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1.4 Strategy Discussions

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in June 2013 to take account of the changes in Working Together to Safeguard Children which removed the requirement to carry out separate Initial and Core Assessments and emphasised the need for assessments to be child and family focused, evidence based and to have actions and objectives based on clear analysis.


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. Timescales for the Strategy Discussion
  6. Agenda for Strategy Discussion
  7. Recording of a Strategy Discussion


1. Holding a Strategy Discussion

Children, Education and Families 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 or at any time during an assessment if concerns about Significant Harm to a child emerge.


2. Purpose of Strategy Discussion

The purpose of the Strategy Discussion is to establish whether a Child Protection Assessment is required and, if so, to develop a plan of action.

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 Strategy Discussion or, where more than one Strategy Discussion took place, of the Strategy Discussion at which the Child Protection Assessment was initiated.


3. When the Strategy Discussion should be a Meeting

The Strategy Discussion may take place over the telephone or at a meeting, except as follows.

A Strategy Discussion must take the form of a meeting, chaired by a manager from Children, Education and Families, if there is concern about one of the following:

All other Strategy Discussions which take place as meetings will be chaired by a Children, Education and Families manager (or his/her nominee)


4. Who should be Involved?

The Strategy Discussion should involve at a minimum Children, Education and Families, the Police, the referring agency and other agencies involved with the family as appropriate (for example Education or Health).

If the child is a hospital patient, whether as an in-patient or out-patient, the medical consultant responsible for the child’s health should be involved. The senior ward nurse should be involved 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.

Where parents or adults in the household are experiencing problems such as domestic violence and abuse substance misuse or mental illness, it will also be important to consider involving the relevant adult services professionals.

In the case of a pre-birth Strategy Discussion this should involve the midwifery service. 

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 required, a legal adviser should be invited or legal advice sought to inform the Strategy Discussion.

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

The Strategy Discussion must take place as soon as the risk of Significant Harm is suspected. 

Specifically, in the cases listed below, the urgency of the situation dictates that the Strategy Discussion takes place within the following timescales:

  • For allegations/concerns indicating a serious risk to the child (e.g. serious physical injury or serious Neglect), the Strategy Discussion should be held on the same day as the receipt of the Referral;
  • For allegations of penetrative Sexual Abuse, the Strategy Discussion should be held on the same day as the receipt of the Referral if this is required to ensure forensic evidence;
  • Where emergency action is or has been taken, the Strategy Discussion must be held within one working day.


6. Agenda for Strategy Discussion

The Strategy Discussion should be used to:

  • Share available information;
  • Agree the conduct and timing of any criminal investigation?
  • Decide whether a Child Protection Assessment should be initiated or continued if it has already started - and if so, which children should be included;
  • 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 and 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. Where a child is in hospital, this should include consideration of managing contact and how to secure the safe discharge of the child;
  • 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 Significant 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/children, obtaining consents, taking legal action, accompanying the child and notifying parents;
  • Determine if legal action is required.

Relevant matters will include:

  • Agreeing the plan for the Child Protection Assessment (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;
  • Deciding whether a single agency or a joint enquiry/investigation is required;
  • Agreeing 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;
  • Agreeing how the child’s wishes and feelings should be ascertained, 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;
  • Agreeing when the child will be seen alone by the Lead Social Worker (unless inappropriate for the child);
  • 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 be obtained);
  • Agreeing a Contingency Plan if the child cannot be located;
  • Agreeing how the child and family will be supported during the process;
  • Coordinating a press strategy, if relevant;
  • Agreeing 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, considering the risks to the child/children and to staff, determining a strategy for managing the risk and agreeing joint action as appropriate

Considering the needs of any other children who may be affected, e.g. siblings and any other children in contact with alleged abusers

Agreeing the need for feedback to each other (e.g. if single agency enquiries) and for further Strategy Discussions

Agreeing how and when decisions/implementation will be reviewed

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 likely to suffer Significant Harm, must be authorised by a Children, Education and Families manager.

Where a decision is made to apply for an Emergency Protection Order, legal advice must be sought and the approval of the relevant Children, Education and Families manager must also be obtained.

Any decision made after a Strategy Discussion that further child protection action by Children, Education and Families 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 the Children, Education and Families manager and the Officer in Charge of the Thames Valley Police Child Abuse Investigation Unit and the reasons recorded. In such cases, consideration should always be given to the need of the child and family for any support services as a part of a Child in Need Plan and/or a Family Support Conference and/or a Family Group Conference.

Initiating a Child Protection Assessment

Where the decision of the Strategy Discussion is to initiate a Child Protection Assessment, the plan for the Child Protection Assessment should reflect the requirement to convene an Initial Child Protection Conference or a Family Support Conference/Family Group Conference within 15 working days of the last Strategy Discussion. 


7. 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 on a Record of Strategy Discussion (ICS exemplar) and circulated to all participants within one working day.

The Children, Education and Families Assessment Team worker will complete a data entry form (currently CP1) and pass to the Case Conference Administrator (having updated the child's electronic records).

End