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1.2.3 Action Following Referral of Safeguarding Concerns


Contents

1. Introduction
2. MASH Organisational Framework
3. Initial MASH Response to Contacts
4. The MASH Process - Overview
5. The MASH Process - Screening
6. The MASH Process - Stage 1: Contact and Triage
7. The MASH Process - Stage 2: Multi-Agency Information-Sharing and Decision-Making
  7.1 Agencies that May Hold Relevant Information
  7.2 Information Sharing
  7.3 Sensitive Information
  7.4 Repeat Referrals
  7.5 Review, Decision Making, Transfer and Feedback
8. The MASH Process - Stage 3: Multi-Agency MASH Meeting
9. The MASH Process - Stage 4: Escalation of Decision Making
10. Managerial Oversight
11. Action if a Criminal Offence May Have Been Committed
12. Immediate Protection
13. Children in Specific Circumstances
14. Children Moving Across Boundaries
15. Data Sharing and Fair Processing
  Appendix A: First Response Process Map
  Appendix B: Haringey Judgment (2013)
  Appendix C: MASH RAG Rating Descriptors


1. Introduction

See Referring Safeguarding Concerns about Children Procedure.

The Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) has been developed by Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council (RMBC), South Yorkshire Police (SYP), the Rotherham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), The Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust (TRFT) and Rotherham, Doncaster and South Humber NHS Trust (RdaSH) in order to improve multi-agency information sharing, decision making and responses to child safeguarding concerns.

The MASH is a team of co-located multi agency safeguarding partners, operating in a secure fire-walled environment with access to their agency’s electronic data, who research, interpret and determine appropriate information sharing in relation to children, young people (and vulnerable adults) at risk of immediate and / or serious harm.

The MASH receives child welfare referrals via the integrated Early Help and Social Work Triage in order that multi-agency partners can add value by researching, interpreting and sharing additional information to provide the fullest picture possible to support the decision making process and allocation to the relevant operational team.

Following a referral to MASH, it may be that emergency action to protect the referred child or any other child is necessary. For more information Section 12, Immediate Protection.


2. MASH Organisational Framework

The new organisational framework for First Response was launched in January 2017. Appendix A: First Response Process Map shows shows all elements of referral and triage work that are responsible for receiving, screening and deciding appropriate responses for new contacts and referrals, including:

  • The First Response Officer function;
  • The integrated Social Work and Early Help Triage function;
  • The referral pathways to:
    • Early Help support;
    • Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub information sharing (MASH);
    • Duty & Assessment / Children’s Social Care Services.
  • The Step Up and Step Down mechanism to and from locality based services.


3. Initial MASH Response to Contacts

See the Multi-Agency Threshold Descriptors.

The MASH First Response Officer will carry out and record the following:

  • Establish if a child needs emergency medical attention and, if this has not already been sought, it must be arranged immediately;
  • Establish if parents/caregivers have been informed;
  • Discuss the role of the referrer in any further child welfare enquiries and/or Police investigation;
  • Advise the referrer of what steps will be taken by MASH and confirm with the referrer that a written referral (see Multi-Agency Referral Form (MARF)) will be received within 24 hours. An Early Help Assessment and Support Plan is not a referral form although it may be used to support a referral or a specialist assessment.

The First Response Officer in MASH receiving the contact / referral will establish:

  • The nature of the concern;
  • How and why it has arisen;
  • What the child and family’s needs appear to be;
  • Whether there is any risk of Significant Harm to the child/ren, and if so, its nature;
  • Whether there is any previous or current Social Care intervention for the child or other children in the family or household;
  • Any need for urgent action to protect the child or any other child within the same household or any child who is in contact with an alleged perpetrator - for more information see Section 12, Immediate Protection.

The referrer might be asked to participate in further assessment of the child, either through an Early Help assessment, through a Child in Need assessment (Section 17 of the Children Act 1989) or a Child Protection Enquiry (Section 47), which will be led by a social worker. For more information see Children's Assessment Protocol.

The First Response Officer will consider the level of need and risk against the Multi-Agency Threshold Descriptors.


4. The MASH Process - Overview

It is important to understand the threshold for decision-making in relation to risk and need for children. for more information see the Rotherham Multi-Agency Continuum of Need Guidance and Multi-Agency Threshold Descriptors.

There are three stages within the MASH. See Appendix A: First Response Process Map.

Timeliness is a critical consideration when safeguarding and protecting children. The CYPS Triage Team will screen all contacts received via the First Response function so that a decision can be reached about the type of response that is required within one working day of receipt. This is to ensure that local practice is compliant with statutory guidance.

