South West Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures
South West Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures South West Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures

1.2.2 Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub Operational Procedures

RELATED GUIDANCE

Information Sharing Arrangement for Torbay Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub

AMENDMENT

In November 2017 this chapter and the accompanying MASH process flow chart was revised locally to reflect local policy and procedure.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. What is MASH?
  3. Who works for MASH?
  4. MASH process flow chart
  5. Making a MASH contact/referral
  6. How a MASH contact/referral will be received
  7. Consent
  8. Consultation with Parents
  9. Listening to the Child
  10. Outcome of a MASH contact/referral
  11. Recording
  12. Professional Differences
  13. Review and Changes
  14. Governance

    Appendix 1: The Torbay MASH deals with concerns which cannot be planned for

    Appendix 2: When to MASH a case


1. Introduction

The Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub has been implemented to safeguard Torbay’s children and families. It aims to provide the highest level of knowledge and analysis of all known intelligence and information across the safeguarding partnership to ensure all safeguarding activity and intervention is timely, proportionate and necessary.

The vision is to identify and make safe at the earliest opportunity all vulnerable people in our communities through the sharing of information and intelligence across the safeguarding partnership.

Torbay’s MASH aims to provide a more consistent, timely and co-ordinated multi-agency response to individual situations relating to welfare and safeguarding concerns to children and young people. The intent is to improve the quality of information sharing between agencies in order that decision making can be both more effective and more robust.

Objectives of MASH include:

  • Improved safeguarding decision making at the point of referral;
  • Early identification of harm and risk;
  • Improved interface with Early Help and Targeted Services.

Torbay MASH has been developed in line with and supported by Torbay Council, Torbay’s Safeguarding Children Board, Devon and Cornwall Police, NHS England, Torbay Safeguarding Adults Board and Torbay Probation.

Torbay MASH is now operating within a Signs of Safety framework, this is reflected within the MASH referral form and will be utilised when providing analysis on case decisions.


2. What is a MASH?

Torbay’s Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) will provide information sharing across all organisations involved in safeguarding - encompassing statutory, non-statutory and the third sector. This is in accordance with the agreed Information Sharing Protocol, which is currently under review. Essentially the hub will analyse information that is already known within separate organisations in a coherent format to inform all safeguarding decisions. All partners will work together to provide the highest level of knowledge and analysis to make sure that all safeguarding activity and intervention is timely, proportionate and necessary.

Torbay MASH has a set of principles underpinning thresholds:

  • To enable timely, well informed decision making that leads to help for the most vulnerable, supported by appropriate and robust information sharing;
  • To ensure help provided to children and families is from the right source, at the right time;
  • To promote intervention by the least intrusive approach, whilst preventing gaps in support arising from individual agency responses;
  • To reduce referrals, in particular those which are inappropriate, to Children’s Social Care.


3. Who is in the MASH?

The MASH is a team of professionals who continue to be employed by their individual agencies but who are co-located in one office.

Torbay MASH is co-located on the 2nd floor of Torhill House, Torquay. Torbay MASH currently consists of:

  • Children's Social Care (including CSE / MISPER team);
  • The Police Central Safeguarding Team (CST);
  • Children's Safeguarding Health team;
  • Torbay Education Safeguarding Services (TESS).

Virtual links include:

  • Housing;
  • Probation;
  • IYSS;
  • Early Years;
  • Targeted help.

Torbay Mash accepts referrals on Monday to Thursday 9am until 4.30pm and Friday 9am until 3.30pm.


4. MASH process Flow Chart

Click here to view the Torbay MASH Flow Chart.


5. Making a MASH contact/referral

Referrals must be made to the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) in one of the following ways:

  • In writing, using the MASH Referrals; this can be emailed to torbay.safeguardinghub@torbay.gov.uk;
  • By telephone, to Childrens Social Care on 01803 208100;
  • In an emergency outside office hours, by contacting the Emergency Duty Team or the Police;
  • If the child is known to have an allocated social worker, referrals should be made directly to the allocated worker or, in her/his absence, the manager or a duty officer in that team.

