View LCP Procedures View LCP Procedures

1.2.6 Strategy Discussions

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in December 2011 when Section 6, Mobile Families was added.

RELATED CHAPTER

Strategy Meetings - Additional Guidance relating to Children in Hospital


Contents

  1. Criteria for Strategy Discussions 
  2. Purpose of Strategy Discussions
  3. Timing of Strategy Discussions 
  4. Convening and Chairing of Strategy Discussions 
  5. Outcome and Recording of Strategy Discussions 
  6. Mobile Families

Further guidance about Strategy Discussions can be found in the London Child Protection Procedures.


1. Criteria For Strategy Discussions

A Strategy Discussion must be held in the following circumstances:

  1. If the outcome of an Single Assessment determines that a child has suffered or is likely to suffer Significant Harm;
  2. If a specific concern or incident arises indicating Significant Harm in respect of a child whose case is open;
  3. A child has been made subject to an Emergency Protection Order and a Strategy Discussion was not held previously;
  4. If a child has been made subject to Police Protection;
  5. If a child is in breach of a Child Curfew Order.


2. Purpose of Strategy Discussions

The Purpose of a Strategy Discussion is to determine whether there are reasonable grounds to suggest that a child is suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm. If so, the Strategy Discussion will plan the initial stages of the Single Assessment incorporating a Child Protection Enquiry.

In carrying this out, the Strategy Discussion must:

  • Decide whether a Single Assessment under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989 (incorporating a Child Protection Enquiry) should be initiated, or continued if it has already begun;
  • Plan how the Child Protection Enquiry should be undertaken (if one is to be initiated), including the need for medical treatment, and who will carry out what actions, by when and for what purpose;
  • 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;
  • Agree the conduct and timing of any criminal investigation;
  • Decide what further information is required and how it should be obtained;
  • Decide on the scope of the Child Protection Enquiry including whether there are any other children at risk;
  • Consider the need for a paediatric medical or other specialist assessment;
  • Agree when the child will be seen alone by the Lead Social Worker (unless inappropriate for the child);
  • Decide when, how and who will undertake interviews of the child and if video interviews will be used;
  • Decide on any action required where Consent to an interview or Medical Assessment is refused;
  • Decide who else to interview;
  • Consider any other protective action or support services required;
  • Consider what information should and can be shared;
  • Consider any legal action required;
  • Decide the need for any further Strategy Discussion;
  • Decide the time-scales of the Child Protection Enquiry and which agency or individual is responsible for which action;
  • Decide the mechanism and/or date for reviewing the completion of agreed actions.

Relevant matters include:

  • Agreeing a plan for how the Single Assessment under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989 will be carried out - what further information is required about the child(ren) and family and how it should be obtained and recorded;
  • Agreeing 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 in 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;
  • Agreeing, in particular, how the child's wishes and feelings will be ascertained so that they can be taken into account when making decisions under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989;
  • In the light of the race and ethnicity of the child and family, considering how this should be taken into account, and establishing whether an interpreter is required;
  • Considering the needs of other children who may be affected - e.g. siblings and other children, such as those living in the same establishment, in contact with alleged abusers.


3. Timing of Strategy Discussions

If a decision is made to proceed from a Single Assessment to a Strategy Discussion, the Strategy Discussion or Strategy Meeting should be convened within three working days of the Referral being received, except in the following circumstances: 

  • If the allegations or concerns indicate a serious risk of Significant Harm to the child, the Strategy Discussion or meeting should be held on the same day as the receipt of the Referral;
  • If the allegations or concerns indicate penetrative Sexual Abuse of a child has occurred, the Strategy Discussion or Meeting should be held on the same day as the receipt of the Referral if this is required to ensure forensic evidence;
  • Where immediate action has been required to protect a child, the Strategy Discussion should take place within one working day of the emergency action;
  • Where the concerns are particularly complex, the Strategy Meeting must be held within a maximum of 5 working days, but sooner if there is a need to provide immediate protection to the child.


4. Convening and Chairing of Strategy Discussions

Strategy Discussions by telephone will usually be adequate to plan a Child Protection Enquiry, but a face-to-face meeting will be more effective in complex cases.

For details as to whether a face-to-face meeting is appropriate, see London Child Protection Procedures, Child Protection Conferences

The Strategy Discussion/Meeting should involve the social worker who has undertaken the Single Assessment and/or who will be undertaking the Child Protection Enquiry and the Police. In addition to the Police, other agencies should be involved as appropriate (for example education and health care representatives) and, in particular, any referring agency. 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.

Where a meeting is appropriate, they are normally convened, chaired and administered by the relevant social worker's manager.

Generally the meeting will be held in the local Assessment Team office but may be held elsewhere if appropriate, for example if the child is in hospital, the meeting may take place there to maximise attendance from hospital staff.

For details as to who should attend, see London Child Protection Procedures, Child Protection Conferences.


5. Outcomes and Recording of Strategy Discussions

The social worker or manager must record the outcome of a Strategy Discussion conducted by telephone and send copies to all those with whom the discussions took place.

The manager must record the outcome of a Strategy Meeting and immediately circulate copies to those who attended or were invited to contribute, preferably at the end of the meeting. 

The outcome of the Strategy Discussion/Meeting may be:

  1. There are grounds to suggest the child is suffering or is likely to suffer Significant Harm. In these circumstances, a Child Protection Enquiry will be undertaken, and a Single Assessment will be commenced;
  2. There are no grounds to suggest the child is suffering or is likely to suffer Significant Harm but the child may still be a Child in Need and the manager may decide to initiate a Single Assessment and/or the provision of services from within the authority or from other agencies;
  3. The child does not appear to be a Child in Need; which may result in the provision of information, advice, signposting to another agency and/or no further action.


6. Mobile Families

Children who are moving from one area to another are particularly vulnerable as they may not be having regular contact with agencies such as health or school. If a family moves to a different area whilst a Section 47 Enquiry is ongoing, it should not be automatically abandoned.

The London Child Protection Procedures outlines that in the event that a family moves whilst a Section 47 Enquiry is being undertaken - for example if a carer moves to a refuge in another borough - the originating authority should convene a Strategy Meeting / Discussion within 72 hours. This meeting must include the receiving authority.

The originating authority remains responsible until the end of the enquiry, unless an alternative arrangement is agreed. If a Child Protection Conference is required it should be convened by the receiving authority. The originating authority must produce a report for the conference based on their involvement.

End