The MASH (Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub) was launched in March 2015. It is designed to be a central point for the screening, gathering, sharing and analysing of information about children who may be at risk of harm or who may need support services.
The MASH is made up of professionals from a range of agencies including:
- Durham's Children and Young People Service
- Durham Police
- Health Agencies
- Harbour (domestic abuse service)
All of these professionals are employed by their agency to work in partnership with Durham's Children’s Social Care, sitting alongside social workers in a single location to remove potential barriers and speed up the sharing of information. Virtual links also exist with other key agencies who are asked to provide information when necessary.
Why Create A MASH?
To improve the quality of information sharing between agencies who know and work with children when they are referred into children’s social care
• To ensure that information can be shared quickly and easily so that timely decisions can be made
• To ensure that risk and vulnerability issues are quickly identified so that the right support is offered to the child and family
• To improve the ability of agencies to see patterns of risk and harm for children over time and across services with a view to reducing child neglect
• To improve consistency of response for children and families in Durham
• To ensure that children and families receive help early and stop issues from escalating
• To reduce the numbers of children who are re-referred into children’s services as the right support is offered at the right time
The MASH check and share information relating to referrals that are made about children where there are concerns for their welfare or their safety. The MASH is designed to ensure that all of the available information from key agencies about a child and their family is shared in a timely way at this critical time of deciding the best course of action.
All agencies have access to their own IT systems within the MASH and so can quickly and easily share information that they hold about children and their families. Any new multiagency information will then be stored centrally on the social services information database and be added to the original referral information.
The MASH will analyse all the available information from the different information systems and form a more accurate opinion about the level of risk that the child is experiencing.
The MASH will then make a decision about the most appropriate service or team to meet the needs of the child and their family and send the referral to them. The receiving team will receive a set of summary reports and analysis from all key agencies who know the child and family with an overall level of need rating for the child. Clear recommendations for further action are also included.
Agencies can ensure that all available information is coordinated and shared at the point of referral in order to assist in making the right decision about which service is best placed to support the child.
The MASH can access and share information more quickly and so decisions can be made more quickly meaning the child and family will receive help in a timely way. Previously, this process relied on social workers ringing individual agencies and awaiting their responses.
The MASH can help to inform professionals about how quickly they need to respond to a child who may be at risk of harm. Children and their families will receive help as soon as they need it as professionals will be able to identify potential risk and vulnerability earlier and prevent situations escalating.
Additional resources were created for the MASH so that there is no reduction in the services offered by community based professionals working directly with children and families. The MASH provides the opportunity for closer partnership working and less duplication of effort, improving the responses to referrals by directing the right help and support services to children and families at the earliest opportunity.
The Central Referral Unit (CRU) is a police led unit which is co located with the MASH. The CRU deal with all police information relating to vulnerable adults and children within County Durham. They are the central point for screening all police concern forms and deciding what should happen next.
Some of the information that comes into the CRU will become a referral into First Contact because it relates to concerns for a child. Police colleagues in the CRU also support the MASH. The CRU and the MASH all operate out of the same building and work very closely together.
The First Contact Service is led by the Local Authority and is the single point of contact for all professionals and members of the public who want to make a referral about a child they are worried about or who they feel needs some support. There will be some requests that come to First Contact for early help and support for children that won’t need to go through a MASH process and can be signposted to other services such as One Point. Staff within First Contact will check all referrals and determine which ones need to go into the MASH process.
How do I make a referral if I am concerned about a child?
If you have a concern about a child or young person who lives in County Durham, First Contact is the service to call.
You can ring First Contact on 03000 26 79 79 or email them on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our Children’s Services are responsible for delivering services to safeguard children. By law we must make enquiries about any child if we are told that there is a risk of harm to that child. We will ensure that children and families are fully involved in decision-making and planning throughout this process, unless this would place the child at immediate risk.
We will also talk with other people who are involved with the child, such as doctors, teachers, health visitors, school nurses and the police. If there are any serious concerns, arrangements will be made for the child to have a Child Protection Plan. It is important to remember that most children who have a Child Protection Plan live at home with their families and are helped to do so with support.