Although the purpose of the strategy discussion is usually to decide whether to initiate a Section 47 enquiry, there may be occasions when urgent action is thought necessary and so an immediate discussion is needed with the police, other relevant agencies and the referrer.
Where urgent action is required it is unlikely that there will be time to hold a full strategy meeting. Where there are immediate concerns it is more likely that any strategy discussion will have to take place by telephone.
In very rare circumstances a single agency (most likely the police) may have to take action to protect a child before a strategy discussion can be held [WTSC 2010 5.52]. If this happens, a strategy meeting should be held as soon afterwards as possible.
The immediate strategy discussion should share information and agree which agencies should take action to protect the child. Guidance about full strategy discussions should be followed as much as possible.
How to do it
Where there is no time for a meeting there should be telephone discussions with other relevant agencies, in particular any referring agency and (where a medical examination may be needed) a senior doctor from the service that would conduct the examination.
The immediate strategy discussion should cover
- which agencies will be taking action
- what legal steps may be taken and who will be getting the relevant legal advice
- whether a medical examination or treatment will be required urgently
- whether a criminal offence may have been committed and how evidence of that will be protected
- whether there is any further information that should be sought before seeing the child.
Lessons from research
Attention is generally focused on the most visible or pressing problems, which can mean that other warning signs are not noticed. Ask yourself: What is the most striking thing about this situation? If that factor were to be removed or changed, would I still have concerns?
See Cleaver H, Wattam C and Cawson P: Assessing Risk in Child Protection, London, NSPCC (1998).
Two doctors saw Victoria Climbié and were concerned about the possibility of physical abuse. They made an immediate written referral which was faxed to social services. By the time social services telephoned them, the doctors had passed on their concerns to another doctor who spoke to the social worker. Neither of the two people having this discussion had ever met Victoria.
Victoria Climbié was placed in police protection without reference to the referrer (the childminder’s daughter), Victoria herself or Marie-Therese Kouao who was, at the time, thought to be Victoria’s mother.
Decisions made in this way are relying on hearsay evidence. The child’s voice is not being heard and the person making the referral cannot enter into any meaningful conversation with the person taking the referral.