicator.

Please remember that this guidance is not intended to give professionals ‘the answer’. Professional dialogue is essential if we are to make informed decisions in the best interests of the child. Talk to the family, talk to your safeguarding lead, and talk to other professionals.

Transitions between levels

In some cases, a child or young person will go through a number of transition points on their journey to having their needs met. For example, a child whose needs do not respond to services provided at Level 1 may need to receive a more targeted response within Level 2. Similarly, a child supported within Level 2 whose circumstances and situation do not improve sufficiently may need to receive the specialist assessment and support provided at Level 3. It is acknowledged that children may move from one level of need to another and that agencies and services may offer support at more than one level. What is important is that this is monitored and reviewed to inform the most appropriate level of support.


Early Help Assessments and Child in Need Assessments can only be carried out with the consent of the parent(s). Participation in the assessment and any resulting plan is voluntary on the part of the parent. Because of this, professionals must seek consent from the parent before making a referral to Children’s Social Care or before making requests for support from agencies contributing to Early Help Plans. Professionals must make it clear to the parent(s) that they are giving consent for their personal information and their circumstances to be shared between agencies.

It must be clear to parents where their information will go, for what purpose, and for how long the information will be kept on agencies’ records. Referrals to Children’s Social Care (Level 3) or requests for support from the Early Help Service (Level 2) which is made without parental consent will not be accepted. In almost all cases, therefore, a parent should be aware that a referral to Children’s Social Care is being made. People also have a responsibility to ensure any vulnerable adults they come into contact with during their work with children are also safeguarded from harm. For further information contact the MASH team.

Child protection concern (Level 4)

Only where there is a clear child protection concern (Level 4), and there is reason to believe that the risk may escalate by approaching the parents/carers, enquiries can begin without the parent’s/carer’s consent. Circumstances that meet this threshold may include:


  • Suspicion that a child will be forced into marriage or removed from the country against their will.
  • Suspicion that a child is at risk of female genital mutilation
  • Disclosure of sexual or physical abuse puts the child at immediate risk
  • Suspicion that illness is being fabricated
  • A suspicion that a child is a victim of modern slavery and trafficking A child has been reported missing on three different occasions.
  • Evidence that the child is at immediate risk of harm (a child is not generally at immediate risk if they are in school or at some other venue with a professional present, as action can be taken before the child returns home)

Levels of need

This table outlines the levels of need and corresponding service and intervention thresholds based on a child's requirements. It includes indicators for each level of need, aiding professionals in identifying the extent of a child's challenges. This information should be used to make informed decisions on which services to refer the child and family to, ensuring they receive the appropriate level of care and support is provided.


diagram outlining the levels of need (level 1 an 2)

diagram outlining the levels of need (level 3 and 4)




Assessment of Needs Matrix and Level descriptors

Assessment of Needs Matrix

This tool helps you record observations that indicate the level of support needed. Use the matrix alongside the level of need document to support writing brief notes that give a clear and comprehensive view of the current situation. You can also use this sheet as a reference for a detailed report and/or case notes.

Download Assessment of Needs matrix

Level of Need descriptors


example pf assessment matrix tool




Threshold Legislation

Members of the public and professionals requiring advice should contact the relevant local authority’s children’s social care department. Professional referrers should normally carry out an early help assessment using the Common Assessment Framework (CAF) or similar to identify whether the child/children have needs that should be met by more than one agency. This should then be sent to the relevant Children’s Social Care Department - often via a secure e-CAF system. 

Children’s social care will then review the information about those needs and determine the most appropriate level of service to be provided, which may be universal, early help, or statutory provision. Professional referrers are expected to gain parental consent to share information before making a referral for further services unless doing so would place the child at risk of further harm.

Concerns about child protection should be made through direct telephone contact with the relevant Children’s Social Care Department.

Section 1 Children Act 1989 – The Court Welfare Checklist

The welfare checklist to which courts will have regard when deciding whether to make an order in respect of a child:


  • The ascertainable wishes and feelings of the child concerned (considered in the light of their age and understanding);
  • Their physical, emotional, and educational needs;
  • The likely effect on them of any change in their circumstances;
  • Their age, sex, background, and any characteristics that the court considers relevant;
  • Any harm which they have suffered or are at risk of suffering;
  • How capable each of their parents, and any other person to whom the court considers the question to be relevant, is of meeting their needs;
  • The range of powers available to the court under the Children Act 1989

Section 20, Children Act 1989: Child provided with accommodation

This can be on the initiative of the local authority with the agreement of the parents, or at the request of the parents. Any person with parental responsibility can at any time remove the child from the accommodation.

The child is a child in need who requires accommodation as a result of:

  • Having no person with parental responsibility for him/her; or
  • Being lost or abandoned; or
  • The person who has been caring for him/her being prevented (whether or not permanently, and for whatever reason) from providing him/her with suitable accommodation or care; or
  • Having reached the age of 16, his/her welfare is likely to be seriously prejudiced if he/she is not provided with accommodation; or
  • Accommodating the child would safeguard or promote his/her welfare (even though a person who has parental responsibility for him is able to provide him with accommodation), provided that person does not object.
  • Before providing accommodation, so far as is reasonably practicable and consistent with the child’s welfare:
  • Ascertain, and give due consideration to the child’s wishes and feelings (having regard to his/her age and understanding); and
  • Ascertain whether the parents/person(s) with parental responsibility have given a valid consent:
  • Does the parent have the mental capacity to consent?
  • Is the consent fully informed?
  • Is it fair and proportionate for the child to be accommodated?

Section 47, Children Act 1989: Child Protection enquiries

Listed below is an indicator guide of the type of circumstances that would lead to a S47 assessment. This list is intended as a guide and is not exhaustive. Reference should also be made to the London Child Protection Procedures 5th edition. http://


  • Any allegation of abuse or neglect or any suspicious injury in a pre- or non-mobile child.
  • Allegations or suspicions about a serious injury / sexual abuse to a child.
  • Two or more minor injuries in pre-mobile or non-verbal babies or young children (including disabled children).
  • Inconsistent explanations or an admission about a clear non-accidental injury.
  • Repeated allegations or reasonable suspicions of non-accidental injury.
  • A child being traumatised injured or neglected as a result of domestic violence.
  • Repeated allegations involving serious verbal threats and/or emotional abuse.
  • Allegations / reasonable suspicions of serious neglect.
  • Medical referral of non-organic failure to thrive in under-fives. .
  • Direct allegation of sexual abuse made by child or abuser’s confession to such abuse.
  • Any allegation suggesting connections between sexually abused children in different families or more than one abuser.
  • An individual (adult or child) posing a risk to children.
  • Any suspicious injury or allegation involving a child subject of a current child protection plan or looked after by a local authority.
  • No available parent and child vulnerable to significant harm (e.g. an abandoned baby).
  • Suspicion that child has suffered or is at risk of significant harm due to fabricated or induced illness.
  • Child/ren subject of parental delusions.
  • A child at risk of sexual exploitation or trafficking.
  • Pregnancy in a child aged under 13.
  • A child at risk of FGM, honour based violence or forced marriage.