It is complex to create clear meaning from random pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. When seen from this perspective, it is easy to understand how difficult it is for independent agencies, using the current uncoordinated methods, to work effectively to safeguard the vulnerable. Yet, despite such difficulties, these independent agencies work tirelessly to deliver safety and protection. There is a growing appreciation for the real value that Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hubs (MASH) can deliver to help keep our children safer from abuse or neglect.
Considering the challenges agencies face, we have identified the following underlying concerns:
It is deeply concerning that the incidences of abuse or neglect, as detailed by NSPCC, 2015, are escalating. Research also shows that one in three children (34%) do not tell anyone about their abuse. This under-reporting reveals the work that needs to be done to ensure that those in danger are protected.
Tradition of independent working
Agencies have traditionally worked independently, with good reason, as the Data Protection Act needs to be rigorously observed. Each agency has its own processes and methods of working, and often officers engage with different members of a family unit. Reports indicate that it is not uncommon to have more than five agencies working on a single case. Critics call this silo working.
Technology, data and devices are divergent
Reviewing legacy infrastructure reveals that having many disparate solutions prevents effective data sharing between agencies. However, even though agencies are willing to share information, it is often nearly impossible, using traditional methods, to seamlessly link this data to give a full picture.
Instead, staff are required to use awkward manual workarounds, such as 'secure emails', which increases the potential risk of security breaches. Additionally, agencies use a variety of devices.
Fuelled by daily media there is strong political will to urgently and cost-effectively prevent repeated, small incidents from escalating into shocking losses. At Netcall we are working to find a well-designed yet affordable way to enable Social Workers, Police, Hospitals, Education and Local Authorities to collaborate effectively.
We recommend that any project leaders considering MASH solution development reflect how they solve the need for flexible, configurable resolution of the following:
Data storage, retrieval and updating
Organisations enter and store data within fit-for-purpose solutions. Their secure nature can result in low-level repeat offences being overlooked and not reported to other agencies. However, designing a 'mega' solution for the entry and collation of all data is usually too expensive, and ignores the needs of each individual agency's daily tasks and processes.
Business process rules
Sifting through massive data sets in primary systems is time-consuming and prone to error. Data sharing is optimal when defined process rules identify and highlight any areas of concern. IT solutions should use configurable business rules to recognise 'Blue-Red-Amber-Green' (BRAG) conditions. The process should follow any action from point of data capture, identifying the context and implications, and triggering appropriate workflows. These rules should include providing acceptable timelines for follow-up service levels.
Any multi-agency system should present a real-time, unified view that enables each partner agency to feel in control of their cases, as well as adding vital value to collective safeguarding. Tailored alerts should inform and enable agency MASH leaders to act proactively, highlighting a focus of attention on urgent cases. Particularly useful are countdown timers which alert teams to the remaining amount of time to meet the service level of any 'Red case' action status. Dashboards and alerts should be available on multiple devices - and across different regions, allowing for remote working or district offices.
Working with MASH practitioners, Netcall has developed Liberty MASH. This fully-integrated, intuitive solution brings together different agencies, and allows collaborative working between key partners harnessing their individual data sets and processes. Netcall MASH accesses data from diverse 'back-end' infrastructure and is able to access all relevant data on an individual which may be vital to assign the correct severity rating. The unified view for all MASH participants can be tailored to meet local needs. It is completely configurable.