All professionals must confirm telephone Child Protection enquiries/referrals in writing, within 48 hours of being made, using the MASH Referral form.

Professionals in all Torbay’s Safeguarding Children Board agencies should have internal procedures, which identify Designated Professionals or Named Professionals - that is, managers or staff, who are able to offer advice on safeguarding children matters and decide upon the necessity for a referral. 

Arrangements within an agency may be that a Designated Professional makes the enquiry/referral. However, if the Designated Professional or Named Professional is not available, the enquiry/referral must still be made without delay. 

The person making the MASH enquiry should provide the following information if available – (NB absence of information must not delay a referral):

  • Full name, date of birth and gender of child/children;
  • Full family address and telephone number, and any known previous addresses;
  • Identity of primary carer and those with Parental Responsibility;
  • Names, date of birth and information about all household members, including any other children in the family, and significant people who live outside the child’s household, including other children suspected to be in contact with an alleged perpetrator;
  • Ethnicity, first language and religion of children and parents/carers;
  • Any need for an interpreter, signer or other communication aid;
  • Any special needs of the child/ren;
  • The child’s school, if of school age;
  • The child’s GP;
  • Any significant/important recent or historical events/incidents in the child or family’s life;
  • Risk to professionals;
  • Any information about difficulties being experienced by the family/household due to domestic violence and abuse, mental illness, substance misuse, and/or learning difficulties;
  • Whether the child has recently spent time abroad or recently arrived in the area;
  • Cause for concern including details of any allegations, their sources, timing and location;
  • Identity and current whereabouts of the suspected/alleged perpetrator;
  • Child’s current location and emotional and physical condition;
  • Whether the child is currently safe or is in need of immediate protection because of any approaching deadlines (e.g. child about to be collected by alleged abuser);
  • Child’s account and the parents’ response to the concerns if known;
  • Referrer’s relationship with and knowledge of the child and parents/carers, and any ongoing assistance likely to be given;
  • Known current or previous involvement of other agencies/professionals;
  • Information regarding parental knowledge of, and agreement to, the referral;
  • If any relevant assessment such as Targeted Help Referral has been undertaken this should accompany the written referral;
  • Any known or identified CSE / Missing concerns or risks.


6. How MASH Enquiries/Referrals will be received

Referrers should have an opportunity to discuss their concerns with a qualified social worker.

The MASH will ensure that a social worker is available to receive MASH enquiries; outside normal working hours, the Emergency Duty Team will receive referrals.

The MASH will deal with MASH Enquiries in accordance with the Assessment Framework of Children in Need and Their Families and determine whether a MASH Enquiry should be responded to on the basis that the child is in need of support under section 17 of the Children Act 1989 or in need of protection under section 47 of the Children Act 1989.

See Appendix 1: The Torbay MASH deals with concerns which cannot be planned for

The worker receiving an enquiry will establish:

  • The nature of the concern;
  • How and why it has arisen;
  • What the child’s and family’s needs appear to be;
  • Whether the concern involves Significant Harm;
  • Whether there is any need for any urgent action to protect the child, any other child in the same household or any child in contact with an alleged perpetrator;
  • Whether they have any information about difficulties being experienced by the family/household due to domestic violence and abuse, mental illness, substance misuse, and/or learning difficulties.

To do so, the worker receiving the MASH Enquiry will usually discuss the case with the referrer and in doing so, will:

  • Give their name and designation;
  • Help the referrer to give as much relevant information as possible and repeat back to the referrer the key points using the checklist indicated above;
  • Clarify information that the referrer is reporting directly and information that has been obtained from a third party;
  • Discuss whether there are concerns about maltreatment/neglect and if so, what is their foundation;
  • Clarify who has and who has not been told about the referral;
  • Clarify the whereabouts of the child;
  • Discuss whether it may be necessary to consider taking urgent action to ensure the safety of the child or any other child in the same household or who is in contact with an alleged perpetrator;
  • Agree how to re-contact the referrer if further clarification is required;
  • Clarify the extent to which the referrer’s anonymity can be maintained (if this is an issue in the case of a non-professional referrer);
  • Clarify expectations about how and when feedback is to be given.

