1. The strategy discussion/meeting is a professionals forum convened by Children’s Social Care when it has been assessed that a child may be suffering from significant harm. It will always involve Children’s Social Care and the Police. Other agencies will be involved as necessary.
2. It is recorded by Children’s Social Care on the Strategy Discussion Record
3. The strategy discussion/meeting decides whether a Section 47 enquiry is needed and the most effective way to carry out the enquiry
The starting point for making Section 47 enquiries is the strategy discussion/meeting.
It can take the form of a telephone discussion, or – where the issues need more detailed discussion and planning – one or more meetings.
The strategy discussion/meeting is a professionals’ forum, and family members are not involved. It is convened and recorded by Children’s Social Care on the Strategy Discussion Record, and must take place as soon as it is decided that a child is suffering, or is likely to be suffering, significant harm. This may be following a referral or at any other time safeguarding concerns are raised.
If emergency action needs to be taken to protect a child out of hours e.g. use of police protection powers, this must be followed up by a strategy discussion/meeting to plan the next steps.
Strategy discussions/meetings must be convened by Children’s Social Care and should always involve a manager from that agency and a police sergeant. The referring agency and other bodies should be included as appropriate (e.g. health, nursery/school). If the child is a hospital in- or out-patient, or is receiving services from a child development team, the named health professional for child protection will ensure that the appropriate medical personnel are involved. If there are adult issues of domestic violence, mental illness, learning disability or substance misuse, the relevant adult services professional may also need to be involved.
As part of the strategic planning process in respect of child protection issues and investigations there should be close liaison between the local authority’s Children’s Social Care department and its Legal Services Department. Children’s Social Care should always consider the need to consult with their legal advisors at all stages of the planning process and legal advisors should be provided with all relevant information in order to fully inform the advice sought and provided. Where reasonably practicable a legal advisor will attend the Strategy Meeting, when this is not possible a face to face legal advice meeting will take place within one working day.
Meetings should be held at a location convenient for the key attendees.
If the child is looked after by another local authority, the strategy discussion/meeting will include a decision on which local authority will take responsibility for taking the next steps.
Where there are to be discussions regarding the appropriateness of a medical examination or a medical examination has already taken place, the Forensic Medical Examiner/Paediatrician should be consulted/involved.
The strategy discussion/meeting determines whether a Section 47 enquiry is needed and the most effective way to carry out the enquiry. It enables relevant information to be shared and should decide:
- what further information is needed about the child or children and family and how it should be obtained. This information will be included in the core assessment that must be completed as part of the Section 47 Enquiry;
- whether immediate protective action is necessary;
- whether interim services or support are needed while enquiries are taking place;
- who will form the investigating team;
- who will interview the child/ren, where and when. The appropriate gender of the interviewers should always be considered in making this decision;
- whether or not any interview with the child should be conducted under the Achieving Best Evidence guidance, with reasons for this decision and who else needs to be present at the interview with the child
- Whether or not it is in the child’s best interest to seek consent from the parents for interviewing the child. Any decision to proceed without consent should be made by the Children’s Social Care Manager and the police senior investigating officer, and be recorded
- How the child’s wishes and feelings will be ascertained so that they can be taken into account when making decisions
- If appropriate, who is to contact the parent(s) and obtain consent for interviewing the child, any video recording and medical examination
- What steps should be taken if a parent or child refuses consent for interview or medical assessment
- How best to communicate with both the child and their family, taking into account issues relating to race, culture and disability
- Whether a Medical Examination of the child/ren is necessary
- If the child is in hospital, how to secure the safe discharge of the child, in consultation with the consultant responsible for the child’s care
- The needs and safety of other children who may be affected, e.g. siblings and other children in contact with the alleged abuser and whether to extend the investigation to include any of these other children. It is often appropriate to have medical assessments of all siblings
- Whether referral to the LADO is appropriate
- The conduct and timing of any criminal investigation
- Agreeing who will interview the alleged abuser and when
- Who will interview other persons, and for what purpose
- What information will be shared with the family and how it will be shared
- Whether legal action is required
- Which professionals not included in the strategy discussion should be informed at this stage
- To whom the investigating team will report, with what frequency and how progress will be reviewed.
The nature and extent of relevant information to be shared at or prior to any strategy discussion or meeting will depend upon the circumstances. All reasonable efforts should be made to ensure the ready availability of any information that will assist decision making as to what immediate protective action may be necessary. Where police hold photographic evidence of injuries to a child, the police should ensure the strategy discussion or meeting benefits from sight of such evidence to inform decisions made for the purpose of the immediacy of safeguarding the welfare of a child.