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1.5.1 Strategy Discussions/Meetings


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. When it is Not Appropriate to Inform Parents/Caregiver that a Strategy Meeting is Being Held
  3. Criteria for Holding a Strategy Meeting
  4. Roles and Responsibilities of Practitioners
  5. Timescales
  6. Holding a Strategy Meeting
  7. Looked After Children
  8. Children Placed Outside their Home Authority in Foster and Residential Care
  9. Recording Strategy Meetings and Discussions


1. Introduction

Whenever there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm, there should be a Strategy Discussion or Strategy Meeting between practitioners from Children’s Social Care, Police, Health and other agencies appropriate for the individual case. This might take the form of a multi-agency meeting or phone call/s and more than one discussion or meeting may be necessary. A strategy discussion or meeting can take place following a referral or at any other time, including during the assessment process.

A Strategy Discussion is usually held by telephone and a Strategy Meeting face-to-face. Both types of communication are subject to the same procedures and recording. See Section 9, Recording Strategy Meetings and Discussions.

The Strategy Meeting will establish the level of risk and the appropriate way forward in order to safeguard the child and or young person. If a child is in immediate danger and there is no time to discuss the matter with colleagues, a practitioner should phone 999 to access emergency services immediately and then contact their Line Manager. A Strategy Discussion or Meeting should follow as soon as possible after the safety of the child has been secured. For more information see Action Following Referral of Safeguarding Concerns Procedure, Immediate Protection.

Staff from all agencies must recognise the status of telephone discussions in that they constitute a formal inter-agency decision-making process and should be recorded as such.

A strategy meeting should discuss the child’s welfare and determine a plan of rapid future action if there is reasonable cause to suspect the child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm.


2. When it is Not Appropriate to Inform Parents/Caregiver that a Strategy Meeting is Being Held

The parent/s or carer/s should be informed that a Strategy Meeting is taking place. However, there are cases where it will not be appropriate to discuss concerns with parents/caregivers before a Strategy Meeting has been held. In such situations, the timing of contact with parents/caregivers will be agreed at the Strategy Meeting.

Reasons for not informing the family of the referral must be documented, as must the outcome of any advice sought and management agreement given.

Situations where family members should not be informed include where:

Please note this list is not exhaustive.


3. Criteria for Holding a Strategy Meeting

A Strategy Meeting must be convened when:

  • There is reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm and a Strategy Meeting is required to decide whether a Section 47 Enquiry under the Children Act 1989 is required or not;
  • There is an allegation against staff, volunteers or foster carers. The Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) and designated Police Officer at the Public Protection Unit should be informed. For more information see Allegations Against Staff, Carers and Volunteers Procedure.


4. Roles and Responsibilities of Practitioners

A Children’s Social Care social worker and their manager, health practitioners and a police representative should, as a minimum, be involved in the strategy meeting.

For new referrals, the Duty Team Manager / MASH Manager is responsible for arranging the Strategy Meeting. Strategy Meetings involving open or allocated cases are the responsibility of the Social Care team in which the respective case is held. For more information see Action Following Referral of Safeguarding Concerns Procedure, The MASH Process - Overview.

Social workers with their managers should:

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.

For more information see Practice Guidance: Achieving Best Evidence in Criminal Proceedings Guidance on interviewing victims and witnesses, and guidance on using special measures (March 2011).

The nature of the individual case will determine what other relevant practitioners will need to be included, e.g.:

  • The practitioner or agency which made the referral;
  • A practitioner from the child’s school or nursery;
  • A practitioner who is working with the parent/s or carer/s;
  • Any health services the child or family members are receiving, e.g. GP or health visitor;
  • The Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) if the allegations relate to a practitioner, volunteer or anyone caring for or working with the child - see also Allegations Against Staff, Carers and Volunteers Procedure;
  • The on-call consultant Paediatrician for safeguarding should be included in the discussion if it is likely that there will be a need for a medical examination. Where a medical has already been conducted the relevant Paediatrician should be included. For more information see Paediatric Assessment for Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Medical).