At the end of any discussion or dialogue about a child, the referrer (whether a professional or a member of the public or family) and the MASH should be clear about who will be taking what action or that no further action will be taken. The outcome of any such discussion should be recorded by the MASH, and by the referrer (if a professional).

The worker receiving the MASH Enquiry must consider whether there are other children in the same household, the household of an alleged perpetrator or elsewhere, who should be considered as part of the referral.

Parents should be informed of the MASH Enquiry/referral and their permission sought to share information with other agencies unless to do so would:

  • Be prejudicial to the child’s welfare;
  • Cause concern about the behaviour of the adult concerned with the child;
  • Cause concern that the child would be at risk of further Significant Harm.

(See also Information Sharing Arrangement for Torbay Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub for further guidance.)

In these circumstances, a manager from the MASH may decide to consult other relevant agencies without seeking parental consent. Any such decision must be recorded with reasons. See below for further details.


7.Consent

The MASH Manager is responsible for clarifying that the partnership has received consent before the service initiates the MASH Process. Where consent has not been obtained it is the responsibility of the MASH Manager to consider if it is appropriate to over-ride using the seven golden rules within Information Sharing guidance for practitioners and managers. The decision should be clearly recorded on the child’s file.

Details for consideration of consent can also be found within the Child’s Journey Matrix on the council website by clicking: www.torbay.gov.uk.

If a case is assessed as not reaching children’s social care threshold, however further support is identified then consent is required and it should be the responsibility of the referrer to ensure this is captured.

Specific consent must come from a parent with Parental Responsibility (PR) or a Gillick /Frazer competent young person themselves.


8. Consultation with Parents

Professionals should seek to discuss concerns with the family and, where possible seek the family’s agreement to making a referral unless this may, either by delay or the behavioural response it prompts or for any other reason, place the child at increased risk of Significant Harm.

See also Information Sharing Arrangements for MASH.

A decision by any professional not to seek parental permission before making a referral to Children’s Services must be recorded and the reasons given.

Where a parent has agreed to a referral, this must be recorded and confirmed in writing using the MASH referral form.

Where the parent is consulted and refuses to give permission for the referral, further advice should be sought from a manager or the Designated Professional or Named Professional. However if the referrer remains concerned the referral to the MASH should proceed. In this circumstance:

  • The reason for proceeding without parental agreement must be recorded;
  • Children’s Services should be told that the parent has withheld her/his permission;
  • Unless to do so would place the child at greater risk of Significant Harm or prejudice the enquiry, the parent should be contacted by the referring professional to inform her/him that after considering their wishes, a referral has been made.


9. Listening to the Child

If a child makes an allegation or discloses information which raises concern about Significant Harm, the initial response should be limited to listening carefully to what the child says so as to:

  • Clarify the concerns;
  • Offer reassurance about how s/he will be kept safe; and
  • Explain that the information will be passed to Children’s Services and/or the Police.

No promises should be given to the child that any information he or she gives will be treated confidentially; it must be explained that any information by a child that indicates that he/she or any other child may have been abused must be referred to Children’s Services.

If a child is freely recalling events, the response should be to listen, rather than stop the child; however, it is important that the child should not be asked to repeat the information to a colleague or asked to write the information down, unless specifically requested to do so by the MASH.

If the child has an injury but no explanation is volunteered, it is acceptable to enquire how the injury was sustained.

However, the child must not be pressed for information, led or cross-examined or given false assurances of absolute confidentiality. Such well-intentioned actions could prejudice police investigations, especially in cases of Sexual Abuse.

