A summary of "Multi-agency working and information sharing project: early findings"
NSPCC current awareness briefing
This briefing offers an overview of the Home Office's report 'Multi-agency working and information sharing project: early findings' (Home Office, 2013).
The report summarises initial findings from a Home Office funded project to improve understanding of local multi-agency information sharing models used in safeguarding children and vulnerable adults. It includes seven case studies.
The final report is due out at the end of 2013.
A message that comes up time and again in serious case reviews is the need for agencies to work together. One of the ways authorities have attempted to address this issue is through the creation of multi-agency working and information sharing groups.
These groups take a number of different forms and go by a wide variety of names, including: Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH), Front Door, Access, Triage, Central Duty Team, Multi-Agency Referral Unit and Joint Action Teams. What unites them all are the three key principles of: information sharing, joint decision making and coordinated intervention. Local areas have reported positive outcomes from adopting these models, particularly in addressing child sexual exploitation.
Perceived benefits of multi-agency models
Benefits of agencies working together identified in feedback from a sample of 17 local areas which had adopted multi-agency models include:
- more robust decision making
- increase in the uptake of early help assessments
- reduction in duplication of work across agencies
- reduction in repeat referrals
- reduction in the risk of borderline cases slipping through the net.
Factors contributing to successful multi-agency models
The experiences of existing multi-agency models highlight a number of important features which contribute to successful multi-agency working and information sharing, including:
- co-location. By working on one site, information can be exchanged more quickly and everyone gains a better understanding and greater respect for different agencies' working methods
- an independent operational manager. An independent manager can bring agencies together and encourage a shared culture more effectively than if one agency takes the lead
- rotating teams. By transferring people to and from their individual agencies to the multi-agency team both the team's and the agencies' knowledge bases and competencies are expanded
- data analysis. Monitoring of data to identify trends or hotspots can facilitate early identification of harm and allows earlier intervention
- multi-agency training. Sharing training enables participants to share examples of good practice from their respective agencies.
Overcoming barriers to effective multi-agency work
A number of barriers to effective multi-agency work still exist, such as concerns around confidentiality, incompatible IT systems, conflicting local performance indicators, and funding constraints. However the report suggests these could be avoided through the adoption of:
- an integrated IT solution to facilitate effective information sharing
- a shared performance framework for all work undertaken by the hub
- agreed funding input from all multi-agency partners
- future-proofed accommodation to ensure continued co-location of staff
- an understanding of agencies' differing working approaches to build trust and manage expectations
- a strong information sharing protocol
- a process map for all agencies involved in the model to streamline processes and avoid duplication of work
- a communication and marketing strategy to make sure that staff understand new processes.
Home Office (2013) Multi-agency working and information sharing project: early findings. [London]: Home Office
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