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3.3 Strategy Discussions

NB This chapter should be read in conjunction with the Recording Principles.

See also Unborn Babies at Risk of Significant Harm Procedure.


  1. Holding a Strategy Discussion
  2. When the Strategy Discussion Should be a Meeting
  3. Who Should be Involved?
  4. Timescales for the Strategy Discussion
  5. Purpose and Outcome of Strategy Discussions
  6. Recording of Strategy Discussion

1. Holding a Strategy Discussion

1.1 Children’s Social Work Services must hold a Strategy Discussion whenever there is reasonable cause to believe that a child has suffered or is likely to suffer Significant Harm.
1.2 This may be following a Referral, or at any time during a Social Work Assessment if concerns about Significant Harm to a child emerge.

2. When the Strategy Discussion Should be a Meeting


The Strategy Discussion may take place over the telephone and need not be a face-to-face meeting but a meeting may be more appropriate in some cases, for example:

  • Where there are suspicions of organised or multiple abuse;
  • Where concerns relate to fabricated or induced illness;
  • Where concerns are considered to be complex;
  • Where concerns relate to Significant Harm to a child caused by another child (separate meetings should be held in relation to each child).

Where allegations have been made against a professional, carer or anyone involved with a child, the Section 47 Strategy Discussion needs to be held in conjunction with Position of Trust Strategy Meetings and both processes need to be planned carefully - see Allegations against Persons who work with Children's Procedure.

2.2 Strategy Meetings will be chaired by a Children’s Social Work Services Manager.

The Strategy Meeting should be held at the most appropriate location to support attendance of the most relevant professionals, for example, at a hospital if the child is an in-patient.

3. Who Should be Involved?

3.1 The Strategy Discussion should involve at a minimum Children’s Social Work Services, the Police, Health and other bodies as appropriate (for example children’s centre/school or family intervention project and in particular the referrer) should also be invited to contribute to the Strategy Discussion. Where the parents or adults in the household are experiencing problems such as domestic violence, substance misuse or mental illness or where they have current involvement with Probation Providers it will be important to consider involving the relevant adult services professionals.
3.2 The Strategy Discussion should be convened and led by Children’s Social Work Services and those participating should be sufficiently senior and able, therefore, to contribute to the discussion of available information and to make decisions on behalf of their agencies.
3.3 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.
3.4 In the case of a pre-birth Strategy Discussion, this should involve the midwifery service.
3.5 Where the case concerns allegations of Sexual Abuse the Paediatrician responsible for the Child protection medical must be invite to contribute to the Strategy Discussion.
3.6 If the child lives outside of the area, all agencies including the home authority with information about the child and family must be invited to attend the Strategy Meeting or contribute to the Strategy Discussion.
3.7 Where required, a legal adviser should be consulted to inform the Strategy Discussion.
3.8 Consideration should also be given to the need to seek advice from or invite a professional with expertise in the particular type of suspected Significant Harm, e.g. Fabricated or Induced Illness - see Fabricated or Induced Illness Procedure.

4. Timescales for the Strategy Discussion


In all cases where information is received that a child has or is likely to suffer Significant Harm liaison between Police and Children’s Social Work Services must take place within 24hrs to agree any immediate steps for protection of a child and agree whether a telephone Strategy Discussion or face to face meeting is required. Consultation with other agencies contributing to the Strategy Discussion and or any face to face strategy meeting should be held within a timescales that must reflect the urgency of need but in any case within a maximum of three working days.

5. Purpose and Outcome of Strategy Discussions

5.1 More than one Strategy Discussion may be necessary where the child’s circumstances are very complex.

The Strategy Discussion should be used to:

  • Share available information;
  • Agree the conduct and timing of any criminal investigation;
  • Decide whether Section 47 Enquiries should be initiated and a Social Work  Assessment be undertaken under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989, or continued if it had already begun under section 17 of the Children Act 1989;
  • 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 risk of suffering Significant Harm or jeopardise police investigations into any alleged offence(s);
  • Determine if legal action is required.

Relevant matters will include:

  • Agreeing a plan for how the Social Work Assessment will be carried out - what further information is required about the child(ren) 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 increase 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;
  • Agreeing, in particular, when the child will be seen alone (unless to do so would be inappropriate for the child) by the Lead Social Worker during the course of these enquiries and the methods by which 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 these should be taken into account and establishing whether an interpreter will be required; and
  • Considering the needs of other children who may be affected - for example, siblings and other children, such as those living in the same establishment - in contact with alleged abusers.

See also Achieving Best Evidence Guidance.


The outcome of a Strategy Discussion should conclude with one of the following:

  • Concerns are not substantiated;
  • Concerns are substantiated but the child is not judged to be at continuing risk of Significant Harm;
  • Concerns are substantiated and the child is judged to be likely to suffer Significant Harm.

In all cases the decision and subsequent actions agreed should be agreed by a Children’s Social Work Manager and a Police Sergeant as minimum.

6. Recording of Strategy Discussion

6.1 At the conclusion of the Strategy Discussion, a list of action points, timescales, agreed roles and responsibilities and an agreed mechanism for reviewing completion of the action points must be recorded by the Chairperson.
6.2 The Strategy Discussion documentation's is a confidential professional document. Each agency is responsible for keeping any Strategy Discussion documentation securely in a confidential section of the child or, where appropriate, the adult file.