This chapter is under review as a result of Working Together 2013
In October 2013, Section 4, Who Should be Involved
was updated in line with Working Together 2013, to include the requirement for a Health representative to be invited to all Strategy Meetings. In Section 1, Holding a Strategy Discussion/Meeting
, the requirement was added that a Strategy Meeting must
be convened following a telephone Strategy Discussion which has agreed that a Section 47 investigation will be undertaken and where there have been previous investigations, in order that the wider family issues can be considered and any patterns identified.
- Holding a Strategy Discussion/Meeting
- Purpose of Strategy Discussion/Meeting
- Strategy Meetings
- Who Should be Involved
- Agenda for Strategy Discussion/Meeting
- Recording of Strategy Discussion/Meeting
1. Holding a Strategy Discussion/Meeting
Children and Young People’s Services must hold a Strategy Discussion/Meeting whenever there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child has suffered or is likely to suffer Significant Harm.
This may be following a Referral and Initial Assessment or at any time during an assessment or where a child is receiving support services, if concerns about significant harm to the child emerge.
A Strategy Discussion can take the form of a telephone discussion or a meeting (a Strategy Meeting) depending on the urgency and nature of the referral.
Under certain circumstances, a Strategy Meeting must be convened as a Strategy Discussion only would not be sufficient - see Section 3, Strategy Meetings.
A Strategy Meeting must be convened following a telephone Strategy Discussion which has agreed that a Section 47 investigation will be undertaken and where there have been previous investigations, in order that the wider family issues can be considered and any patterns identified.
2. Purpose of Strategy Discussion/Meeting
The purpose of the Strategy Discussion/Meeting is to decide if a Section 47 Enquiry with a Core Assessment is required and, if so, to develop a plan of action for the enquiry.
More than one Strategy Discussion/Meeting may be necessary.
Where there is more than one Strategy Discussion/Meeting, the interval between Strategy Discussions/Meetings should not exceed 28 days and the process must be concluded within 3 months unless authorised by a service or district manager, 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/Meeting.
Where there is sufficient evidence, the Strategy Discussion/Meeting may recommend to the Children and Young People’s Services’ Manager that an Initial Child Protection Conference is held.
A Strategy Meeting, chaired by an appropriate manager from Children and Young People’s Services, must be convened in the following circumstances:
Usually, the Strategy Meeting should be held at the local Children and Young People’s Services office, but can be convened elsewhere if appropriate, for example, if the child is an in-patient in hospital.
4. Who Should be Involved
The Strategy Discussion/Meeting should involve Children and Young People’s Services, Health and the Police; also the referring agency and other agencies involved with the family as appropriate (for example Education). Where there is a possibility that the child may be charged with a criminal offence, the Youth Offending Service should be invited.
If the child is a hospital patient (in-patient or out-patient) or receiving services from a child development team, the medical consultant responsible for the child’s health should be involved, as should the senior ward nurse where the child is an in-patient. Where a medical assessment may be necessary, or has taken place, a senior doctor from those providing services should also be involved.
In the case of a pre-birth Strategy Discussion/Meeting, this should involve the midwifery services, hospital based and community based.
If the child ordinarily 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/Meeting.
Where required, a legal adviser should be invited or legal advice sought to inform the Strategy Discussion/Meeting.
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 senior to be able to contribute to the discussions of the available information and to make decisions on behalf of their own agency.
5. Timescales for the Strategy Discussion/Meeting
Except in the cases listed below, the Strategy Discussion/Meeting must take place within a maximum of 2 working days of the identification of concerns of Significant Harm. The urgency of the situation, however, may dictate that the Strategy Discussion/Meeting takes place very soon after the referral is received.
- For allegations/concerns indicating an immediate risk to the child (e.g. physical injury or neglect), the Strategy Discussion/Meeting should be held on the same day as the receipt of the Referral;
- For allegations of sexual abuse, the Strategy Discussion/Meeting should be held on the same day as the receipt of the Referral if this is required to ensure forensic evidence;
- Where prior emergency action has been taken, a Strategy Discussion/Meeting must be held within one working day;
- Where the concerns are particularly complex e.g. organised abuse, a Strategy Discussion/Meeting must be held within a maximum of 5 working days, but sooner if there is a need to provide immediate protection to a child see Complex (Organised or Multiple) Abuse Procedure.
6. Agenda for Strategy Discussion/Meeting
The Strategy Discussion/Meeting should be used to:
- Share all available information (including information available from the Police);
- Agree when the child will be seen alone by the Lead Social Worker (unless inappropriate for the child and if so, who else should be present) and whether any particular factors such as the child's race, ethnicity, language, disability or any other special needs should be taken into account;
- Consider whether an interpreter will be required for the child and/or the family;
- Consider the needs of any other children who may be affected for example, siblings, other children in the same household or establishment and/or other children who may come into contact with the alleged perpetrator - in order to determine whether they should be included in the Section 47 Enquiry;
- Decide whether a Section 47 Enquiry and Core Assessment 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 whether a single agency or a joint enquiry/investigation is required see Protocol between West Mercia Constabulary and Children and Young People’s Services regarding Section 47 Enquiries and Criminal Investigations;
- 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 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 court’s prior consent must also be obtained);
- Agree how the child and family will be supported during the process;
- Determine what information from the Strategy Discussion/Meeting will be shared with the family, unless such information sharing may place a child at increased risk of harm or place any person at risk of injury or obstruct 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 whether to disclose to third parties sensitive information about a person who poses a risk to children and agree a process for this. Any arrangements must be approved by the Police and consideration should be given to a referral into the MAPPA process see Management of Individuals who Pose a Risk to Children Procedure - MAPPA;
- Where it has been determined that a parent/carer should be informed of the potential risk posed by a third party, the Police and the local authority must agree the disclosure process;
- 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/Meetings with clear timescales where it is not possible to reach a decision to precede with a section 47 enquiry on the available information.
Before a decision is made to apply for an Emergency Protection Order, legal advice must be obtained and the approval of the relevant Children and Young People’s Services Manager must also be obtained. The requirement to seek prior legal advice does not apply to the Emergency Duty Service.
Any decision made after a Strategy Discussion/Meeting following enquiries that child protection action by Children and Young People’s Services and/or the Police is not necessary, as there is insufficient evidence of risk of Significant Harm to the child, must be confirmed by a Children and Young People’s Services manager and the reasons recorded. Where the decision of the Strategy Discussion/Meeting is to initiate a Section 47 Enquiry, the plan for the Section 47 Enquiry should reflect the requirement, where the concerns are substantiated, to convene an Initial Child Protection Conference within 15 working days of the last Strategy Discussion/Meeting and the Team Manager is responsible for ensuring that an immediate request is made for the Conference to be convened within this timescale.
7. Recording of a Strategy Discussion/Meeting
Agreed action points, timescales, roles and responsibilities and a mechanism for reviewing completion of the action points must be recorded and circulated to all parties within one working day.
Children and Young People’s Services will record this on the relevant form.
For telephone discussions, a copy of the action points authorised by the manager should be faxed or sent to all participants.
Records of Strategy Discussions/Strategy Meetings 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.