Northumberland LSCB Logo


Top of page

Size: View this website with small text View this website with medium text View this website with large text View this website with high visibility

1.2.4 Strategy Discussions

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated throughout in October 2017 in line with local practice, and should be re-read.

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. Recording of a Strategy Discussion 

    Appendix 1: Action Following a Strategy Discussion


1. Holding a Strategy Discussion

Children’s Social Care Services must hold a Strategy Discussion 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 Statutory 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.

In a situation where urgent action is required to safeguard a child, an immediate strategy discussion/meeting should take place between LA children’s social care, police and other agencies as appropriate.

In all other cases,a strategy discussion/meeting should usually take place within one working day with a maximum timescale of three working days.

Working Together to Safeguard Children; A Guide to Inter-Agency Working to Safeguard and Promote the Welfare of Children, March 2015, clearly states the following:

  1. A Strategy Discussion/Meeting must include Children’s Social Care, Police, Health and other agencies as appropriate, including the NSPCC where involved;
  2. This may take the form of a multi-agency meeting or phone calls and more than one discussion may be necessary;
  3. This can take place following a referral or at any other time, including during the assessment process.
Therefore, discussions do not always need to be formal meetings. The Social Worker and Team Manager should explore creative ways of collating information, such as conference calls, Google hangout and Skype.


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. The Statutory Assessment is the means by which the Section 47 Enquiry is carried out.

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 formal Strategy Meeting must be held and chaired as outlined below by the relevant manager from Children’s Social Care, if there is concern about one of the following:
  • Where there are suspicions of organised or multiple abuse - see Complex (Organised and Multiple) Abuse Procedure; the strategy Meeting must be chaired by a Children’s Services Senior Manager;
  • Allegations of sexual abuse must be chaired by an experienced Team Manager from Children’s Social care;
  • Where concerns relate to fabricated or induced illness, the strategy meeting must be chaired by a Children’s Services Senior Manager - see Safeguarding Children in Whom there are Concerns that illness is Fabricated or Induced Procedure;
  • Where concerns are considered to be complex chaired by an experienced Team Manager from Children’s Social care;
  • Following the death of a child, where there are child protection concerns and there are surviving siblings or other identified children who are vulnerable the strategy meeting must be chaired by a Children’s Services Senior Manager.


4. Who Should be Involved

The Strategy Discussion/Meeting should involve, at a minimum, Children’s Social Care, the Police, the child's school or nursery, any health services the child or family members are receiving (in addition to those from other Local Authorities) and the referring agency. Other agencies involved with the family may be included, such as Mental Health, Addictions and Probation professionals. The formal Strategy Meeting should be chaired by a Senior Practitioner or Team Manager.

If the child is a hospital patient (inpatient or outpatient) 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 examination 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/or community based. Particular attention should be given to creating and agreeing the Birth Plan if appropriate (for CIN and CP cases).

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/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 qualified to be able to contribute to the discussions of the available information and to make decisions on behalf of their own agency.

Where parents or carers (particularly fathers) reside outside of Northumberland, the relevant professionals from other Local Authorities, such as GPs, Social Workers, Probation, Mental Health or Addiction Services should always be consulted or invited to the Strategy Discussion/Meeting. These professionals should always be consulted as part of any Section 47 enquiries and invited to any multi-agency meetings.


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 Children & Family Assessment and 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 whether a single agency or a joint enquiry/investigation is required (see Section 7, Single Agency or Joint Enquiry/Investigation of Section 47 Enquiries Procedure);
  • 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;
  • As part of the process, extended family members need to be identified/explored as part of any Safety Plan to support the child remaining in their family home. Safety Planning should use the Signs of Safety Framework;
  • 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. The contingency plan should not be solely to seek legal advice;
  • 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 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 (the Senior Manager and Northumberland’s Communications/Press Officers should be alerted at the earliest opportunity), 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.

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 continuing risk of Significant Harm, or that concerns are substantiated and the child is judged to be at risk of 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 risk of 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 under the local Early Help Assessment criteria.

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. A further Strategy Discussion/Meeting should never be held to generate additional time to prepare for an ICPC.

The ICPC can be provisionally arranged at the commencement of the Section 47 and if the ICPC is not required, this should be cancelled by liaising with the Social Care Safeguarding Team.


6. 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.

See also Initial Child Protection Conferences Procedure, Electronic and Digital Recording.


Appendix 1: Action Following a Strategy Discussion

Click here to view Appendix 1: Action Following a Strategy Discussion

End