Back to Responding to a report of a child at risk of harm, abuse and/or neglect

The strategy discussion/ meeting

If the initial checks, following a report, conclude that social services have reasonable cause to suspect that a child is at risk of significant harm as described in (The Children Act 1989) they should convene a strategy discussion/meeting to determine whether s47 enquiries should be initiated, and how these enquiries should be undertaken.

The purpose of the discussion/ meeting

The purpose of the strategy discussion/meeting is to:

See All Wales Practice Guide

Strategy meeting or discussion?

A face to face strategy meeting may be more effective than a telephone conversation when:

The discussion may take place at a meeting or by other means such as telephone or video-conference.

There is no specific Welsh Government guidance as to when a strategy discussion via telephone or face to face should take place. However, consideration should be given to the following questions:

Pointers for Practice: Strategy Discussion or Meeting and the Implications for Child-centred Practice

Timescales

There may be exceptional circumstances when it is not in the child's interests to work to the above timescales. For example, complex cases such as fabricated and induced illness; suspected organised abuse. Any decision should be made by the senior manager with responsibility for safeguarding and recorded.

Flowchart showing strategy meeting and what happens after a strategy meeting

Flowchart 2 Handling individual cases

Multi-agency participation in strategy discussions/ meetings

At a minimum, appropriate practitioners, with responsibility for child protection in police and social services, should be involved. Other practitioners should contribute as required:

The engagement of other practitioners will depend on the individual nature of the case.

The practitioners participating in the strategy discussion should:

The staff involved in the discussion must be authorised to make decisions on behalf of their agency.

Chairing

The strategy discussion/meeting should be chaired by a social services practitioner who has the authority and expertise to chair these meetings, this will generally be determined by local arrangements.

The chair should:

Recording the strategy discussion/ meeting and decisions

A record must be taken of the strategy discussion/meeting and saved within the case record of each child. This recording as a minimum should include:

Any information shared, all decisions reached, and the basis for those decisions, must be clearly recorded and circulated within 1 working day to all parties relevant to the discussion. It is important that practitioners’ assigned tasks at the discussion/meeting are clear about those tasks and can initiate ascribed actions without waiting to receive the record.

Further/ additional strategy meetings/ discussions

More than one strategy meeting/discussion may be appropriate, depending on the circumstances of the case. Therefore, it is important Social services, and if a joint Enquiry the Police, decide whether to reconvene a strategy meeting/discussion to:

Practitioner disagreements

If a practitioner disagrees with the strategy discussion/meeting decision, he/she should make representation to their own line manager. Consider use of Regional Safeguarding Boards Resolution Protocols.

Local authority boundary issues

When a report of possible abuse or neglect is received from/about a child not residing in their originating authority the initial strategy meeting/discussion must be convened by the authority where the child is found.

For example: a report is made whilst a child is on holiday or staying with a relative in the area. The local authority for that area is responsible for convening a strategy discussion/meeting.

The relevant social services managers should be informed about the report without delay, and the strategy meeting (or discussion where there are constraints such as distance) must be organised to allow for the participation of a representative of the originating authority, and the authority where the incident is alleged to have happened.

The strategy meeting will decide:

The decision and reason for making it must be clearly recorded and made in the best interest of protecting the child.

Single agency enquiries*

During the initial strategy meeting/discussion the police and social services will decide whether the report requires a single or joint agency enquiry. There should never be separate or unrelated enquiries/investigations. These decisions should be guided by protocols agreed between the two services and approved by the Regional Safeguarding Board.

The reason for deciding that one agency alone will make enquiries must be carefully recorded. If at any point during a single agency enquiry, it becomes apparent that the criteria for a joint enquiry are met, immediate contact must be made with the other agency with a view to convening a further strategy discussion/meeting.

Example: Bethan 3 years old is an only child and has been the subject of a care and support plan for 3 months. Her mother died 12 months ago, and her lone parent father has found it difficult demonstrating any emotion towards Bethan since then. For example, he has never displayed physical emotion towards Bethan when he drops her off or collects her from nursery. Moreover, Bethan is frightened of engaging in any activities that might make her dirty as ‘daddy gets cross’.

Despite the care and support package, which focused on grief counselling and developing a bond between father and daughter, there appears to have been little progress. Indeed, both the social worker and nursery staff believe the situation has deteriorated. Bethan has indicated she eats meals on her own and is left to play in her room or on her tablet when she’s home with daddy. She has begun wetting and soiling herself and become resistant to leaving nursery at the end of each day, shouting that daddy hates her and she wants to stay with Mrs Grant, her nursery teacher.

Bethan’s father has told the social worker he cannot cope and he’s thinking about putting her up for adoption as he finds he resents her more and more.

The social worker, who manages the care and support plan, discusses this with the nursery and considers Bethan is suffering significant harm. She informs the father of her intention to request a strategy meeting to initiate s47 enquiries. Social services decide to hold a strategy meeting to consider or decide initiating s47 enquiries as evidence to date would indicate Bethan is experiencing significant harm. At this stage it does not appear that a criminal offence has been committed. A decision is taken that social services should proceed with the enquiries without police involvement. However, as information is gathered it transpires that Bethan’s father has been leaving her in the house alone for long periods in the evenings and at weekends. This constitutes wilful neglect and the police are contacted as to whether this should now be a joint enquiry.