Strategy discussion

Local Authority Children’s Social Care should convene a strategy discussion to determine the child’s welfare and plan rapid future action if there is reasonable cause to suspect the child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm.

Overview

 

Strategy discussions

 

A strategy discussion should take place whenever there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm. This may take place following a referral or at any other time if concerns arise in respect of child already receiving services from the local authority (the response of the local authority to child protection referrals is covered in section 1.3 of these procedures).

 

Best practice is to hold a strategy discussion as a face to face meeting, which can include video conferencing however other methods may be applied (e.g. telephone or conference call).

 

For significant injuries to children there must always be Strategy Meetings rather than Strategy Discussions. As such Strategy Meetings may need to be called at very short notice and sometimes out of office hours, invitations to Health Visitors, GPs, Named Nurse, etc. may not be possible; and / or their attendance may not be possible. The core attendance should remain as Children’s Social Care / Police / Doctors.

 

Who should be involved in the strategy discussion

 

The strategy discussion should be convened by children’s social care and should be chaired by a designated officer from the local authority. The designated officer should be a registered social worker. The exact make-up of the strategy discussion will vary depending on the circumstances of the presenting situation but should include relevant partner agencies – namely

 

■ The referring agency

 

■ The police

 

■ Health Education Adult services (e.g. if a parent has a mental illness or there are substance misuse, domestic violence or learning disability issues)

 

■ Specialists as/when required (e.g. the medical consultant if the child is a hospital patient)

 

■ In all cases of alleged or suspected sexual abuse discussion with a paediatrician is essential

 

■ Health representatives from all those involved (e.g. midwife, health visitor, school nurse, GP’s if unable to attend should provide their information via their pro forma – download GP Strategy Form

 

■ Education

 

Purpose of the strategy discussion

 

The discussion should be used to:

 

■ share available information;

 

■ agree the conduct and timing of any criminal investigation;

 

■ decide whether section 47 enquiries should be initiated and, as a part of this, initiate a core assessment (see core assessment sub-section below);

 

■ plan how the section 47 enquiry should be undertaken i.e. who will carry out what actions, by when and for what purpose. This should include agreeing who should be interviewed and when the child will be seen alone by the lead social worker (unless to do so would be inappropriate);

 

■ decide on the need for medical treatment/examination and how this will be achieved;

 

■ agree what action is required immediately to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child (including legal action if required – see “immediate protection” sub- section of section 3.5.1 of these procedures

 

■ decide on any interim services and support;

 

■ 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 suffering significant harm or jeopardise police investigations into any alleged offence(s);

 

■ consider the needs of other children who may be affected – e.g. siblings or other children associated with an alleged perpetrator;

 

■ in the light of the race and ethnicity of the child and family consider how these should be taken into account and establish whether an interpreter will be required

 

In planning the above it is important to bear in mind that the manner in which the enquiry (and interviews with the child and family members within this) is conducted can play a significant part in minimising any distress caused to children (see also police investigations sub-section below). The allocated social worker should explain the purpose of section 47 enquiries to the parents and to the child, (having regard to their age and understanding) and be prepared to answer questions openly, unless to do so would affect the safety and welfare of the child.

 

The social worker should also explain that in the event of conflict between the needs and wishes of the parents and those of the child, the child's welfare will remain of paramount consideration in any decision or action. It is important to bear in mind that in the great majority of cases, children remain with their families following section 47 enquiries even where concerns about abuse or neglect are substantiated. As far as possible, section 47 enquiries should be conducted in a way that allows for future constructive working relationships with families.

 

Further strategy discussions

 

More than one strategy discussion may be necessary. This is likely to be where the child’s circumstances are very complex and a number of discussions are required to consider whether/when to initiate section 47 enquiries as well as to plan further intervention as the case unfolds.

 

Recording the strategy discussion

 

The chair should ensure that a careful record is made of what was discussed and decided at each strategy meeting on the agreed format and circulate this to all parties to the discussion within one working day. A copy of each strategy discussion should be kept on the child’s file.

 

For Strategy discussions where the decision to progress to a section 47 enquiry has been agreed, copies of the Strategy Meeting record must be circulated to the respective GPs and Health Visitors / School Nurses, whether or not they have attended, in order that they are kept informed of the circumstances.

 Flowchart: Action Following a Strategy Discussion