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3.3 Strategy Discussion / Child Protection Referrals – Safeguarding (s.47) Referrals

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter reflects the Working Together to Safeguard Children arrangements for Liverpool and details guidance and procedure in respect of Strategy Meetings when there are concerns in respect of a child suffering, or likely to suffer Significant Harm. A Strategy Meeting is a multi-agency process to establish whether there should be a Child Protection Investigation and if so, how this should be conducted.

RELATED CHAPTERS

Single Assessments (including Section 47 Enquiries) Procedure

RELEVANT GUIDANCE

Working Together to Safeguard Children

AMENDMENT

This chapter was significantly updated in September 2020 to provide additional detail with regard to circumstances that should be regarded as 'significant harm or likelihood of significant harm' (see Section 1, Introduction) and to reflect the 'scaling' of risks by the participants of the Strategy meeting/Discussion (see Section 2, Guidance for Strategy Discussions).


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Guidance for Strategy Discussions
  3. Child Protection Referrals Safeguarding (s.47) Referrals


1. Introduction

Strategy Discussions can take place during a Single Assessment or at any time where concerns about Significant Harm emerge in respect of a child receiving support under Section 17 of The Children Act 1989; a child who is Cared For by the Local Authority; a child already subject to a Child Protection Plan, as well as a child not previously known to the Local Authority.

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/meeting. The strategy discussion/meeting should be co-ordinated and chaired by a Children's Team Leader or Deputy Team Leader.

The strategy discussion/meeting should involve Children's Social Care and the police as a minimum, as well as health professionals involved with the child and/or named/designated nurse and/or named/designated doctor and other bodies as appropriate, (for example, children's centre/school and, in particular, any referring agency). In the case of a Pre-birth strategy discussion/meeting this should involve the midwifery services.

Professionals participating in strategy discussions/meetings must have all their agency's information relating to the child available to be able to contribute to the discussion/meeting, and must be sufficiently senior to make decisions on behalf of their agencies.

Other professionals should be involved, as appropriate, including representatives from other Children's Safeguarding teams and/or Police if there are cross-boundary issues. Where parents or adults in the household are experiencing problems such as Domestic Violence and Abuse, substance misuse or mental illness, it will also be important to consider involving the relevant adult services professionals. Consideration should be given to the involvement of professionals who may be undertaking parallel processes such as disciplinary proceedings. If the child is a hospital patient, (in-patient or out-patient), or receiving services from a child development team, the medical consultant responsible for the child's health should be involved, as should the senior ward nurse where the child is an in-patient. Where a medical examination may be necessary, or has taken place, a senior doctor from those providing services should also be involved. Where a paediatric assessment and/or medical treatment may be needed a senior doctor should be included in the Strategy Discussion.

Some examples of circumstances where a strategy discussion/meeting should be considered:

  • Any new referrals in respect of a child where there are concerns that a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm;
  • When new information on an existing case in Children's Social Care indicates that a child is likely to suffer significant harm;
  • Any new information that a child may be likely to suffer, or has suffered significant harm through being sexually exploited; undergoing FGM or being exposed to radicalisation;
  • When an adult or young person assessed as presenting a risk to children has moved into, or is about to move into, the child's household or such a person is regularly visiting or about to have sustained contact with the child;
  • When the likelihood of significant harm to an unborn child may be such as to indicate the need to develop a Child Protection Plan before birth;
  • When the death of a child in family, in which abuse or neglect is suspected, is confirmed and there are other children in the household;
  • When a child lives in, or is born to, a household in which resides another child who is currently the subject of a Child Protection Plan;
  • When a child who is currently the subject of a Child Protection Plan in another area moves into the local area unless the other authority is to retain responsibility for the case;
  • When a child has sexually assaulted another child or there is a risk of such an assault occurring to another child in the same household or in regular contact with the household (in which circumstances a Child Protection Conference should be held in respect of both children).

(Note: This is not an exhaustive list).


2. Guidance for Strategy Discussions

The discussion should be used to:

  • Share available information;
  • Agree the conduct and timing of any criminal investigation;
  • Decide whether an Assessment under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989 should be initiated, or continued if it has already begun;
  • Plan how the Section 47 Enquiry should be undertaken (if one is to be initiated), including the need for medical treatment, and who will carry out what actions, by when and for what purpose;
  • Agree what action is required immediately to safeguard and promote the welfare of 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 what information from the Strategy Discussion will be shared with the family, unless such information sharing may place a child at increased likelihood of suffering Significant Harm or jeopardise Police investigations into any alleged offence(s);
  • Determine if legal action is required.

Relevant matters include:

  • Agreeing a plan for how the Section 47 Investigation (Children Act 1989) will be carried out, what further information is required about the child and family and how it should be obtained and recorded, Agreeing who should be interviewed, by whom, for what purpose and when. The way in which interviews are conducted can play a significant part in minimising any distress caused to children, and in increasing the likelihood of maintaining constructive working relationships with families. When a criminal offence may have been committed against a child, the timing and handling of interviews with victims, their families and witnesses can have important implications for the collection and preservation of evidence. The Child in Need Assessment should be completed within 45 days of the referral;
  • Agreeing, in particular, when the child will be seen alone by the Lead Social Worker or jointly with police, (unless inappropriate for the child), and how the child's wishes and feelings will be ascertained so that they can be taken into account when making decisions under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989;
  • In the light of the race and ethnicity of the child and family, considering how this should be taken into account, and establishing whether an Interpreter is required;
  • Considering the needs of other children who may be affected e.g. siblings and other children, such as those living in the same establishment or in contact with alleged abusers.

