Strategy Discussion/Meeting Protocol
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
This chapter details the expectations, standards and requirements with regard to the Strategy Meeting and Strategy Discussion between Children's Social Care and other Agencies, especially the Police. It is the initial and key part of a process when there is reasonable cause to believe a child may be at risk of significant harm.
The chapter also identifies that such meetings may differ depending upon the initiating need.
AMENDMENTIn December 2020 this chapter was reviewed and updated where required.
A Strategy Discussion/Meeting should take place whenever there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child is being abused or neglected, or is at risk of abuse or Neglect.
A Strategy Meeting may also be convened when a number of Single Assessments have been undertaken during a period of time, and issues continue to be raised as a matter of concern for agencies involved with the child(ren), for example, neglect. It is the first stage of any multi-agency investigation.
A Strategy Meeting involves a number of relevant people physically coming together face to face, whereas a Strategy Discussion may take place via telephone or be a discussion between two or three individuals. A strategy meeting is the preferred option when planning how to respond to concerns relating to children being at risk of Significant Harm, however this is not always possible. Where a strategy discussion takes place in the first instance, this must be agreed between the responsible managers that are Social Care (Children's Social Care Manager) and VPU (Detective Sergeant or Detective Inspector) or officer nominated by the police. A strategy meeting can follow a strategy discussion at a later date, however if it is established that there is no role for the Police following a strategy discussion, this does not prevent a multi-agency meeting taking place between other involved agencies to plan appropriately for the child(ren).
The strategy discussion should take place between the managers/involved staff of the Children Social Care and the Police Vulnerable Person's Unit and or MASH police staff (dependant on the day and time) and share information where available, from other agencies who have information or are involved with, the child(ren) or family who are the subject of the meeting. If adequate time is allowed to convene a Strategy meeting, these should include as a minimum; managers/involved staff of the, Children's Social Care, Police and Health representative, invites should also be extended to ALL agencies involved with the children and family. These agencies are responsible for ensuring that any information they hold is shared within the meeting.
If appropriate due to a police investigation the family should not be informed that a strategy meeting is taking place as this could interfere with any Police action required. The family would, however, be advised that information would be shared on a multi-agency basis as the issues are being dealt with under Child Protection Procedures. The outcome of the assessment and any discussions/meetings held would then be shared with the family at the appropriate time.
Where there is a difference of opinion between agencies in respect of the outcome of a contact / referral and where it is felt that a Strategy Meeting should have taken place, this should be dealt with via the Dispute Resolution Process (see Appendix A: Dispute Resolution Process 2009).Definitions of Section 47 Enquiry and Significant harm are attached as Appendix D: Section 47.
Any information, which indicates that a child is actually at or is at risk of significant harm must be shared with the partner agency as soon as possible after receipt of the contact / referral or concerns raised (open case), but no later than 12 hours after receipt.
Appendix B: Useful Contact Details and Numbers provides useful contact details and telephone numbers to support the notification process.
Notification is to be made by telephone in the first instance to advise of the concerns and basic information. This information must be followed up in writing by the VPU/Children's Social Care worker, using the appropriate pro forma (see Appendix C: Joint Social Care and Police Referral Form) and e-mailed securely to the partner agency. It is important that the member of staff sending the e-mail.In respect of out of hours arrangements, the late officer (VPU) and Out of Hours Co-ordinator should make contact with each other at the beginning of the shift. The VPU are also able to share their rota and individual contact numbers with Out of Hours Manager to support working together and effective communication.
3. Immediate Protection
'Local authority children's social care should convene a strategy discussion to determine the child's welfare and plan rapid future action if there is reasonable cause to suspect the child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm'. (Working Together to Safeguarding Children)Where there are concerns that a child is at actual or likelihood of risk of significant harm (See Appendix D: Section 47), and/or a criminal offence may have been committed, the respective (CSC/VPU) manager must be informed immediately. The Managers should then contact the partner agency to discuss the information received and to agree a course of action. The managers will then make a decision regarding whether a strategy meeting or discussion is required and any other immediate actions. Where the manager is unavailable, an alternative manager must be notified of the information and liaise with their partner agency manager.
4. Strategy Meetings/Discussions - Principles
Any strategy discussion/meeting should consider all children:
- Within the family;
- In the household;
- Who may have contact with the person(s) who may pose a risk of harm.
With regard to possible safeguarding concerns and record decisions appropriately. N.B. It is important to record where there are no safeguarding concerns and the reason, for example where a sibling lives with, and is being adequately cared for by, a grandparent.