The integrated process includes staff from Children's Social Care and Early Help to triage the contact details and review the needs, risks and circumstances outlined in the contact details within the context of any existing information already held by CYPS. Checks are undertaken to locate, identify and analyse records held on the social care computer system (Liquid Logic). A synopsis of any previous early help and/or social work support and intervention alongside consideration of the new contact concerns will help to determine if the statutory “in need” threshold is met.


5. The MASH Process – Screening

The MASH receives child welfare referrals via the integrated Early Help and Social Work Triage in order that multi-agency partners can add value by researching, interpreting and sharing additional information to provide the fullest picture possible to support the decision making process and allocation to the relevant operational team.

The remit of the MASH within the context of the CYPS First Response Service is as follows:

  • All new incoming contacts will be directed to the First Response Single Point of Contact First Response Officer, so that information can be received, clarified and logged;
  • All contacts will be subject to an integrated Triage process so that existing service involvement, needs, risks and circumstances can be considered in the context of any existing information already held by CYPS;
  • The Triage process applies appropriate screening to help determine thresholds in order to make informed decisions about next steps and the appropriate levels of support required;
  • If a concern relates to a child who is already ‘open’ to social care, this will be transferred immediately to the named allocated social worker;
  • If a concern clearly does not meet the “in need” threshold for social care intervention but would benefit from early help support, it will be subject to screening and an Early Help Assessment will be recommended directly to the Early Help Service or to appropriate partners;
  • If a contact concern clearly meets the threshold for child protection enquiries (s47 Children Act 1989) or a Child in Need single assessment (s17 Children Act 1989) where MASH information sharing is not additionally beneficial or required to help make a decision about next steps, the matter will be transferred immediately to the relevant social care team. In respect of Section 47 Enquiries a Child Protection Strategy Discussion / Meeting will be arranged and multi-agency information sharing will take place at that point. For more information see Strategy Discussions/Meetings Procedure and Section 47 Enquiries Procedure;
  • If information is received that does not clearly indicate whether the threshold for a single assessment is met, then information sharing will be required within the MASH to gain an accurate picture of the child and family to ensure that the correct threshold for intervention is identified.


6. The MASH Process - Stage 1: Contact and Triage

Referrals to the MASH will be RAG rated by the Triage Team to determine the priority timescale for how these will be responded to. Appendix C: MASH RAG Rating Descriptors sets out additional guidance information about RAG rating.

The MASH RAG rating framework establishes the way in which MASH partners prioritise their work together in response to in-coming referrals. Subsequently, once MASH partners have researched and shared their agency information and intelligence, the Social Work Manager reviews the initial RAG rating and revises it, if necessary, to help make the final determination and next steps for transferring information to Duty & Assessment / Children’s Social Care or Early Help Services so that follow up action can be taken.

If the threshold for social care assessment / intervention is not met and no further action is required by Children’s Social Care or the Early Help Service - MASH close the contact down. The referrer and family are advised of this action via a letter from the Social Work Manager.

If the threshold for social care assessment / intervention is met and the case was closed to a Social Work team within the last 12 weeks – new concerns submitted in relation to the case will be passed to the previous team to complete necessary follow up work. No information sharing is required within the MASH.

If the threshold for social care intervention is not met MASH will transfer the case to the Early Help Service for screening and to enable lower level support to be offered; and the contact will be closed down. The referrer and the family will be advised of this via a letter.

If the threshold for social care intervention is clearly met under section 17 of the Children Act 1989 and a “Child in Need” single assessment is required - the case will be transferred to the appropriate social care team immediately. No Information sharing will be completed. The referrer and the family will be advised via a letter.

If the threshold for social care intervention is clearly met under section 47 of the Children Act 1989 and a child is deemed at risk of significant harm - The case transfers to the Social Work team immediately, a Child Protection Strategy Discussion / Meeting is be arranged and necessary protective action will be taken that day. The referrer and the family will be advised via phone not a letter.

If the child is not deemed at risk of significant harm under section 47 of the Children Act 1989 currently but action is required to prevent a situation arising whereby a child may become additionally vulnerable, and potentially at risk in the future - these cases may be sent for MASH information sharing.

If, based on the new information that has been received, it is not clear whether the threshold for social care intervention is met - further information is required to determine the nature and level of any potential risk of harm in order to determine what action is required and by whom. The MASH will progress the contact to a referral and complete the MASH information sharing process (Stage 2).