Consideration should be given to seeking legal advice.

Where parents or adults in the household are experiencing problems such as domestic abuse, substance abuse, learning difficulties or mental illness, the relevant adult services practitioners should be invited.

See also Safeguarding Children of Alcohol Misusing Parents Procedure, Safeguarding Children of Drug Misusing ParentsProcedure, Safeguarding Children at Risk where a Parent has a Learning Disability Procedure, Safeguarding Children at Risk where a Parent has a Mental Health Problem Procedure and Safeguarding Children at Risk because of Domestic Abuse.

Those participating should be sufficiently senior and able to contribute to the discussions and to make decisions on behalf of their agencies.


5. Timescales

A Strategy Meeting should take place within 48 hours and preferably within 24 hours of the initial referral or identification of concern, although the actual timing will be dependent upon the degree of perceived risk.

Priority must be given by all agencies towards ensuring Strategy Meetings are convened within these timescales. Any unavoidable delay in undertaking a Strategy Meeting must not delay the taking of appropriate action to safeguard the child’s immediate welfare and the reason clearly recorded on file with approval by the relevant manager.

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 assessment protocol (Children's Assessment Protocol and Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families) and certainly no longer than 45 working days from the point of referral into Children’s Social Care. The principles and parameters for the assessment of children in need should be followed for assessments undertaken under Section 47 Enquiries.


6. Holding a Strategy Meeting

The Strategy Meeting should be used to:

  • Share and evaluate relevant information;
  • Agree when the child will be seen alone by the Social Worker (unless inappropriate for the child);
  • Agree how the child’s wishes and feelings will be ascertained so that they can be taken into account;
  • Consider how the race, ethnicity or culture of the child may impact on the investigation;
  • Consider if an interpreter will be required if English is not the preferred language;
  • Consider what assistance can be given to a child who has difficulties communicating because of a disability or age;
  • Decide whether Section 47 Enquiries should be initiated;
  • Decide whether a Child's Assessment within Section 47 Enquiries should be commenced and determine what further information is needed and how this will be obtained and recorded;
  • Agree the order of actions required if Section 47 Enquiries and a criminal investigation are to take place simultaneously;
  • Plan how the Section 47 Enquiry should proceed, i.e. whether it will be undertaken as a single agency enquiry (Children’s Social Care or Police) or a joint enquiry/ investigation (Children’s Social Care and Police);
  • Agree who should be interviewed, by whom, for what purpose, and when. The way in which interviews are conducted can play a significant part in minimising any distress caused to children, and increasing the likelihood of maintaining constructive working relationships with families. When a criminal offence may have been committed against a child, the timing and handling of interviews with victims, their families and witnesses, can have important implications for the collection and preservation of evidence - for more information on joint enquiries/investigation - see Practice Guidance: Achieving Best Evidence in Criminal Proceedings Guidance on interviewing victims and witnesses, and guidance on using special measures (March 2011);
  • Decide whether a recorded video interview is required;
  • Discuss how to proceed in a way which will not place the child or others at further risk (e.g. where there is domestic abuse, history of violent behaviour, substance misuse, mental ill health problems, or people posing a risk are present).

See also Safeguarding Children of Alcohol Misusing Parents Procedure, Safeguarding Children of Drug Misusing ParentsProcedure, Safeguarding Children at Risk where a Parent has a Learning Disability Procedure, Safeguarding Children at Risk where a Parent has a Mental Health Problem Procedure and Safeguarding Children at Risk because of Domestic Abuse.

  • Agree what action is required immediately to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child and/or provide interim services and support. If the child is in hospital, decisions should also be made about how to secure the safe discharge of the child – see Contact between Parents and their Children in Hospital where there are Safeguarding Concerns Procedure;
  • Plan and agree the exact role of each agency and how the enquiries should be handled, including the need for medical treatment. If there is a need for treatment discussion should take place with the Designated Doctor for Child Protection or the Senior Paediatrician; for more information see Paediatric Assessment for Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Medical);
  • Determine if legal action is required;
  • Determine what information from the Strategy Meeting can be shared with the family, unless such information sharing may place a child at risk of significant harm or jeopardise Police investigations into an alleged offence. 

