Team Manager

Team Manager.

Team Manager

Supporting local authorities to strengthen their MASH.

The first multi-agency safeguarding hubs (MASHs) were set up in 2011 to directly address the failure of partner agencies to work together to safeguard children and young people. Fast-forward nearly 10 years, Innovate Services’ MASH Team Manager, shares her experience of supporting local authorities to strengthen their multi-agency safeguarding.

Each local authority will face different multi-agency challenges. Managing a MASH on a managed service basis, it’s my role to support the local authority and partner agencies to build upon the current model and/or introduce new ways of working together to safeguard children and young people.

Simply having a MASH or other multi-agencies colocated does not guarantee a good safeguarding response.

Every partner agency must take ownership of the MASH; it cannot be ‘owned’ by social services alone. Quite often though, this is the case.

Consistent sharing of information to manage risk

In some cases, when referrals are made from partner agencies, there’s an inconsistent amount of information about the child and their family. This makes the assessment of the cumulative risk a challenge as we must always take into account the history and a child’s lived experience.

Safeguarding decisions that accurately assess risk and need, must be based on co-ordinated, timely, sufficient and accurate information in respect of each child.

A key part of this is having all relevant partner agencies – social care, health, police, education and early help, work together to make sure the right interventions happen at the right time.

To enable this, the child’s ‘lived experience’ must be evident. Every partner agency needs to be aware of how to access and document information about each child. They also need to be aware of the importance of looking at a child’s history to help manage risk.

Reviewing the application of thresholds

Whilst ‘holding the front door’ as a managed service partner, we also work with the local authority to identify diagnostics and consistent application of thresholds. 

Where we’ve introduced new processes and protocols, we’ve been able to evidence intervention improvements.

The challenges of managing change

Of course, with any change, it’s rarely an easy process. Sometimes commissioned by a local authority when Ofsted has identified specific issues. This can, understandably, be challenging for an existing MASH or Duty Team, already stretched to capacity. The team and I understand this.

There can be considerable pushback from existing duty teams but once they are able to realise the impact of the new MASH provision and structure, those initial fears soon disappear.

In part, this is because we take a structured approach. As a critical friend, we can review the existing protocols, dip sample referrals and carefully examine Ofsted’s findings (where relevant) and work on improvement plan for my team and I to follow.

Bringing partner agencies closer together

All of the Innovate Services social work practitioners had MASH experience, meaning they are able to offer focused support on multi-agency safeguarding. Due to their experience and knowledge of how partner agencies work, they are ideally placed to bring partners closer together.

It’s not uncommon for partner agencies to be in the same room, yet still work in silos. For agencies to truly work together, there needs to be a real ‘sharing of responsibility’ and trust. I always take an open-door approach; I encourage questions and ideas for improving the sharing of information; something echoed throughout Innovate Services. It’s not uncommon for Innovate Services’ Managing Director, Emma Blakemore, to chair a MASH service review meeting.

As a managed service partner, we’re constantly discovering and testing new ways of working to make positive changes for children and young people. What works in one local authority might not work in another. A lot of the time, especially in more challenging locations, safeguarding issues are magnified because there are not as many resources to tap into. That’s why we work with partner agencies to identify how, with existing resources, multi-agency safeguarding can be improved, and risk reduced.

Whilst we hold regular team meetings and services meetings, what makes the biggest difference is having meaningful individual face-to-face conversations. This means that partners feel as if they are included in decisions, which creates a sense of shared ownership.

It’s about constantly remaining curious. That’s why I enjoy working for Innovate Services. I am valued for my specific experience. When I am supporting a local authority, I am there to bring about positive change. As a social work practitioner, there’s nothing more powerful than that.

When it’s time for me to step away from a local authority, I always feel as if the team and I have left a lasting impact.

Knowledge transfer is a big part of what we offer at Innovate Services. We constantly share our collective knowledge of multi-agency safeguarding to leave the local authority and partner agencies in a better position. I for one couldn’t be prouder of this.


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