The purpose of the strategy discussion/meeting is to:
- Share available information about the family and causes for concern;
- Agree the conduct and timing of any investigation, including criminal investigation;
- Decide whether a Section 47 enquiry should be initiated or continued, at which point a Single Assessment should be initiated;
- Plan the detail of the Section 47 enquiry, including the need for medical treatment, and who will undertake what actions, by when and for what purpose;
- Agree what action is required immediately to safeguard 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;
- Determine if legal action is required;
- 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 abuse or neglect or jeopardize police investigations into any alleged offence(s);
- Determine the need for, and timing of, any further strategy meeting.
5. Strategy Discussion - Involvements
A strategy discussion may take place via telephone or be a discussion between two or three individuals. A strategy discussion may take place immediately after information has been received which raises child protection concerns, and should take place within 24 hours. Strategy discussions would take place between the responsible manager that is, Children's Social Care (CSC) and VPU / MASH police. However, consideration should be given as to the involvement of other agencies in the Strategy Discussion.
The strategy discussion must be recorded by the Social Work Manager and recommendations agreed and recorded regarding what action needs to take place and who will take responsibility. The discussion must include consideration regarding whether a strategy meeting is required, and a date, time and venue agreed. It is expected that a strategy meeting would be held where a joint investigation is to take place, and this should take place within 72 hours of the strategy discussion.A copy of the record of the Strategy Discussion must be provided to the other parties involved as soon as possible, but within a maximum of 24 hours.
6. Organising the Strategy Meeting
Once a decision has been made to hold a strategy meeting the task of organising the meeting can be completed by the social worker or Business Support Assistant (where appropriate).
The date, time and venue for the strategy meeting must be negotiated between the Children's Social Care Manager (CSC) and the VPU / MASH police. The strategy meeting should take place within a maximum timescale of 72 hours. Where the strategy meeting cannot take place sooner, a strategy discussion would be required.
It is important to involve all relevant agencies where appropriate, and for representatives to be identified for example, during school holidays, the School Attendance Officer may be an appropriate representative for the School if no one is available.The CSC and police should agree which other agencies are required to attend the meeting, giving due consideration to professionals involved with the child(ren) and family, in the incident or investigation, and who will take responsibility for inviting these professionals to attend.
7. Strategy Meeting - Involvements
Strategy meetings must always be chaired by the Children's Social Care Team Manager, who is experienced in child protection work and familiar with the particular case. Outside of Children's Social Care office hours, the role of the Manager can be delegated to the Standby Co-ordinator (LDL - 0151 443 2600). The exception to this would include strategy meetings in relation to allegations against a professional, which are chaired by the LADO from the Quality Assurance Unit.
SUDI Initial strategy meetings/discussions are chaired by Children’s Social Care in conjunction with the Police. A full SUDI strategy meeting is chaired by the Safeguarding Quality Assurance Unit Manager in accordance with the protocol within 3 working days of notification of the child’s death (see Merseyside Joint Agency Protocol: Sudden Unexpected Death in Childhood (SUDiC) (for Children aged 0 to under 18 yrs)).
The chair should consider the venue of any meeting in order to facilitate the attendance of key practitioners. For example, it may be vital that a paediatrician attend, and therefore a meeting in the relevant hospital might be most appropriate in such circumstances.
Where the information or nature of the concerns is deemed complex, every effort will be made to ensure that a Business Support Assistant (Children's Social Care) will minute the Strategy Meetings.
Minutes for Allegations and SUDI meetings are supported by the Safeguarding Quality Assurance Unit.
Where possible, all professionals involved with the child or young person, who have relevant information should be invited to attend. Where the child is an adopted child, a member of the Adoption Service should be invited.A strategy meeting should be attended by the supervisors from Local Authority Children's Services and police staff and/or where possible the investigating officer(s), together with representatives from other agencies if appropriate. During the meeting there will be an exchange of information and any actions agreed along with who has responsibilities for those actions will be accurately minuted. Strategy documents should be retained and/or disposed of as per Merseyside Police Records Retention.
8. Strategy Meetings - Specific Circumstances
Unborn Child - Where a pre birth assessment is to be undertaken, and the parents have other children who are subject to a child protection plan, are looked after or have been adopted or where a member of the household is assessed as a Risk to Children, a Strategy meeting should be chosen as the outcome of the Single Assessment. Unless the child is due to be born imminently, the strategy meeting should resolve to carry out a Pre Birth Single Assessment on the child/family and to reconvene at a suitable date, which can then make a decision to progress to Section 47 enquiries where appropriate. Where the child's expected date of delivery is within six weeks of the strategy meeting, the findings of the Single Assessment should guide the decision to commence Section 47 enquiries (see also Knowsley Safeguarding Children Partnership Procedures, Pre-Birth Child Protection Conferences Procedure).
