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3.4 Strategy Discussion and Meetings

AMENDMENT

Amendments to the text in this chapter are highlighted in red text (March 2016).


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Agency Information Sharing
  3. Initiation and Planning of a Section 47 Enquiry
  4. Strategy Discussion Teleconference
  5. Outcome of Strategy Discussion
  6. Participants to Strategy Discussion
  7. Notes of Discussion
  8. Timing of Strategy Discussion
  9. Timescales for Subsequent Strategy Discussions


1. Introduction

If there is reasonable cause to suspect a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer significant harm, Children's Services should hold a Strategy Discussion. This may take place following a referral or at any other time if concerns about significant harm emerge.

Strategy discussions are required for all children/unborn babies who have siblings with a Child Protection Plan and it is considered that this child/unborn baby also requires one. See Section 47 Enquiry Procedure, Threshold for Section 47 Enquires, and Child Protection Conferences Procedure, Types of Child Protection Conferences.

Depending on the nature of concerns and urgency, this may be undertaken via an actual meeting and / or through a series of telephone discussions with the Police Joint Child Protection Investigation Team (JCPIT) and other relevant agencies. It must include the community (or hospital) consultant Paediatrician in the case of a suspicious injury and/or if there is a possibility that a medical examination will be required.

Strategy discussions between Service Manager/Team Manager Joint Child Protection Investigation Team (JCPIT) and other agencies involved with the child(ren) should:

  • Clarify nature of allegation or suspicion of abuse and / or neglect;
  • Consider concern in relation to home, community and work situations of child and any alleged abuser;
  • Share and evaluate information, including background history;
  • Allocate tasks if any immediate protective action is required;
  • Decide whether a Section 47 Enquiry as part of an Assessment should be initiated (or continued if already commenced);
  • Agree the conduct and timing of any criminal investigation as part of a joint section Section 47 Enquiry.

If an assessment is required to reach a decision, this should be completed within 45 days of the point of the original referral decision (please see Hertfordshire County Council’s Procedures for local timescales).

If a Section 47 enquiry is to be commenced which results in an Initial Child Protection Conference, this should be convened within 15 days of the strategy meeting which made the decision.


2. Agency Information Sharing

The social worker must consult with other relevant agencies (including Police, probation, GP, HV / school nurse, school or pre-school provision) involved with the child and family in order to obtain a fuller picture of the child's circumstances and those of any others in the household, including risk factors and parenting strengths. If the family have moved into Hertfordshire, information must be obtained from previous authorities.

Generally parental permission is sought prior to seeking such information, but a manager may authorise 'checks' to be completed without such permission if the criteria are met.

The responsible manager should record the reasons for proceeding without parental permission. 'Information Sharing and Confidentiality Procedure'

Even when there has been a recent assessment or Common Assessment (CAF) completed, agencies must be consulted and informed of the new information / referral.

Agency checks should be undertaken directly with involved professionals and not through messages with intermediaries.

The relevant agency should be informed of the reason for the enquiry, whether or not parental consent has been obtained and asked for their assessment of the child in the light of information presented.

Agency checks should include accessing background history and any relevant information that may be held in other local authorities or abroad (see Contacts, which contains national contacts for sources of information about children from abroad).


3. Initiation and Planning of a Section 47 Enquiry

Strategy Discussions by phone with other agencies are usually adequate to plan a straightforward single agency enquiry and are usually undertaken as a Section 47 Strategy Discussion Teleconference, click for details on how these are arranged. Meetings should be chaired by a Team Manager for cases and/or to plan joint investigations e.g. allegations against those working with children, fabricated or induced illness, unexpected death of a child. All Strategy Discussions should be recorded in writing and the minutes shared securely with participants within one working day of the meeting.

More than one Strategy Discussion and/or meeting may be required during the Section 47 Enquiry to share information and plan any further enquiries required. A final Strategy Discussion should be held to agree outcomes. Where more than one Strategy Discussion/Meeting takes place timescales must be set from Discussion to Discussion to ensure that the Section 47 Enquiry progresses in a timely manner and that the child remains safeguarded throughout the enquiry in Section 9, Timescales for subsequent Strategy Discussions.

Where a Children's Services single agency enquiry is to be held there should be recorded discussions and/or meetings between the Team Manager, social worker and other relevant agencies to explicitly plan the enquiry.

