“Being able to sit in the same building or office and have a face-to-face conversation with different members involved in adult safeguarding can really enhance the support we offer vulnerable adults.”
These words come from Carradine Spring, assistant team manager of adult safeguarding at Swindon, as the borough council prepares to launch its new adult multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) in the autumn.
The adult MASH aims to ensure effective, timely communication and information sharing, as well as collaborative working. Its launch comes in response to past incidence where lack of communication and coordination had an impact on safeguarding outcomes at the council.
“In the past when we have had learning reviews, we often find that there has been a lack of co-ordination and communication because people in different departments just had snippets of information about the adult at the centre of the case,” says Clare Deards, head of social work in adult services. “Having MASH aims to resolve this by bringing all the relevant people in the same space, but also introduces efficiencies and the chance to pool expert knowledge.”
Swindon’s adult safeguarding team has always worked with other agencies such as the police and healthcare professionals, but the new adult MASH will enhance that collaborative working culture. It will give police a physical presence for the first time and allow healthcare teams a virtual presence initially with the prospect of that becoming a physical presence in the future.
“Generally, our interactions with the police and healthcare have been via the phone or on email and that can make the decision-making process just that little bit slower,” says Carradine. “Bringing them into the same building as the safeguarding team will mean knowledge and expertise can be shared immediately and decisions resolved quickly.”
We want staff to be more aware that people are very much experts on their own lives
The MASH will be underpinned by the council’s strengths-based approach which encourages adults to lead on how they want their needs met.
“We want staff to be more aware that people are very much experts on their own lives and will know far more about what they need in order to making positive changes,” says Clare.
This focus on continuous assessment and reassessment is also evident in the processes Swindon uses to assess safeguarding cases day to day.”
The existing adult safeguarding service consists of 18 staff members, comprising social workers, management, and administrative staff, and deals with, between 12 and 20 referrals a day. The team has been trialling a workflow system for the past seven months that allows staff to assess and prioritise safeguarding cases more efficiently.
The workflow system, which will be adopted into the new hub, has been refined by social workers, who feedback improvements and challenges back to the leadership team. The process works on a weekly cycle with enquiry managers (also known as experienced social workers) receiving, recording and screening cases on the first day. If required, additional information is sourced (via enquiry officers) to build up the case. Once complete, these social workers have the rest of the week to work and resolve these cases before returning to the front desk and starting the cycle again. This process has undergone tweaks thanks to the input of social workers, Carradine says.
“The original process had social workers receiving cases over a week and using the subsequent three weeks to work on the case,” she says. “But staff said that this was exhausting to have a week on screening. They said they were losing their flow because they had to wait a week before being able to get their teeth into the cases. So, we tweaked the model. Instead of screening for one week, social workers screen for one day and have the remainder of the week to work on the case before returning to the front desk on the following Monday. The flow was better, the conversation was better, and it now suits the adults’ service needs.”
But it doesn’t stop there. This workflow system is under constant review via weekly team member meetings and it is likely that this will continue as the system is incorporated into the MASH.
Already, changes have meant that staff have better management over their caseloads because of the change. This has meant that social workers can devote more time to meeting their safeguarding outcomes and deepening their understanding of the range of community support (volunteering, and leisure activities) available to vulnerable adults. Once the new MASH is in place, another layer of screening is to be introduced to enhance this efficiency further, says Carradine.
“We are constantly re-prioritising in safeguarding so that we can achieve greater efficiencies. This new layer of screening will mean that when initial contact is made at MASH, members of the MASH team will be at hand to triage enquiries and signpost those ones that are not safeguarding issues to other departments. This front door assessment aims to filter out non-safeguarding cases that would otherwise increase the workload of staff.
“We may discover that a case, such as hoarding, for example, is not a safeguarding issue but it is still important that it is resolved by the appropriate department and doesn’t get overlooked,” says Carradine. “Our front door policy would ensure that we can pass this on to the most relevant department more quickly and at the same time ensure that our staff are constantly reviewing what is and isn’t a safeguarding issue and who can expertly deal with it.”