A record of all conversations, (including the timings, the setting, those present, as well as what was said by all parties) and actions must be kept.

No enquiries or investigations may be initiated without the authority of Children’s Services or the Police.

If the child can understand the significance and consequences of making a referral, he/she should be asked her/his views by the referring professional.

Whilst the child’s views should be considered, it remains the responsibility of the professional to take whatever action is required to ensure the safety of that child and any other children.


10. Outcome of a MASH contact/referral

All professionals who make a MASH Enquiry/referrals about children should be aware that the referral will not automatically result in a Child Protection investigation and/or Single Assessment and some situations that are potentially harmful to a child may be dealt with, initially, by offering support to the child and family. This may be through a step-down to the Targeted Help Panel.

The MASH will decide upon and record their next steps of action within one working day of receiving a referral; this will include making a decision on whether or not to share information with other agencies. The MASH also undertakes a risk assessment at this point.

Any child where there is an indication of CSE will also be considered using the CSE risk assessment tool.

Where it is considered that a child has suffered or is likely to be at risk of significant harm this will be dealt with immediately and the MASH manager is responsible for progressing to a strategy discussion / meeting. The duty manager of the single assessment team will also be notified.

All other contacts/referrals will be considered within 24 hours and a decision made as to how the information will be progressed. Where there is insufficient information to make a robust decision, a decision may be made to seek multi-agency information and will be shared in order to inform the outcome. No case can be subject to the MASH process without consent or a management decision that it is lawful to override consent.

Please see MASH flowchart for sequence of decision-making.

No case can be subject to the MASH process without consent or a management decision that it is lawful to override consent.

The information gathering and decision-making process takes place within these timeframe's.

The MASH Manager will need to decide if the case meets the criteria for a statutory service as described above or step down, in which case it will follow the Early Help Pathway (if it is not taken up by either, it will go to a screening social worker to gather further information or provide advice and support).

The decision about future action will take account of the discussion with the referrer, consideration of information held in existing records and discussion with any other professionals or services as necessary.

The outcome of the MASH Enquiry will be:

  • That emergency protective action should be taken to safeguard the child or children (this will usually be determined by an immediate Strategy Discussion);
  • That the child appears to be a Child in Need under S17 and there are concerns about actual or potential Significant Harm which requires a Strategy Discussion, which may lead to a Child Protection Enquiry; and/or
  • That the child appears to be a Child in Need under S17 and there are concerns about the child’s health and development which justify a Single  Assessment but there are no present concerns about Significant Harm; or
  • That consent is required and/or further information is needed; this will be allocated to a social worker in MASH to progress
  • That the child and family are in need of support from Targeted services and will be passed to the referrer to complete the assessment.
  • The referrer is advised to consider a team around the family approach or level 2 single agency response.
  • That no further role is required. NB It is unlikely that a referral will result in no action but may conclude with signposting to other services or information and advice to professionals and/or family members

Feedback on the outcome of a MASH Enquiry should be provided to the referrer in writing, including where no further action is to be taken.


11. Recording

The referrer should keep a written record of:

  • Discussions with the child;
  • Discussions with the parent;
  • Discussions with managers;
  • Information provided to the duty social worker;
  • Decisions taken (clearly timed, dated and signed);
  • Records should be reviewed at regular intervals to ensure that decisions taken are followed through.

The referrer should confirm immediate telephone CP referrals in writing, within 48 hours, using the MASH referral form. The worker receiving the referral should keep a written record of:

  • Discussions with the referrer;
  • Discussions with any other professionals or agencies involved (including the Police where a crime against a child may have been committed);
  • Any other relevant information which was taken into account;
  • Discussions with managers;
  • Decisions taken (clearly timed, dated and signed);
  • Records should be reviewed at regular intervals to ensure that decisions are followed through.


12. Conflict Resolution

In the event that an agency does not agree with the response and decisions about the referral by the MASH, the referring agency should discuss their concerns directly with the MASH Team Manager, in the first instance to seek resolution.

