What is an IRD?

Below is a brief overview of the IRD process.  There is pan-Lanarkshire inter agency IRD guidance which should be followed, and which sets out the IRD process and agency roles and responsibilities.  Lanarkshire IRD guidance is available and gives more detail on the process.

Consideration of the need for an IRD

An inter-agency referral discussion (IRD) is the formal process of information sharing, assessment, analysis, and decision-making following reported concern about abuse or neglect of a child or young person up to the age of 18 years. 

Concerns may relate to familial and non-familial concerns, and of brothers / sisters or other children within the same context. This includes an unborn baby that may be exposed to current or future risk.

An IRD takes place whenever a child protection referral is received from any agency by police, health or social work and indicates that a child has suffered, is suffering or may be at risk of significant harm, abuse, or neglect. The IRD provides the strategic direction through joint information sharing, assessment and decision making.


The IRD must be convened as soon as reasonably practical. Where there is a risk to the life of a child or the likelihood of immediate risk or significant harm, intervention must not be delayed pending information gathering/sharing. The IRD process may have to begin out with core hours, with a focus on immediate protective actions and interim safety planning. A comprehensive IRD must be completed as soon as practical, normally the next working day.


The IRD can be a process rather than a single event.  Information must be gathered, shared, and recorded at each meeting, to support co-ordinated decision-making and response by the core agencies. Where concerns exist in relation to multiple families / children, a strategic and coordinated response will be required. Additional agencies including adult services, or third sector agencies may also contribute information to inform the decision-making process.

Social work services have lead responsibility for enquiries relating to children who are experiencing or are likely to experience significant harm and assessments of children in need. The police have lead responsibility for criminal investigations relating to child abuse and neglect and share responsibilities to keep the child safe. A designated health professional will lead on the need for and nature of recommended health assessments as part of the process.

Agency representation

Core agency representatives will be responsible for joint decision making within the IRD. They must be sufficiently senior to assess and discuss available information and to make decisions on behalf of their agency. This would normally be a senior social worker, a detective sergeant, the identified child protection advisor NHS Lanarkshire/Glasgow, and an appropriate Education Manager. On some occasions, senior managers from private schools, nurseries, adult services or third sector organisations may be included for the duration of the IRD.

Interim Safety Plan

The purpose of an interim safety plan is to ensure a child’s immediate safety until such time as a CPPM is held.  An interim safety plan is about safety right now and those who are participants in the plan must understand and agree what they must do to ensure a child’s safety. The safety plan must be recorded and shared and must be in plain language.

The plan should –

  • set out how reduce risk is to managed and reduced
  • describe the actions that persons or services will take
  • state how the plan will be monitored
  • clearly set out how any person or service involved in the plan can immediately signal concern
  • contain contact details for those with defined responsibilities within the plan

Closure of the IRD and progression to child protection planning meeting

The IRD process will not be considered completed until a decision is made as to the need for a child protection investigation which is reflected in the IRD record along with an agreed safety plan which identifies individual tasks and timescales to protect the child or young person during the investigation. If a decision is reached that no further child protection measures are required, the IRD should consider whether a co-ordinated child’s plan may still be beneficial through a GIRFEC approach.

An IRD can be re-convened at any stage, regardless of the decision of the initial IRD.

If a child protection investigation takes place and a CPPM takes place this must be held within 28 calendar days of child protection procedures being initiated unless there is an IRD decision that this is not required.  A senior social work manager may insist, having reviewed the available information, that a CPPM is held.

Child protection case discussion

Local IRD procedures include the option to convene a Child Protection Case Discussion at the initial referral stage where a case is particularly complex.  Where a Child Protection Case Discussion is convened as a direct replacement for an IRD this will act as the information sharing and decision-making forum regarding the need for a Child Protection Investigation.  The same core agencies must be present and the same considerations will be given and recorded, including the need for a JII and/or medical examination.  Where concerns regarding potential significant harm to a child who is within the Looked After and Accommodated system, it is recommended that the Child Protection Case Discussion is used as best practice rather than IRD.