Wednesday, 18 December 2013

MASH – good news

A team from the University of Greenwich has published an academic research report into Multi-agency Safeguarding Hubs in London. The findings are very positive.

You can find out a great deal about MASH at the London Safeguarding Children Board website.

The basic idea of a MASH is that a multi-agency team of professionals co-located in a single office receives all child-safeguarding referrals. The team includes representatives of police, local authority children’s social care, education, probation and health.  They share information with the aim of identifying emerging problems early.

Crucially one of the ‘five core elements’ of the MASH is that the hub is ‘fire walled’. That means that MASH activities are kept confidential and separate from the operational activities of the individual agencies.  A confidential record system is provided to ensure that only those who actually need to know have access to sensitive information. Information is disclosed on a strictly ‘need to know basis’.

The University of Greenwich team found that the average turnaround time for cases involving high/complex needs nearly halved from two and a half days to slightly over one and a quarter days as a result of introducing the MASH.

Following the implementation professionals were interviewed and were generally positive about the MASH. It was found that the number of children who received services appropriate to their needs increased following implementation.

The research did discover some areas of concern.  Some of those working in the MASHs reported heavy workloads and staff shortages. Some expressed concern and frustration with inadequate information technology systems.

The evidence seems to point in the direction of MASH being a good idea with potential to simplify and speed up services. It appears to promise to improve communication between agencies without threatening confidentiality.

It is vital that its continued roll out is not impeded by poor implementation. Long-term it has the potential to bring down costs as turnaround times shorten and quality improves. It would be a great shame to see the experiment fail because adequate resources are not allocated to it at this important stage.