SUDI/SUDC - Sudden unexpected and unexplained infant deaths or childhood deaths, or Acute Life Threatening Event (ALTE) Protocol. The Protocol states that a SUDI Case Meeting is the best forum for sharing information. In all cases a SUDI Case Discussion will be held by Children's Social Care in conjunction with the Police's Senior Investigation Officer (SIO), involving Children's Social Care Team Manager, Consultant Paediatrician/A&E Consultant and, as appropriate, the Pathologist. Children's Social Care should undertake to ensure the case discussion is minuted and distributed to participating agencies. The case discussion would normally take place in the early stages of a SUDI being reported, and would be followed by a SUDI Meeting within 3 working days of the child's death. This meeting is chaired by the Safeguarding Quality Assurance Unit Manager/Independent Reviewing Officer, Safeguarding Quality Assurance Unit (see Merseyside Joint Agency Protocol: Sudden Unexpected Death in Childhood (SUDiC) (for Children aged 0 to under 18 yrs)).
Allegations against Professionals - where concerns are raised alleging abuse by a professional person working with children, these concerns should be referred to the Designated Senior Manager in the organisation, who then contacts the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO) within 1 working day. Where there is cause to suspect that a child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm, the LADO should immediately refer to Children's Social Care and seek to initiate a strategy discussion. The Police should be informed where a criminal offence may have been committed. A strategy discussion or initial evaluation can be conducted by way of a series of telephone discussions but it should take the form of a face-to-face meeting with a dedicated minute taker wherever practicable. The LADO from Safeguarding Quality Assurance Unit will chair the meeting and the participants should be sufficiently senior to contribute all relevant available information regarding the complaint/allegation, child, accused person and make decisions on behalf of their agencies. See Knowsley Safeguarding Children Partnership Procedures, Allegations Against Staff, Carers and Volunteers Procedure.
Fabricated and Induced Illness (FII) – Concerns will be raised for a small number of children when it is considered that the health or development of a child is likely to be significantly impaired or further impaired by the actions of a carer or carers having fabricated or induced illness. There are three main ways of the carer fabricating or inducing illness in a child:
- Fabrication of signs and symptoms, including fabrication of past medical history;
- Fabrication of signs and symptoms and falsification of hospital charts, records, letters and documents and specimens of bodily fluids;
- Induction of illness by a variety of means.
The above three methods are not mutually exclusive.
If there is reasonable cause to suspect that the child is suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm, Children's Social Care should convene a Strategy Meeting involving all the key professionals.
If emergency action is the required response, that is, if a child's life is in danger, an immediate Strategy Meeting should take place, i.e. on the same day as the receipt of the Referral.
9. Strategy Meeting
The agenda for the Strategy Meeting is attached as Knowsley Safeguarding Children Partnership Procedures Manual, Agenda for Signs of Safety Strategy Discussion - Meeting for MASH, CP and CLA. The chair should ensure that the agenda is followed and supports the enquiry and investigation. Additional guidance is included in Appendix E: Strategy Meeting - Agenda as to what the strategy meeting should consider and how it should be recorded.
10. Strategy Meetings - Reviews
More than one strategy meeting may be necessary. This is likely to be where the child's circumstances are very complex and a number of discussions are required to consider whether and if so, when to initiate Section 47 Enquiries as well as how best to undertaken them.
Where the initial strategy meeting agrees Section 47 enquiries are to be initiated, there may be circumstances which will require a review strategy meeting being held. It is expected that this would be under exceptional circumstances and the key triggers to instigate a review strategy meeting should be identified and recorded by the chair.
|Where the Police are pursuing an investigation, timescales should be set and every effort undertaken between the two agencies to ensure that Children's Social Care (CSC) is fully aware of the progress of the investigation. Where timescales cannot be set, a review strategy meeting should be set to review the progress and whether additional support or intervention is required to the young person and family.|
Where a review strategy meeting is required the chair, recording and agenda will be used for all subsequent strategy meetings.In relation to Allegations against Professionals, following the initial strategy meeting, the LADO will monitor the progress of the investigation either by way of a review strategy discussion or liaising with the Police and/or Children's Social Care. A final strategy or evaluation discussion should be held at the end of the enquiries to ensure that all tasks have been completed.
11. Outcomes of Strategy Meetings
- Start C&F;
- Start Section 47 Enquiry (starts C&F if not already active);
- Police Investigation;
- Manual Referral to other agency;
- Follow up strategy;
- No further action.
It is possible to choose more than one outcome of a strategy meeting.
Appendix A: Dispute Resolution Process 2009
- In some cases an agency will have made a written referral to Children's Social Care (CSC) indicating a concern that a child is suffering or is at risk of suffering Significant Harm, but following enquiries by the relevant social work team, that team will assess the situation differently. The referrer should make their views known to the Team Manager of CSC in the first instance. Where the referrer feels, following this discussion, that the social work team has failed to acknowledge that a child is at risk of significant harm they should discuss this outcome with their line manager and the safeguarding lead for their organisation within 24 hours of receiving the decision from the CSC. At any point in this process the referring agency may seek advice from a Principal Officer in the Quality Assurance Unit on the general principles of safeguarding and how they apply to the case in question;
- If following this discussion the referring agency does not feel that the CSC response is adequate to the needs of the child, the manager of the referring agency should notify the CSC Team Manager responsible and their Service Manager that they are invoking the Dispute Resolution Process. Notification should be made in writing within five working days of the CSC informing the referrer of the decision concerning the original referral;
- The referring agency should then convene a multi-agency meeting, inviting the relevant Team Manager from the CSC and all other agencies that have knowledge of the child. The purpose of the multi-agency meeting is to share information, determine facts and agree jointly on the best means of ensuring that the child's assessed needs are being met. If possible a multi-agency support plan to the family should be drawn up and lead practitioner role agreed;
- The referring agency should invite the parents unless this would be likely to place the child at increased risk of significant harm;
- The referring agency should inform any child of sufficient age and understanding of the arrangements for and the purpose of the multi-agency meeting. Subject to consideration of age and understanding, the child should be invited to attend if he or she wishes and to bring an advocate, friend or supporter;
- Where the child does not wish to attend, or it is inappropriate for her/him to attend, the reasons for the child's non-attendance should always be stated. The referring agency should ensure that the wishes and feelings of the child are communicated to the multi-agency meeting;
- The referring agency are responsible for making arrangements to chair the meeting and taking notes to produce a written record;
- The purpose of the meeting is to draw up a multi-agency plan designed to ensure that the child's needs are being met. The meeting may also conclude with agreement between the agencies that the child is likely to suffer significant harm and may make a recommendation that the case proceed under Section 47 Enquiry procedures with the children and families team allocating a social worker as lead practitioner. Alternatively there may be agreement that the child is not likely to suffer significant harm, in which case the lead practitioner should ensure that the Early Help procedures are followed. In either event the referring agency should ensure that the Children's Services Manager receives a copy of the meeting minutes and the plan for the child. If there remains a disagreement between the agencies that the child is in need of protection from significant harm, the agencies must still agree a plan to meet the child's needs and lead practitioner pending a final decision on the status of the case;
- All practitioners attending the meeting should inform their line managers and safeguarding leads of the outcomes of the meeting within one working day;
- Where any agency still feels that the child is at risk of significant harm then the safeguarding lead of the agency or agencies concerned should contact the Children's Services Manager within one working day of the multi-agency meeting;
- The Children's Services Manager will decide how the issue should be resolved following consideration of the minutes of the multi-agency meeting and support plan. A decision will be made within 24 hours of receipt of the documentation and the agencies informed in writing;
- The referring agency should discuss the outcomes of the dispute resolution process with the parents and child, assuming the latter is of sufficient age and understanding;
- The Children's Services Manager should report the outcome of all Dispute Resolution processes undertaken to the Knowsley Safeguarding Children Partnership via the Performance and Scrutiny Group on a quarterly basis. This should include the submission of a nil return if necessary. If, after two quarters, there have been no cases referred for Dispute Resolution, this procedure will be reviewed by the Performance and Scrutiny group.
Appendix B: Useful Contact Details and Numbers
VPU hours of work
2 pm - 10 pm - Late Officer from VPU
10 pm - 7 am - Uniform Officers
7 am – 9 am - VPU
9am – 5pm – MASH officers
Duty Inspector would deal with all other out of hours incidents or concerns.