Discussions and outcomes need to consider past harm, future danger, complicating factors, existing strengths, existing safety, safety goals and next steps followed by scaling the risk – 0 (no safety) – 10 (safety) to inform the strategy discussion. When scaling, professionals should remember that a rating of '10' would mean that the child was well protected and Social Care could close the case and that a rating of '0' would mean that the risk of significant harm or further harm to the child was almost certain. The scaling score is not as important as the analysis that has informed each professional. Scaling can be used to help identify what needs to happen to make it safer for the child – i.e. what would need to happen within the family or at home to move the scaling from a 4 to a 7?

See: Impact Measurement Guide to Scaling.

Next Steps are identified and allocated to the appropriate person with clear timescales and intended outcomes.

The decisions made in the Strategy Discussions must be recorded by the Strategy Discussion Chair on the Strategy Discussion Form held by Children's Safeguarding and in the Child Protection module on LCS. If a child is not considered to be at risk, the decision could be:

  • No further action to be taken;
  • Other services to be provided for a child in need (Section 17 of the Children Act 1989);
  • Referral to another agency.

If the professional making the referral is not involved in the Child in Need Assessment and related Strategy Discussions, or thereafter in any Section 47 Enquiry, the Social Worker will inform the referrer verbally of the decisions made. This will be confirmed in writing at the point when decision making in respect of Child Protection intervention is concluded. The written notification will be actioned within one day of the completion of the process. If you do not receive feedback within one working day contact the Social Work Team and request a written response ASAP. It is vital that you continue to pursue a written response for any referral you make. If necessary, request your line manager to follow up this action if your attempts are unsuccessful. If you disagree with the decision see the LSCP Escalation Procedure.


3. Child Protection Referrals Safeguarding (s.47) Referrals

Urgent/Emergency

Planned emergency action should take place following a Strategy Meeting, where the child has been seen and where necessary, with legal advice. Emergency action addresses only the immediate circumstances of the child. It should be followed quickly by a Section 47 Enquiry as necessary. The agencies primarily involved with the child and family should then assess the circumstances of the child and family, and agree action to safeguard the child in the longer-term and to promote their welfare. Where an Emergency Protection Order applies, Children's Safeguarding needs to consider quickly whether to initiate Care Proceedings or other legal proceedings, or to let the order lapse and the child return home.

The need for emergency action needs to be kept under review as it may only become apparent over time as more is learned about the circumstances of a child.

The Single Assessment is the means by which a Section 47 Enquiry is carried out. The objective of the Section 47 Enquiry is to determine whether action is required to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child. The decision to initiate a Section 47 Enquiry will be taken by the team manager after a Strategy Discussion / Meeting and where such a decision is made the Section 47 Enquiry must be completed within 15 working days.

The social worker, when conducting a Section 47 Enquiry, must assess the potential needs and safety of any other child in the household of the child in question. In addition, Section 47 Enquiries may be required concerning any children in other households with whom the alleged abuser may have contact.

In determining who should be involved in a Section 47 Enquiry, consideration should include with whom the family is most likely to cooperate, and whether there are any risks. In all cases where there is a known propensity to violence within the family household, consideration should be given to the strategy to be adopted, with Police advice / assistance if appropriate, about how to reduce the risks before any visits take place.

The child must always be seen and communicated with alone in the course of a Section 47 Enquiry by the Lead Social Worker, unless it is contrary to his or her interests to do so. (See also Liverpool Children's Services Procedures Manual, Guidance To Ensure The Voice of The Child Is Heard). The Strategy Discussion / Meeting will plan any interview with the child. The Record of Section 47 Enquiry and Reports to Child Protection Conferences should include the date(s) when the child was seen alone by the Lead Social Worker and, if not seen alone, who was present and the reasons for their presence.

Before a child is seen or interviewed parental permission must be gained unless there are exceptional circumstances that demonstrate that it would not be in the child's interests and to do so may jeopardise the child's safety and welfare. Relevant exceptional circumstances would include:

  • The possibility that a child would be threatened or otherwise coerced into silence;
  • A strong likelihood that important evidence would be destroyed; or
  • That the child in question did not wish the parent to be involved at that stage, and is competent to take that decision.

In such circumstances, the social worker must take legal advice about how to proceed and whether legal action may be required, for example through an application for an Emergency Protection Order or a Child Assessment Order.

In some cases, it may be sufficient to secure a child's safety by a parent taking action to remove the alleged perpetrator or by the alleged perpetrator agreeing to leave the home. In other cases, it may be necessary to ensure either that the child remains in a safe place or that the child is removed to a safe place, e.g. hospital, either on a voluntary basis or by obtaining an Emergency Protection Order. The Police also have powers to remove a child to suitable accommodation in cases of emergency. If it is necessary to remove a child, the Local Authority should wherever possible, and unless a child's safety is otherwise at immediate risk, apply for an Emergency Protection Order, and should not seek to use Police Protection powers for this purpose.

The urgency of the situation should not detract from every effort being made to ensure that those with Parental Responsibility are given appropriate opportunity to participate throughout the process. Efforts should be made to facilitate appropriate contact between the family and the child should it be necessary to remove the child from the home.

Children's Safeguarding is responsible for taking that action when a child is found living within their boundaries (Cross Boundary Procedures). If the child is Looked After or the subject of a Child Protection Plan from another Authority, that Authority must explicitly accept responsibility, (followed up in writing) before the first Authority is relieved of responsibility.

End