Meetings should be held at a convenient time / place for key contributors who should prioritise such meetings, e.g. Children's Services office, Police station, hospital, GP surgery or school and if it is decided there are grounds to initiate or continue a Section 47 Enquiry and Assessment, decisions (rooted in the context of racial, cultural, religious and linguistic background of child and family), should be made about:

  • The nature of the concerns and scope of the enquiry, including other children at possible risk;
  • Further information required and how it should be obtained;
  • When, how and who will undertake interviews with child(ren) and if a video will be used (consider gender of interviewer, especially in relation to sexual abuse) - see Achieving Best Evidence in Criminal Proceedings: Guidance on Interviewing Victims and Witnesses and Using Special Measures (Ministry of Justice March 2011);
  • When and how the parents / carers will be informed of the concerns and the planned action including a decision about what information should be shared with the child and family (on the basis that information will not be shared if doing so jeopardises a police investigation or places the child at risk of significant harm;
  • The need for any paediatric or specialist assessment (health should perform necessary medical tests, examinations, observations and provide specialist assessments and ensure the child receives appropriate treatment if required);
  • Action if consent for interview / medical assessment refused;
  • How to ascertain the child's wishes and feelings and meet her/ his best interests, taking account of any additional needs e.g. arising from a disability or a need for an interpreter or speech and language therapist;
  • The needs of other children in contact with the alleged abuser(s);
  • Whether to interview referrer or anyone else, including other family members;
  • The need to observe the environment of the family home;
  • Agree what other actions may be needed to protect the child or provide interim services and support, including securing the safe discharge of a child in hospital with a Discharge Plan;
  • What information may be shared, with whom and when, taking into account the possibility of placing a child at an increased likelihood of suffering significant harm or jeopardising police investigations;
  • 'Any implications for disciplinary action e.g. the video interview may serve a useful purpose in disciplinary proceedings against adult carers and its potential value for this should not be overlooked' (para.2.2 of Achieving Best Evidence in Criminal Proceedings: Guidance on Interviewing Victims and Witnesses and Using Special Measures (Ministry of Justice March 2011)
  • Any legal action required in relation to Care proceedings to safeguard the child;
  • The Police should decide whether to instigate criminal proceedings and should cooperate with and make information available to other professionals;
  • Timescales, agency and individual responsible for agreed actions, including the timing of police investigations;
  • Contingency planning to cover changing circumstances including the need to reconvene the Strategy Discussion during the enquiry if the circumstances are particularly complex or unknown;
  • Mechanism / date for reviewing completion of agreed actions / monitoring progress of enquiry e.g. further Strategy Discussions.

Enquiries should be carried out in a way that minimises distress for the child and family.

Enquiries should systematically gather information about the child’s and family’s history.

Enquiries should analyse the findings of the assessment and evidence what interventions are likely to be most effective and what help should be provided.


4. Strategy Discussion Teleconference 

Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) run teleconferencing calendars to schedule appointments with Health Providers and the Police.

HCC Support Officers and HCC Children's Information and Advice Officers (CIAO’s) will be responsible for scheduling teleconference bookings on instruction of HCC Team Managers. 

There will be eight sessions held per day.  Sessions will be held Monday to Friday:

09:00am - 09:30am, 09:45am – 10:15am, 10:30am – 11:00am, 11:15am – 11:45am

13:45pm – 14:15pm, 14:30pm – 15:00pm, 15:15pm – 15:45pm, 16:00pm –16:30pm. 

Therefore, there will be a maximum number of 40 strategy discussions taking place in any one week.  Bookings must only be made against these available time slots. 

Teleconferences will be scheduled 24 hours from the point which the strategy discussion request was made. Therefore, Police and Health Providers have 24 hours to gather the information prior to the strategy discussion taking place. If a slot is not available 24 hours from the point of setting up the teleconference, the next available slot will be booked.

Requests for S47 Strategy Discussions will be sent via email to secure GCSX accounts for both Police and Health Providers. Emails will be entitled ‘S47 Strategy Teleconference Request – Childs Name, LCS Number, Date of Birth’. Police and Health Providers are expected to dial into the teleconference at the time designated using the number and code supplied by HCC (in the email).

The email will contain the teleconference start date and time, teleconference duration, dial-in number and access code. There will be an extract from HCC’s Liquidlogic Children’s System (LCS) of the child’s demographics/relationships and reason for the referral. The email will be password protected.

Click here to see Section 47 Strategy Discussion Teleconference Flow Diagram.


5. Outcome of Strategy Discussion

Possible outcomes include:

  • A joint or single agency Section 47 Enquiry (and Assessment) to continue or be initiated;
  • Deferred decision whilst more information obtained;
  • No Section 47 Enquiry because the threshold for Section 47 Enquiries has not been reached;
  • No Section 47 Enquiry because the incident is of such marginal significance posing no real or potential threat to the welfare and safety of the child and it is not considered to be in the child's best interests to pursue the matter further.

