Multi-agency partnerships improve child abuse detection

Multi-agency partnerships improve child abuse detection

Multi-agency child protection arrangements are improving information sharing across partner bodies and helping to identify safeguarding problems quicker, a government review of local partnerships has found.

The Home Office early findings report, drawn up following visits to 37 local sites across five multi-agency safeguarding hub (Mash) partnerships, found that the arrangements improved decision making among professionals, cut duplication of case work by different agencies and reduced the risk of borderline cases “slipping through the net”.

However, the Home Office-funded research flagged up a range of IT problems, such as the lack of secure email systems making some agencies reluctant to share sensitive client information for risk assessments, that were hampering partnership working among agencies.

High staff turnover and an over-reliance on social workers to take the lead in cases because of a lack of understanding about safeguarding among other professionals were also raised as issues hindering Mash development and work.

Mash is the name given to locally developed arrangements for managing child protection and vulnerable adult cases among a host of agencies, often co-located, including social services, health, probation and police.  Although each site varies in its structure, they have at their core a joint approach to decision making, information sharing and co-ordinated intervention on handling cases.

The report found that local Mash identified better information sharing as a key improvement to come out of the partnerships. This enabled hubs to pool isolated information from partnership agencies to give a more complete picture of a child and recognise long-standing patterns of abuse and neglect that required action.

It also helped to engage health services, whose input was found to be “particularly valuable and beneficial” across agencies in helping to identify risks and intervene early.

The report says this was a key feature of a number of the Mash studied: “Good engagement from health is very important as their information/perspective is often crucial to effective decision making on risk assessments.”

Despite this, client confidentiality and health professionals’ understanding of what information could be shared under the Mash arrangements was identified as a key barrier to progress. “This could result in low confidence and uncertainty about what information can be shared,” the authors said.

Pressure on funding at a time when the number of child protection referrals being dealt with is rising was identified by Mash teams as an increasing problem. This situation had also meant that partnerships had mainly focused on “fire-fighting high-end need” rather than doing preventative work that could reduce the number of emergency cases needing intervention.

Source: CYPNow Website

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