When a referral is made that reaches the threshold for assessment this is generally picked up by a social worker in the Local Authority's Children's Services department. The social worker is then tasked with completing an initial assessment. The single assessment framework is used to structure this assessment. However, in the case of a climate/ environment-based referral this may result in a time-intensive task that involves gathering a lot of irrelevant information. It may also be experienced as unnecessarily intrusive by families and children.
A note on 'threshold assessment':
The first difficulty that those accepting referrals might find is that the usual threshold measurements do not apply. This does not mean that this is not a child protection issue - the Children Act does specifically mention contextual/ environmental factors as a potential risk to children. So, you are faced with a legal duty but no threshold assessment/ referral system to manage this.
If you are unsure about how to assess whether the referral meets the required threshold, you have two choices:
1) Hackney considered threshold criteria for contextual safeguarding referrals and their process can be accessed via the Contextual Safeguarding website: https://www.contextualsafeguarding.org.uk/media/r1tbnrif/1h-applying-thresholds-to-extra-familial-harm.pdf .
You can also contact the CCPAST team and we can guide you to relevant experts in that area of climate science to support you to identify if there is a risk of/actual significant harm in this case.
2) It may be more helpful to take a 'community conferencing' approach to the referral. This can bypass the need for a threshold assessment and instigate a process developed with the Contextual Safeguarding research team. You can learn more about this on our 'conferencing' page.
Climate safeguarding referrals look different. They might be about named children within a specific family, but the concerns are based in the 'environmental factors' or 'housing' areas of the assessment framework, which is not too dissimilar to those referrals we are familiar with, however, what questions do you ask?
Parents and caregivers do not have the power to protect their children from harms in their environment alone. They need to be part of a broader, community response. Those with less resources (financial, social, political) will struggle more to protect their children from environmental harms and so children from excluded or oppressed groups are likely to experience climate-based impacts more severely. However, ALL parents, whatever their status, are unable to properly protect their children from environmental harms. Most often they do not have agency to act on the source of these risks/harms. So, an assessment process needs to focus on identifying the source(s) of these risks/ harms, and what agencies/groups have influence to make change. From here the other aspects of an assessment need to consider-
(1) What are the individual child's needs and vulnerabilities that may increase the risk of climate-based harm? Particularly consider specific health/developmental issues.
(2) What support does a family need to engage with community planning to protect their children?
In the case of a referral for named children regarding contextual climate harm, it is likely that other children in that community are also going to be impacted. In this case it often makes sense to follow up an individual referral with a community-based approach to the assessment so that a number of children can be protected via one process, see below-
Many climate-based referrals might be entirely contextual so that no children are named specifically. Instead, all those children in a particular neighbourhood, school or other community resource may be named as potentially at risk.
This means your initial assessment process can then be structured according to the contextual nature of the referral. See below for 'neighbourhood' and 'school' assessment frameworks.
Organising a climate-based conference: