Strategy Discussions and Section 47 Guidance
AMENDMENTThis chapter was updated in February 2020 and should be re-read throughout.
Working Together to Safeguard Children states that:
Whenever there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, Significant Harm there should be a Strategy Discussion involving the Local Authority Children's Social Care, the Police, Health and other bodies such as the referring agency.
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.
The Purpose of a Strategy Discussion is broadly:
- The sharing of information;
- Agree the conduct and timing of any criminal investigation;
- Decide whether Section 47 Enquiries should be initiated.
Where there are grounds to initiate a Section 47 of the Children Act 1989 enquiry decision should be made as to:
- What further information is needed if an assessment is already underway and how it will be obtained and recorded;
- What immediate and short term action is required to support the child and/or their siblings, and who will do what and by when;
- Whether legal action is required.
It is therefore necessary that the above issues are addressed and recorded within the Strategy Discussion document.
2. Process and Practice
All Strategy Discussions must to be undertaken within 24 hours of the concerns being shared with Children's Services.
Concerns exiting CADS at referral stage - All such referrals should include multi agency information from partner agencies located within CADS including any evidence of an offer of early help.
Decision making undertaken by the Team Manager (TM) in CADS should be supported and evidenced by explicit statements in relation to the child's safety and welfare, to include suspected likelihood / risk of harm or actual harm and / or unmet need and parenting capacity. Reference should be made to any Identified High Risk Indicators and Underlying Risk Factors.
(The multi-agency information provided by CADS should be incorporated within the strategy discussion within the summary of information shared domain of the Strategy Discussion).
TM - Referral and Assessment Teams to progress to referral with an outcome of Child & Family assessment.
TM - To manually launch a Strategy Discussion by clicking on the full map and following the link.
(You need to follow this route otherwise you will populate a blank C and F assessment between the Referral record and the Strategy Discussion).
Strategy Discussions on open cases - TM Assessment and Social work or CIOC - click on the full map and launch the strategy discussion.
3. Strategy Discussion Document within Protocol
- Meeting date to be recorded;
- Meeting duration to be recorded.
Meeting Location and Meeting Attendees
- Ensure there is representation from the referring agency, the Police, and Health consideration to be given to including Education. Ensure the method of meeting is clearly recorded i.e. actual face to face meeting or conference call involving all relevant agencies, clearly documenting the attendance of those involved. This should be a multi-agency discussion and it is therefore not appropriate for it to take place between Children's Social Care and the Police in isolation, except where an immediate response is required and other agencies are not available to take part in the conference call at short notice. However, a conference call should be attempted in all circumstances and the reason for any lack of multi-agency involvement clearly recorded in the strategy discussion form by the Team Manager.
Record of Strategy Discussion
Reason for the Strategy Discussion
- To document the presenting concerns, including referral source, details of the precipitating incident to include a brief Chronology where there have been repeated and or cumulative concerns.
Summary of Information Shared by Agencies Present
- To include multi agency information gathered by CADS and to include information where appropriate in relation to any previous involvement from Children's Social Care (CSC) relating to the subject child and any siblings / half siblings / connected children where the presenting concerns or through discussions; concerns for their welfare may be identified and any required action;
- The record needs to summarise the discussions held between professionals addressing the points listed in the purpose for Strategy Discussion section;
- The Strategy Discussion should consider the child's welfare and safety and identify the level of risk faced by the child with reference to the Blackburn with Darwen Risk Model with identification of the presence of high risk indicators and linked to the vulnerability of the child attributed to age or development;
- Determine what information should be shared with the child and family (on the basis that information should be shared unless to do so would jeopardise a Police investigation and or place the child at further risk of harm);
- The rationale for decisions being reached should be recorded, to include clarity around decision making regarding the decision to proceed to Section 47 Enquiry or not and if a Section 47 Enquiry has been agreed; if this should be a joint or single agency enquiry.
If possible at this stage, indicate if the case will proceed to Child Protection Conference. (If the answer is yes to this a trigger will be sent to R and Q).
- Ensure all boxes in this section of the form are populated, as they address the standard requisites of a Section 47 enquiry: medical examination, ABE interview, the need for a further follow up Strategy Meeting, including consideration being given to the need to seek legal advice.
Actions to be taken
- Robust evidence of managerial oversight is required within this section and therefore clear and explicit instructions to the social worker responsible for undertaking the enquiry are to be recorded here to include timescales.
N.B. This is a mandatory requirement irrespective of the social workers level of experience or expertise.
Social workers undertaking Section 47 Enquiry's should, as minimum standard, be directed to ensure that:
- Enquiries are undertaken in a way that minimises distress to children and families;
- See the child who is subject of concern to ascertain their wishes and feelings, assess their understanding of their situation; with recording having clearly captured the voice of the child;
- Assess the child's relationships and circumstances more broadly;
- Interview parents / caregivers, those with Parental Responsibility including absent fathers and determine the wider social and environmental factors that may impact upon the parents and their child;
- An explicit statement is required of what is to be done regarding siblings and connected children;
- Evidence discussion / consultation between professionals involved in the enquiry e.g. the police, paediatrician.
The social worker should be directed to analyse the findings of the enquiry using the Blackburn with Darwen Risk Model evaluating the impact of the child's exposure to risk of harm, taking into account individual family strengths and support services / interventions that are likely to be most effective in reducing the risk of further risk of harm. This should conclude with a judgement of the level of risk of harm to the child or young person.
The Section 47 Enquiry must be completed by the social worker and be finalised by the TM within 15 working days.