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Support for children and families through Early Help

Date updated: 11/08/2023
If you are worried about a child, in an emergency, always call 999

The Early Help service provides children, young people, and families with practical assistance to help them live full and happy lives.

If you would like to know more about the Early Help service or, if you are concerned about a child and want to make a referral, visit our Family Information Service website.

Early Help Strategy 2023-26 PDF (2MB)
The Early Help Strategy lays out our vision, strengths, challenges and how we aim to impact the lives of the children, young people and families in the City of London.
Date submitted: 11/04/23

Referral information for practitioners

It stands for Multi-agency Safeguarding Hub. It is a team made up of colleagues in the Children and Families Team and our partners. It allows us to identify risk to children at the earliest point and enables us to give effective and early interventions.


  • Handles all safeguarding referrals early and effectively.
  • Makes high-quality decisions on referrals.
  • Applies the same standards for services across all of our agencies.
  • Refers families to the most appropriate service first.
  • Shares information safely and securely with partner agencies.
  • Only shares information outside of the MASH in a controlled way and only with the agreement of the relevant agency.
  • Makes decisions for families that are streamlined and transparent.
  • Shares and analyses community-based risks at appropriate forums and responds as a multi-agency to that risk.

The City of London Corporation has developed materials for practitioners in the safeguarding partnership to use with the relaunched Virtual Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH), including the MASH protocol and MASH information-sharing form.

If you are concerned about a child's wellbeing or feel a family may benefit from some additional support, the City of London Corporation Thresholds of Need document provides a framework to:

  • identify children with additional needs
  • escalate concerns appropriately
  • make a referral for Children's Social Care or Early Help services using the City of London Corporation Multi-Agency Referral Form (MARF).

Please email Children Duty Team for an editable version of the MARF.

The Thresholds of Need sets out four tiers to help you identify children's needs:

  • Tier one – Universal services (children with no additional needs).
  • Tier two – Children with additional needs that can be met through Early Help services.
  • Tier three – Children with high or complex multiple needs.
  • Tier four – Children in acute need who require immediate referral.

All referrals for Tier two (children with additional needs) and Tier three (children with high or complex needs) must be made with parental consent or the child's consent, where the child is of age and understanding to give consent.

Practitioners should seek consent to share information with related agencies, including the Police or health services, for Tier four referrals (children with acute needs), except where this would place the child at potential risk of harm or compromise a Police investigation.

If consent is withheld for a Tier four referral, the practitioner should consider with their Designated Safeguarding Lead whether they have grounds to override consent in order to protect the child. Where a referral is necessary to protect the child, practitioners will have a legal basis to share information without parental consent.

Once consent has been obtained from the family and young person, practitioners can make a referral to either Children's Social Care or Early Help services.

Contact the City of London Corporation Children and Families Team following this process:

  1. Initial referrals must be made by phone to the Children and Families Team: 020 7332 3621/1620/3394 (Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm)
  2. Complete the City of London Corporation Multi-Agency Referral Form (MARF), using the Thresholds of Need for guidance.
  3. Mark it for the attention of the Duty Social Worker.
  4. Submit the completed (password-protected) MARF: email Children Duty Team

Outside office hours

Contact London Borough of Hackney following this process:

  1. Initial referrals must be made by phone: 020 8356 2346/2710.
  2. Complete the City of London Corporation Multi-Agency Referral Form (MARF), using the Thresholds of Need for guidance.
  3. Submit the completed (password-protected) MARF: email Children Duty Team

Next steps

When the Duty Social Worker receives the MARF, they will verify if the child is known to other services, involve other practitioners and decide what further action is needed. This could be a number of options:

  1. No further action and signpost to services in the community.
  2. Recommend the case for Early Help services (Tier two) to an Early Help practitioner who will complete the Common Assessment Framework (CAF).
  3. Allocate the case as a Child in Need (Tier three) to complete a Single Assessment.
  4. Convene a strategy meeting and pursue a Section 47 investigation (Tier four).

In all cases where the case falls within Tiers two to four, then an Early Help professional or social worker (where appropriate) will assume the role of Lead Professional.

If, after completing the MARF, the Children and Families Team decides no further action is required, the agency who completed the referral must continue to monitor the child or young person's situation.

If the child's needs increase or the situation deteriorates, the agency must re-refer. If you do not agree with a decision made by the Duty Social Worker, you can discuss it with the Children and Families Team Service Manager on 020 7332 3621.

Thresholds of Need 2022 PDF (1MB)
Date submitted: 1/11/22
Multi-Agency Referral Form PDF (200KB)
Date submitted: 30/12/19