This is particularly important in cases of suspected fabricated or induced illness; Forced Marriage; Honour Based Violence or Female Genital Mutilation. Where fabricated or induced illness is suspected, consideration should be given to the use of covert video surveillance which would be undertaken in accordance with the good practice advice for Police Officers which is available to them from the National Crime Faculty. Please refer to Safeguarding Children in Whom Illness is Fabricated or Induced Procedure.

For more information see: Safeguarding Children and Young People from Forced Marriage Procedure; Safeguarding Girls and Women from Female Genital Mutilation Procedure; or Safeguarding Children or Young People from Honour Based Violence Procedure.

  • Consider the needs of other children who may be affected or at risk (e.g. siblings, other children in contact with the person suspected of causing harm to the child);
  • Agree how feedback will be provided to the referring agency and others in continuing contact with the child and/or family as the enquiry progresses;
  • If risk of significant harm is not determined or the decision made for Section 47 Enquiries not initiated, the meeting should determine if a referral should be made to Early Help or as a Child in Need;
  • If the suspicion or allegation relates to a practitioner, volunteer or anyone caring for or working with the child, the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) must be part of the Strategy Meeting - see Allegations Against Staff, Carers and Volunteers Procedure.

More than one Strategy Meeting may be needed, particularly where the child’s circumstances are very complex and a number of discussions are required to consider whether, when and how to initiate Section 47 Enquiries.

The Initial Child Protection Conference should take place within 15 working days of a strategy meeting or the strategy meeting at which Section 47 Enquiries were initiated if more than one has been held. Any extension to timescales because of practical difficulties should be part of the formal decision making process and recorded and agreed by Senior Managers. Such extensions should only be agreed if doing so will not place the child at further risk.

For more information see Section 47 Enquiries Procedure and Initial Child Protection Conferences Procedure.


7. Looked After Children

The duty for Children’s Social Care to undertake Section 47 Enquiries when there are concerns about significant harm to a child applies on the same basis to children in foster and residential care as it does to children who live with their own families. Enquiries should consider the safety of any other children living in the household, including the foster carers’ own children or other children in a residential unit.

For more information if the suspicion or allegation relates to a foster carer or residential staff, see Allegations Against Staff, Carers and Volunteers Procedure.


8. Children Placed Outside their Home Authority in Foster and Residential Care

Where a referral is received regarding a child normally resident in another local authority (responsible authority), the local authority in whose area the child is found (the host authority) is responsible for taking any emergency action required to safeguard a child and to determine the outcome of the referral. This includes children who are looked after or subject of a Child Protection Plan. The host authority is also responsible for convening a Strategy Meeting to establish how a Section 47 Enquiry is to be carried out and who will be responsible. Where agreement cannot be reached between two local authorities, the matter should be referred to Senior Managers within 24 hours of the initial referral.

Only when the responsible authority explicitly accepts responsibility (to be followed up in writing) is the host authority relieved of its responsibility to take emergency action.

Both local authorities should ensure that all agreements are recorded.

Where a child resident within one South Yorkshire authority is found within another South Yorkshire authority in circumstances that warrant emergency action or a Strategy Meeting, the responsible authority should progress any Section 47 Enquiry/Child's Assessment.

For more information see Children Moving Across Boundaries Procedure and Notification by Other Local Authorities of Looked After Children Placed in Rotherham Procedure.


9. Recording Strategy Meetings and Discussions

Any information shared, or decisions reached, and the basis of those decisions should be clearly recorded by the chair of the Strategy Meeting or Strategy Discussion, and distributed to those in attendance or who participate in a phone discussion, within one working day. Whenever a child or young person is subject of a Strategy Meeting, this information will be recorded on the Children’s Social Care electronic file and the South Yorkshire Police Child Abuse Tracking System (CATS) along with the reasons for the meeting to be convened and the outcome.

End