Where it is decided not to proceed with a Section 47 Enquiry consideration should be given to specifying:

  • Further information required and whether another Strategy Discussion should be held;
  • Further assessments e.g. proceeding with an Assessment;
  • Plans for future monitoring by agencies;
  • Any services to be provided by agencies;
  • The need for future intervention to be co-ordinated through the use of an LCS Initial / Child in Need Plan.


6. Participants to Strategy Discussion

The Strategy Discussion (telephone and/or meeting) is essentially between professionals at Team Manager Level and above to be able to contribute in the decision making process, although exceptional circumstances may arise where other professionals will be invited to contribute.

The Strategy Discussion should ordinarily be co-ordinated and chaired by the Team Manager, Children's Services.

The discussion must generally involve, at a minimum, both Children's Services and the Police Joint Child Protection Investigation Team (JCPIT) with other agencies included as appropriate, in particular the referring agency, the child's nursery / school, health and (where relevant) the registered owner of a service and the registration authority.

A Police Joint Child Protection Investigation Team (JCPIT) manager must be involved in all cases of possible injury or harm to a child. If the manager is unable to be directly involved in the discussion, clear directions should be provided to the participating Police officer(s) and the reasons for non-attendance recorded.

Where issues have significant medical implications, or a paediatric examination has taken place or may be necessary, a senior paediatrician should always be included.

If the child is or has recently been receiving services from a hospital or child development team, the discussion should involve the responsible medical consultant and, in the case of in-patient treatment, a senior ward nurse. Consideration should in these circumstances be given to the location of the discussion in order to maximise attendance of hospital staff.

Where the concerns include an unborn child or newly born infant the Maternity hospital and community midwifery services must be included.

The local authority legal advisor's involvement may be appropriate.

If the child or young person is ‘looked after’ the Fostering Service, Independent Fostering Agency and Residential Care Home should be included in the meetings.

In cases of complex abuse and neglect, consideration should be given to the need to include a professional who has relevant expertise.


7. Notes of Discussion

It is the responsibility of the Chair of the discussion to ensure that the decisions and agreed actions are fully recorded using the LCS 'Record of Strategy Discussion' exemplar. This must include specifying who monitors the progress of the enquiry and how this will be accomplished.

A copy should be circulated within one working day to all parties to the discussion. This applies to both telephone and face to face Strategy Discussions. Both Joint Child Protection Investigation Team (JCPIT) and Health have secure email addresses to facilitate this process, and these should be used in the first instance.

Discussions held to plan a Children's Services single agency enquiries should also be fully recorded.

The record should include:

  • Those present and those invited and not present (if a meeting);
  • Those involved where the discussion was by phone;
  • A summary of the information shared and an evaluation of it;
  • All action points, with agreed timescale and identified person responsible for carrying it out;
  • Details of how and when progress to be reviewed for each action.

Any requests for minutes to be shared with non-participants to the strategy meeting should be discussed with the relevant Service Manager. We would not normally share these (as they form part of a potential criminal investigation), but there can be exceptions. Authors of minutes should bear in mind that they may need to be disclosed in court hearings, or in other formal processes. Practitioners should be mindful to ensure any significant information noted in minutes (i.e. concerns of agencies involved) is also provided within court reports. Practitioners should also consider reviewing previous strategy minutes when completing court reports to ensure that all outstanding concerns are highlighted.


8. Timing of Strategy Discussion

Strategy Discussions should take place as soon as possible, consistent with the need to take urgent action to protect the child. This should usually be within twenty four hours of the receipt of the referral.

Where immediate action was required by either agency prior to a Strategy Discussion, a discussion must be held within one working day of that action.

When concerns are particularly complicated e.g. complex abuse, a Strategy Discussion must occur on the day of referral, though the first face to face meeting may be delayed for up to five working days, unless there is a need to provide immediate protection to a child. In exceptional circumstances (e.g. in order to ensure the attendance of the appropriate professionals) this may be further delayed if authorised by a Children's Services manager, and the decision recorded in the case notes.


9. Timescales for Subsequent Strategy Discussions

All enquiries should have a final discussion to agree outcomes and in general, this should not delay an Initial Conference being held within fifteen working days of the initial Strategy Discussion.

Some enquiries will be more complicated and may require several review strategy discussions, which should be held at intervals not exceeding fifteen working days.

In all cases, any Initial Child Protection Conference must take place within fifteen working days of the Strategy Discussion, which made the decision to start a section 47 Enquiry, (if more than one Strategy Discussion was held).

Planning discussions for Children's Services single agency enquiries should be consistent with these timescales.

End