Social Care hours of work
Monday to Thursday
9 am - 5 pm - Social Workers
9 pm - 9 am - Out of Hours Workers
Friday 5 pm to Monday 9 am - out of hours
Helpful telephone numbers: -
Merseyside Police - 0151 709 6010
Critical Incident Manager (VPU) - 07740687259
7 am - 5 pm - VPU - 07740454981
MASH police - 0151 7776637 / 6657
Control Room - 0151 777 6952
Out of Hours Pager Number - 0151 443 2600
Appendix C: Joint Social Care and Police Referral Form
Appendix D: Section 47
If there are reasonable grounds to suspect that a child is suffering or is likely to suffer Significant Harm, a Section 47 Enquiry, Assessment is initiated. This normally occurs after a Strategy Discussion. Unless it is possible to decide that the case should progress to an initial Child Protection Conference at the first strategy meeting, a follow up strategy meeting should be chosen as an outcome in addition to Section 47 enquiries, at which the outcome of those enquiries can be reviewed. This may take the form of a discussion between the parties, which is recorded and distributed accordingly. The due date of the Initial Child Protection Conference is set in the system as at 15 working days of the date of the last strategy meeting.
Section 47 Enquiries are usually conducted by a social worker, jointly with the Police, and must be completed within 5 days of a Strategy Discussion.
Where concerns are substantiated and the child is judged to be at continued risk of Significant Harm, a Child Protection Conference should be convened.
In the case of Disciplinary procedure, this refers to action that may be recommended where a member of staff is deemed by the meeting to have potentially been negligent. This action should be taken up by the team manager through HR procedures and further details of any disciplinary investigation will be recorded separately.
The Children Act 1989 introduced Significant Harm as the threshold that justifies compulsory intervention in family life in the best interests of children.
Significant Harm is any Physical, Sexual, or Emotional Abuse, Neglect, accident or injury that is sufficiently serious to adversely affect progress and enjoyment of life.
Harm is defined as the ill treatment or impairment of health and development. This definition was clarified in Section 120 of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 (implemented on 31 January 2005) so that it may include, "for example, impairment suffered from seeing or hearing the ill treatment of another".
Suspicions or allegations that a child is suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm may result in an Assessment incorporating a Section 47 Enquiry.There are no absolute criteria on which to rely when judging what constitutes significant harm. Sometimes a single violent episode may constitute significant harm but more often it is an accumulation of significant events, both acute and longstanding, which interrupt, damage or change the child's development.
Appendix E: Strategy Meeting - Agenda
Strategy Meeting - Agenda
Recording Strategy Meetings
It is important to record the outcomes of a Section 47 investigation during strategy meetings if / when this has been completed.
In planning the enquiry and investigation the strategy meeting should:
- Consider what further information is required, how it should be obtained and recorded;
- Consider and plan any immediate steps that may be required to protect the child, following appropriate legal advice;
- Consider the need to protect other children in the same household or elsewhere;
- Consider the timing and sequence of interviews of family members;
- Consider any cultural, linguistic or disability needs which may need to be planned for in the investigation;
- Consider who should conduct the enquiries, i.e. social worker, a social worker and representative of another agency, such as a health visitor, or a joint investigative team of social worker and police officer;
- Consider how, and by whom, the child should be interviewed;
- Consider whether a medical examination of the child is required, and the timing of any examination. A consultant paediatrician should always be consulted where a medical examination is required;
- Consider how the child's wishes and feelings will be ascertained so that they can be taken into account when making decisions;
- Consider what information, how and when this should be shared with the parents (normally any interview of a child should be undertaken with the knowledge and agreement of those with parental responsibility unless such information sharing would itself place the child at increased risk of harm).
The Chair of the strategy meeting must ensure that:
- A list of action points is drawn up, each with an agreed timescale and the identity of the person responsible for carrying it out;
- A clear record of the meeting is made, recorded in ICS and circulated to all those present and all those with responsibility for an action point within one working day;
- Recommendations are clearly recorded, including the need for further strategy meetings and/or CIN meeting;
- A mechanism for reviewing completion or progress of the agreed action points is specified;
- The date of the first or next such review must be agreed and recorded.
The information shared, decisions reached and the reasons for those decisions should be clearly recorded (Record of Strategy Discussion Form) by the BSA present at the meeting. The record should be signed by all those present and a photocopy taken. The original record will be filed by the VPU / MASH in the evidence file and the copy used to type up. The Children Social Care Team Manager will then ensure that copies of the minutes are distributed to all relevant parties within one working day of the strategy meeting.
In some cases a strategy meeting will decide that no further action is required. However the strategy meeting may confirm that further assessment under Section 17 is required and may recommend that a Single Assessment is undertaken to further explore the identified issues. The decision should be recorded on the Record of Strategy Discussion.