In all cases, Children’s Social Care will provide feedback to the referrer and the family when the outcome decision has been made. Social Care will also record the outcome on the child’s case file clearly outlining the decision and the rationale for it.

A decision on all cases in Stage 1 must be made within 24 hours.


7. The MASH Process Stage 2: Multi-Agency Information-Sharing and Decision-Making

7.1 Agencies that May Hold Relevant Information

The list identified below is not exhaustive but identifies a range of agencies where information may be available:

  • Agencies that may hold relevant information are listed below. This is not an exhaustive list but identifies a range of key agencies, services and individuals that may hold additional relevant information: Health – Rotherham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) (including GPs), The Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust (TRFT) and Rotherham, Doncaster and South Humber NHS Trust (RdaSH);
  • RMBC Social Care, Early Help Services and Education & Skills;
  • Schools – nursery, primary, junior, special, secondary, academies, Pupil Referral Units, private schools and colleges and alternative education providers;
  • Private nurseries & early years providers;
  • National Probation Service;
  • Community Rehabilitation Company;
  • CAFCASS;
  • Housing Agencies;
  • RMBC Adult Social Care Services;
  • Voluntary sector and community based providers;
  • Private sector providers;
  • Fire Service;
  • Extended Family Members;
  • Other Local Authorities.

7.2 Information Sharing

When further information is required to assess risk and determine if the threshold for Social Care assessment is met, the MASH Social Care staff will, using the Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Form (MARA), electronically request further information from the agencies within the MASH and from those outside the MASH as appropriate.

MASH Social Care staff will have responsibility for contacting key partners if they feel information from that organisation may be relevant.

The decision to request further information needs to be made with the “Haringey judgment” (2013) in mind – for more information see Appendix B: Haringey Judgment (2013) and Multi Agency Working and Information Sharing Project - Final report (July 2014).

The RAG Rating assigned to the referral by the MASH Team Manager/Social worker will provide a timescale for agencies to adhere to in terms of collating and returning relevant information (see Appendix C: MASH RAG Rating Descriptors).

Each partner should review their databases and/ or consult with agencies they represent and insert relevant information into the relevant section of the Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Form (MARA). Partners will also be asked to analyse the information they record. It is important that all partners use their professional judgement based on the factual information they are presenting and analyse the relevance of this within the context of the referral concerns that have been shared. The key question that all MASH partners should ask is “so what?” – “so what does my agency’s data and intelligence mean in the context of the referral circumstances for this child /ren?”.

It is also important that partners record if they have requested information from within their organisation but are still awaiting a response. Again partners need to record when they requested the information, using what method and the name and designation of the individual they are awaiting a response from.

Partners should record on their own systems the information that they have provided for each case, the decision made and any challenge.

If at any stage, a partner feels that their information heightens the concerns relating to a child / children, they should speak to the MASH Team Manager immediately who should consider:

  • Whether immediate action is required to protect the child and refer as appropriate;
  • Raise the rag rating and request all partners to expedite their enquiries as a priority without delay.

7.3 Sensitive Information

Any multi-agency information which exists that is additionally sensitive e.g. matters of national security, active surveillance operations etc. that partners do not wish to be recorded can be shared with the MASH Manager via separate secure email marking the subject box as “confidential”. The fact that additional sensitive information is available and who has access to it should be recorded on the MARA form to enable assessment social workers to gain that additional information as part of their assessment, but no further detail provided.

7.4 Repeat Referrals

If a case has previously been through MASH Stage 2, this will be stated in the request for multi-agency information sharing. This will include the date of the previous referral/information shared. This will allow partners to retrieve the information shared previously and simply update this record with any further information that has come to light since the last request for information sharing. This will reduce duplication of work for all partner agencies.

7.5 Review, Decision Making, Transfer and Feedback

The information and recommendation from multi-agency partners will be collated and analysed by a Social Worker for consideration by the Team Manager. The Social Worker will take all of the available multi-agency information and intelligence into account and analyse this in the context of any previous history and the current referral circumstances. The Social Worker will record their analysis, provide a recommended outcome and explain the rationale for this on the MARA form for consideration by the Team Manager.

This will then be transferred to the MASH Team Manager who will:

  • Ensure that case notes are up-to-date;
  • Ensure that the MACA has clear analysis;
  • Review the social worker’s recommended outcome and where appropriate, agree/disagree with this, they will then ensure that the case is passed to the appropriate team for the actions to be completed.

