Screening all child protection referrals through a multi-agency team improves the quality of early intervention in families, an evaluation of a Devon model has found.
It found that more accurate information had resulted in fewer inappropriate referrals to child protection teams and a quicker response to health referrals.
“Moreover, it was reported that early response service teams are experiencing an increase in workload in order to provide early intervention,” the evaluation by the National Foundation for Education Research (NfER) found.
The study was commissioned by the Local Government Association to assess the impact and value for money of the Devon multi-agency safeguarding hub model which has sparked interest from both Professor Eileen Munro in her review of child protection in England and other councils.
The NfER admitted it was too early to assess outcomes or value, pointing out Devon was still rolling out the hubs to the whole region.
The evaluation found the current MASH teams averaged 20 referrals a day but warned that meeting deadlines for decisions required enough staff to take account of absences. Physical co-location of teams was also important.
The report concluded: “It is essential that [the MASH] is underpinned by provision at Tier 2 [children-in-need and common assessment framework teams]. There has to be a range of professionals and agencies able to provide early intervention support to cases that are not identified as requiring Tier 3 [child protection] action. The provision of this early support can prevent a case escalating to Tier 3.”
Although setting up a MASH model was likely to increase costs in the short term, it should eventually reduce child protection activity, the report concluded. The researchers pointed out that it would be worth councils having a better understanding of the costs associated with a serious safeguarding incident.
“Should this work be taken further, the next steps would be to develop and begin to monitor the metrics we have described,” the evaluation stated. “This would allow an evidence base to be built around the impact and effectiveness of the MASH and wider safeguarding system, and provide valuable insights into their operations and how they may further be improved.”
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