A government review of procedures to identify children and vulnerable adults at risk of abuse was published yesterday (Tuesday 29 July).
Several high-profile cases, including the death of four-year-old Daniel Pelka, have highlighted the tragic consequences which can result when information indicating risk is held by one agency and not appropriately shared with others.
Many areas have established Multi Agency Safeguarding Hubs (MASHs) to mitigate the risk of anyone slipping through the safeguarding net, and they and others have requested guidance on best practice.
The review found MASHs support professionals to ‘join the dots’ and understand threats so they can take action to prevent them.
The report states multi agency working is key to early and effective identification of risk, improved information sharing, joint decision making and coordinated action. The document gives examples of how agencies are working together to stop abuse before it occurs.
However it also concludes multi agency approaches do not supersede a single agency’s duty to identify, protect and support a child or vulnerable person.
Crime Prevention Minister Norman Baker unveiled the report at a stakeholder summit at the Home Office.
“This coalition government is determined to tackle child abuse in whatever form it takes, and Multi Agency Safeguarding Hubs have a clear role to play in this.
“This report sets out evidence from a wide range of approaches across hundreds of local authority areas. As a result, local agencies are now better placed than ever before to make informed decisions about how best to ensure children and vulnerable adults are protected from deplorable abuse and exploitation.
“And I want to send a clear message today – if it’s a choice between data protection and child protection, child protection must come first.”
Over the next 12 months the findings of the report will be disseminated to professionals through a series of regional roadshows.
The government is reviewing guidance for practitioners and managers to dispel mistaken beliefs which prevent information being shared appropriately and effectively.
In addition the Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing has been commissioned to work with local areas to provide targeted support to MASHs to ensure effective information sharing.
And a review has been launched into how application of the Mental Capacity Act 2005 impacts on safeguarding vulnerable adults from sexual abuse.
Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons will roll out their joint inspection of multi-agency arrangements for the protection of children in England from April 2015.
These inspections will focus on the effectiveness of local authority and partners’ services for children who may be at risk of harm, including the effectiveness of early identification and help.