The Triage Manager then reviews the screening outcome and recommendations to agree a course of action. The possible options are as follows:

  • The threshold for social care intervention is not met and no further action is required by either social care or early help; this is generally as a result of unsubstantiated concerns or malicious contacts. Triage then closes the contact down on Liquid Logic and it does not become a referral. The referrer and family will be advised of this action via a letter from CYPS;
  • The threshold for social care intervention is not met but it is identified that the family have additional need that will benefit from support from the Early Help Service. Triage then set up an Early Help Episode and the case is allocated to locality. The referrer and the family will be advised of this via a letter from CYPS;
  • The threshold for social care intervention is clearly met under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 and a statutory single assessment is required. The Triage Team refer the matter to Duty and Assessment / appropriate Social Care Team immediately. The referrer and the family are advised via a letter from the CYPS;
  • The threshold for social care intervention is clearly met under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989 and a child is deemed at risk of significant harm from abuse and / or neglect. A Strategy Discussion / Meeting will be arranged and actions are completed on that day. The case then transfers to the social care team immediately. The referrer and the family are be advised via phone not letter by CYPS;
  • Based on the information received, and any pre-existing records held by CYPS, it is not clear if the statutory “in need” threshold is met. Further information is therefore required to help determine the nature and level of any potential risks and to help decide what action is required and by whom. The MASH then progress the contact to a referral and progress to MASH information sharing (Stage 2).


8. The MASH Process Stage 3 - Multi-Agency MASH Meeting

Where multi-agency partners identify that the presenting issues, background information and chronology for the child is particularly complex a Multi-Agency Meeting should be convened to bring agency/service representatives together to discuss the available information. The structure of the meeting will follow the same format as information sharing request.

Multi Agency MASH Meetings slots are scheduled to take place at 10am and 2pm on a daily basis. The Social Work Team Manager will chair the meeting, minutes will be taken and the analysis and recommendations will be recorded onto the MARA form to become part of the child’s electronic file to be actioned as agreed. All MASH agencies will receive a copy of the MARA for their own records.


9. The MASH Process - Stage 4: Escalation of Decision Making

All multi-agency partners are expected to work together in a collaborative manner to seek agreement about the outcome for the child.

If agreement about the proposed outcome cannot be reached at the Stage 3 meeting, the matter should be escalated to the First Response Service Manager for urgent review.

The MASH Team Manager will coordinate and manage daily activity in the MASH and hold partners to account for delivery. The MASH team manager does not have line management responsibility for any of the co-located staff from other agencies. All staff will continue to be employed and line managed by their own agency.

Should there be concerns about decisions made or conduct within the MASH, staff should seek to resolve these issues themselves, but if not able to, they should inform their line manager. The line manager will engage with the MASH Service Manager and seek to resolve any issues/ disputes.

When the threshold for a Social Work single assessment is met, all social care teams are to progress the MASH recommendations. If there are disputes regarding the MASH recommendations this should be discussed and resolved by the relevant Team Managers. A monthly review meeting will be held chaired by the Head of Service to review all First Response (First Response/MASH/Single Assessment) decision making disputes to ensure any learning is considered and shared with all relevant services both within and external to the MASH.

If it is not possible to resolve the issues the matter should be escalated to the relevant Service Managers so that consideration can be given to the relevant issues and conflicting perspectives in order that a resolution can be reached. Failure to reach a resolution at this stage should prompt an immediate escalation to the relevant Heads of Service and if necessary the Deputy Strategic Director who will make a final decision. This escalation process should be resolved within 1 working day in order to avoid any drift or delay for the children and his/her family.

For further information about resolving disputes, see Practice Resolution Protocol: Resolving Professional Differences of Opinion in Multi-Agency working with Children and their Families.


10. Managerial Oversight

It is the responsibility of the Social Work Team Manager, as the designated decision maker, to:

  • Oversee the First Response and and Triage screening processes to ensure timely responses and throughput of contacts and referrals;
  • Address any outstanding issues of consent;
  • Manage and coordinate the MASH information sharing on a daily basis;
  • Liaise and consult regularly with multi-agency partners, and their line managers where appropriate, and address any specific issues that may arise;
  • Convene and chair MASH Multi Agency Meetings;
  • Ensure that MASH Multi Agency Meeting minutes are recorded and distributed;
  • Agree initial and subsequent RAG ratings;
  • Make clear decisions about outcomes and next steps (e.g. NFA, Early Help, section 17 or Section 47);
  • Ensure that decisions and rationale for them are recorded on Liquid Logic;
  • Process referrals to Early Help Services and Duty and Assessment / