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1.3.3 Strategy Discussions

RELATED CHAPTERS

Referrals to Children’s Social Care Procedure

Section 47 Enquiries Procedure

Assessment Protocol

AMENDMENT

This chapter was amended throughout in February 2014 as a result of local review, including introduction of the assessment process as defined in Working Together to Safeguard Children, 2013. It should be re-read in its entirety.


Contents

  1. Holding a Strategy Discussion
  2. Purpose of Strategy Discussion 
  3. When the Strategy Discussion should be a Meeting 
  4. Who should be Involved 
  5. Agenda for Strategy Discussion 
  6. Roles and Responsibilities
  7. Recording of a Strategy Discussion

    Appendix 1: Flow chart: Immediate Protection

    Appendix 2: Flow chart: Action following a Strategy Discussion


1. Holding a Strategy Discussion

Whenever there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, Significant Harm there should be a Strategy Discussion involving children's social care, the police, health and other bodies such as the referring agency. This might take the form of a multi-agency meeting or phone calls and more than one discussion may be necessary. A Strategy Discussion can take place following a Referral or at any other time, including during the assessment process.


2. Purpose of Strategy Discussion

The purpose of the Strategy Discussion is to decide whether a Section 47 Enquiry under the Children Act 1989 is required and if so, to develop a plan of action for the Section 47 Enquiry. An Assessment is the means by which the Section 47 Enquiry is carried out. See Assessment Protocol for more information.

More than one Strategy Discussion may be necessary.

Where there are more than one Strategy Discussions/Meetings, care must be taken to monitor the time frames involved so that no child is left for too long without a decision as to what services should be provided or what actions should be taken. Where an Initial Child Protection Conference is to be convened this must take place within 15 working days of the last Strategy Discussion.


3. When the Strategy Discussion should be a Meeting

The Strategy Discussion may take place over the telephone or at a meeting.

A Strategy Discussion must take the form of a meeting, chaired by a manager from Children’s Social Care Services, if there is concern about one of the following:


4. Who should be Involved

A social worker and their manager, health professionals and a police representative should, as a minimum, be involved in the Strategy Discussion. Other relevant professionals will depend on the nature of the individual case but may include:

  • The professional or agency which made the referral;
  • The child's school or nursery; and
  • Any health services the child or family members are receiving.

All attendees should be sufficiently senior to make decisions on behalf of their agencies.

Where other agencies are not included in the initial strategy discussion, the social worker should undertake checks with them for relevant information prior to any decisions being made.

If the child is a hospital patient, the consultant(s) responsible for the child's care should be involved. This should be established by contacting the named professionals in the organisation. Where a medical examination has been carried out, the appropriate doctor should be involved.

Where a medical examination may be necessary, a senior doctor from those providing services should also be involved.

In the case of a pre-birth Strategy Discussion, this should involve the case-holding midwife and midwife specialist for safeguarding.

If the child lives outside of the area all agencies that have information about the child and family must be invited to attend or contribute to the Strategy Discussion.

Where required, a legal adviser should be invited or legal advice sought to inform the Strategy Discussion.

Consideration should also be given to the need to seek advice from or invite a professional with expertise in the particular type of suspected Significant Harm.

Where parents or adults in the household are experiencing problems such as domestic abuse, substance misuse or mental illness, it will also be important to consider involving the relevant adult services professionals.

Those participating should be sufficiently qualified to be able to contribute to the discussions of the available information and to make decisions on behalf of their own agency.


5. Agenda for Strategy Discussion

The Strategy Discussion should be used to:

  • Share available information;
  • Agree when the child will be seen alone by the Lead Social Worker (unless inappropriate for the child) and whether any particular factors such as the child’s race, ethnicity, language, disability or any other special needs should be taken into account and whether an interpreter will be required for the child and/or the family;
  • Consider the needs of any other children who may be affected;
  • Decide whether a Section 47 Enquiry should be initiated or continued and if so, which children should be included;
  • Plan the Section 47 Enquiry (if one is to be undertaken), including the need for further information, the need for and timing of Medical Assessments and/or treatment, and who will carry out what actions, by when and for what purpose;
  • Decide what further information is needed if an assessment is already underway and how it will be obtained and recorded;
  • Decide whether a single agency or a joint enquiry/investigation is required;
  • Agree what action is required immediately and in the short term to safeguard the child and/or provide interim services and support, including the care arrangements for the child/children;
  • Agree whether urgent actions are required to remove the child from the risk of harm or to remove the alleged perpetrator from the child’s home;
  • Agree where a child is in hospital how to manage contact and how to secure the safe discharge of the child;
  • Agree a contingency plan if the child cannot be located;
  • Agree the conduct and timing of any criminal investigation, including who should be interviewed, by whom, for what purpose and when and the need to carry out the interviews in accordance with Achieving Best Evidence in Criminal Proceedings guidance;
  • Agree the arrangements for obtaining consents to interviews and assessments of the child (if the assessment is to take place during the course of court proceedings, the courts prior consent must be obtained);
  • Agree how the child and family will be supported during the process;
  • Determine what information from the Strategy Discussion will be shared with the family, unless such information sharing may place a child at increased risk of harm or jeopardise any criminal investigation. If urgent action is necessary, a decision will need to be taken about informing or consulting parents and the child/ren, obtaining consents, taking legal action, accompanying the child and notifying parents;
  • Agree, in the light of the race and ethnicity of the child and family, how information will be obtained and shared with the family and establishing whether an interpreter is required;
  • Determine if legal action is required;
  • Coordinate a press strategy, if relevant;
  • Agree timescales for all the above and responsibilities for required actions;
  • In cases where information indicates a history of violence and threatening behaviour by the parents towards professionals, consider the risks to the child/children and to staff, determine a strategy for managing the risk and agree joint action as appropriate;
  • Agree the need for feedback to each other (e.g. if single agency enquiries) and for further Strategy Discussions with clear timescales.

Single Agency Enquiry

Where there is a need for a child protection investigation but there is agreement, following a strategy discussion, that the investigation will be commenced by a single agency with regular updates being shared with the other agency and continual assessment of the situation undertaken.

The situations where Children's Social Care Services is the Lead Agency include:

  • Suspected minor non-accidental injury on an older child and there are no significant concerns of previous abuse;
  • Minor neglect or emotional abuse;
  • Information concerning sexual abuse or behaviour, not amounting to an allegation but giving rise to child protection concerns;
  • Abuse committed by a child who is under the age of criminal responsibility.

The situations where the Police are the Lead Agency include:

  • Persons aged 18 years or over making historical allegations;
  • Where the perpetrator is not a relative, carer or professionally involved with the child;
  • Where the perpetrator is not known to the child.

If during the course of the criminal investigation it emerges that parental deficiencies in the care of a child have significantly contributed to the alleged abuse the process will develop into a joint enquiry. Additionally, if risk to other children is identified in the course of a police single agency investigation then the need for a joint enquiry should be discussed with Children's Social Care Services.

Joint Enquiries

Joint enquiries will normally take place where initial information indicates that the situation falls into one of the following categories:

  • A clear allegation of familial sexual abuse;
  • Alleged or suspected physical injury;
  • Cruelty, ill treatment, or abandonment;
  • Wilful or repeated neglect;
  • Concerns/suspicions of Fabricated or Induced Illness (FII);
  • Allegations against any employee of an LSCB agency or anyone who works with, or has contact with, children in either a professional or voluntary capacity;
  • Organised, complex, or institutional abuse.

For further information please see Joint Investigations Protocol.

Any decision made at a Strategy Discussion, i.e. that concerns are not substantiated, or that concerns are substantiated but the child is not judged to be at increased likelihood of suffering Significant Harm, or that concerns are substantiated and the child is judged to be suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm, must be authorised by a Children’s Social Care Services Manager.

Where a decision is made to initiate legal proceedings, legal advice must be obtained and the approval of a Children’s Social Care Services Manager must also be obtained.

Any decision made after a Strategy Discussion that further child protection action by Children’s Social Care Services and/or the Police is not necessary as there is insufficient evidence of suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm to the child may only be made providing it is agreed by a Children’s Social Care Services Manager and the Officer in Charge of the Police Child Abuse Investigation Unit and the reasons recorded.

In such circumstances consideration should be given to whether any other service is appropriate for the child (please see Early Help Assessment Procedure).

Where the decision of the Strategy Discussion is to initiate a Section 47 Enquiry, the plan for the Section 47 Enquiry should reflect the requirement to convene an Initial Child Protection Conference within 15 working days of the last Strategy Discussion. 

The timescale for the Assessment to reach a decision on next steps should be based upon the needs of the individual child, consistent with the local protocol and certainly no longer than 40 working days from the point of referral into children's social care.

The principles and parameters for the assessment of children should be followed according to the Assessment Protocol.


6. Roles and Responsibilities

Social workers with their managers should convene the Strategy Discussion and make sure it:

  • Considers the child's welfare and safety, and identifies the level of risk faced by the child;
  • Decides what information should be shared with the child and family (on the basis that information is not shared if this may jeopardise a police investigation or place the child at increased likelihood of suffering Significant Harm);
  • Agrees what further action is required, and who will do what by when, where an Emergency Protection Order is in place or the child is the subject of Police Powers of protection;
  • Follows up actions to make sure what was agreed gets done.

Children's social care has the lead for the Section 47 Enquiry and assessment of the child's welfare.

The police should:

  • Discuss the basis for any criminal investigation and any relevant processes that other agencies might need to know about, including the timing and methods of evidence gathering; and
  • Lead the criminal investigation where joint enquiries take place.


7. Recording of a Strategy Discussion

At the conclusion of the Strategy Discussion, a list of action points, timescales, agreed roles and responsibilities and an agreed mechanism for reviewing completion of the action points must be recorded and circulated to all parties within one working day. Children’s Social Care Services will record this on the relevant form. 

For telephone discussions, a copy of the notes on the relevant form must be authorised by the manager and should then be sent to all participants.

Records of Strategy Discussions will be held in the relevant record systems for the child. Where appropriate, taking into account the confidentiality of the child/ren and any adult, agreed sections of the records should be placed on the relevant records for the adult.


Appendices

Click here to view Appendix 1: Flow chart: Immediate Protection

Click here to view Appendix 2: Flow chart: Action following a Strategy Discussion

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