Recognising the complexity of the partnership it is acknowledged that individuals may feel it is appropriate to take difference of opinion outside the immediate team.

In this case the matter should be escalated by that individual to their manager who sits at a level consistent with the Head of Service. These officers are then tasked with resolving the matter or escalating further, referring to the TSCB Escalation policy.

If referrals are received into the MASH that do not contain sufficient quality or the necessary consent to allow for a decision, then the MASH may send a letter to the referrer outlining the inability to accept a referral.

Complaints by Members of the Public

Where members of the public are unhappy with a response from the MASH, they should be directed to the Councils Corporate Complaints process.


13. Review and Changes

This document is designed to act as a reference to assist the service as it develops into co-location, expands membership and becomes imbedded within everyday practice. The document and the operation of the MASH will be subject to a formal review by the responsible Head of Service by 30th September 2018and subsequent report to be made to the TSCB - MASH Subgroup.


14. Governance

Governance of the MASH sits with Torbay’s Senior Management Group via the Social Care Management Team Meeting (CSMT).

There will also be a MASH steering group which is chaired by the Head of Service that will meet on a quarterly basis. This will aim to consider the progress of the MASH from a multi-agency perspective and to assess both qualitative and quantitative data available. The MASH operational group will meet on a monthly basis.

A Quality Assurance Framework will sit alongside the operational procedures to provide a methodical way of evaluating Torbay’s MASH which has been in place since November 2015. Over time the aim will be to demonstrate the value that MASH is adding in terms of safeguarding work, outcomes and use of resources. This will also support the Governance arrangements across partnership and within the community.


Appendix 1: The Torbay MASH deals with concerns which cannot be planned for

Concerns checklist:

The MASH will process the urgent referrals through to social work teams who will work with other agencies to support children and young people who require specialist statutory service. These urgent and immediate concerns include:

  • Child(ren) found to be living in home conditions that are described/assessed to be unsafe and the child(ren) require immediate removal. Police protection is likely to be used;
  • Child(ren) found alone – e.g. following a home visit by the police and the child(ren) are not considered to be safe and well, found alone on the street etc;
  • Physical harm – Child(ren) with or claimed to have an injury. Medical examination may be required on the same day;
  • Unaccompanied asylum seeking child(ren);
  • Allegation/disclosure by a child that he/she is being sexually abused;
  • Child/young person detained by police and parents refusing to take the child back home;
  • Child/young person is experiencing acute neglect;
  • Death of a child and it is suspected that this has been caused by the carer or parent and other children are in the household;
  • Parents detained (or remanded to custody) by police and no other reason to care for the child(ren);
  • Death of a parent/carer or emergency hospital admission and no other person identified to care for the child(ren);
  • Young person who is remanded by the court into the care of the Local Authority;
  • Children and families made homeless that day and ineligible for family support;
  • Private fostering – i.e. children and young people under 16 who are or are about to start living with friends or someone who is not a close relative and are likely to remain or have remained for a period of more than 28 days;
  • Unborn baby where likely risk of harm;
  • Fabricated or induced illness suspected;
  • Female genital mutilation;
  • Known “risk to child” person in household;
  • High risk, MARAC level 3 domestic abuse;
  • Transfer-In ICPC;
  • Legal cases from other Local Authorities;
  • Child missing over 72 hours;
  • High risk of CSE.


Appendix 2: When to MASH a case

MASH guidance

  • S47 referrals where delay will not be caused;
  • All NSPCC/anonymous referrals;
  • All children whose identity is unknown;
  • Children/young person who may have been trafficked;
  • Children/young person at high risk of sexual or other exploitation;
  • All referrals where domestic violence is a significant issue (where there are children in the family under 5 years old or unborn) and additional information is needed to determine the threshold;
  • Referrals about a child require additional information to determine the threshold;
  • Minor concerns about a child on a repeat basis;
  • All other referrals deemed appropriate by MASH managers.

End