Chair’s Briefing – Introduction to the MASH
As part of the induction process for new Members, the Children’s Scrutiny Committee had planned to meet with the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) team to discuss the service. There had been some discussions on how to do this safely in regard to COVID-19 and our duty as a council to keep officers and Members safe.
On Tuesday 27th July, members of the Children’s Scrutiny Committee met with some of the MASH team via MS Teams to be introduced to the staff and the service.
Leeds Peer Review
Officers gave an overview of the MASH and the recent Peer Review with Leeds.
Leeds City Council (as our Partners in Practice) undertook a Peer Review of Devon’s MASH / Front Door in May 2021 to understand the journey, from a child’s perspective of the journey a child would take coming into the ‘Front Door’. Leeds is an outstanding rated local authority, having improved from inadequate to outstanding over a 10-year period.
Officers gave an overview of the strengths of the service highlighted by Leeds. We have a universally committed workforce and partnership who make good decisions. Our senior managers have a grip on practice. We have strong relationships with our partners in health, the Police and Children’s Services. We have a strong Early Help offer and strong training and development via the Social Work Academy. There is a consistent language and understanding of thresholds and fundamentally, we work well together.
In addition, Officers gave an overview of the areas for development identified by Leeds. These include timescales and drift; officers working outside of their role; duplication of evidence gathering; consent, where a social worker is too ready to accept a parent’s refusal of intervention; the inconsistent application of thresholds and limited social worker access to different systems.
Officers presented two flowcharts showing the process and journey of a child as they come through the front door. One flowchart shows Devon while the other shows the Leeds processes. Leeds have streamlined their processes between social workers and other teams. Leeds have been able to do this because the systems behind the flowchart (audits, checks, balances, consistent decisions) allow for the streamlined process. Devon is not yet in that place because we need to have better checks and balances and this model allows for managerial oversight to ensure decisions are made correctly.
Finally, Officers presented what Leeds found to be opportunities for Devon and what we need to work on:
- Focus on practice and process mapping to ensure our standards are correct. This involves creating an understanding of what we do in Devon and how we do it. Ensuring a good decision at the front door ensures the child’s trajectory throughout their journey is correct.
- Reviewing Police notifications – We get information from the Police through both Vulnerability Identification Screening Tool (ViST) and Child at Risk Alerts (CARA) so there can be duplication of information. Officers are working with the police on a pilot to work on what information we need to have and what information we don’t need.
- Review Professional Autonomy – Who is making decisions and where and how do we ensure audit of decisions. This is about ensuring clarity around roles and responsibilities and practice.
- Review Anonymity – Professionals now have to disclose names of children (if known to them) so the MASH can consider relevant history and information that could inform the advice or decision made.
- Improve Customer Service Relationships
- Review Data Collection
- Refresh Partnership meetings
As this meeting also came just after the Ofsted focused visit letter, members used the opportunity to ask officers about both today’s presentation and Ofsted’s comments.
Member discussion points included:
- Ensuring social workers have clarity on their roles, responsibilities, and practice
- Ensuring adequate thresholds – Members heard about the training undertaken by Social Workers and Managers to look at decisions on live cases to ensure all staff come to the same decisions. Managers have oversight on all cases to ensure that the same thresholds are applied.
- Officers gave an assurance that the same social workers are being assigned to the same cases
- Thresholds in relation to children with SEND – Officers commented that they think about how best to support a child and who is best to provide that support.
- Officers discussed with members reflecting on decisions and learning from decisions and welcoming challenge to review the decision-making processes.
We agreed with officers to meet regularly with them (around every 6 weeks) to understand issues and monitor the progress of the MASH.
Members commented that Scrutiny will advocate for the MASH service and will make a case to Cabinet if they needed support in the future. We are on a ‘Marathon of Improvement’ and still need to reconcile the urgency to improve with the understanding that it will take some time.
Councillor Rob Hannaford
Chair, Children’s Scrutiny Committee
Appendix – Meeting Information
Date and time: Tuesday 27th July 2021 – 10:30am – 11:30am
Member attendees: Councillors Rob Hannaford (Chair), Su Aves, Janet Bradford, Julian Brazil, Phil Bullivant, Christine Channon, Linda Hellyer, Frank Letch, Margaret Squires, Jeffrey Wilton-Love and Andrew Leadbetter (Cabinet Member for Children’s Services and Schools).
Children’s Services and MASH Team: Jacqueline Sims, Alice Peatling, Alex Barclay, Sherilee Turner and Kate Youngs.
Scrutiny Officer: Charlie Fisher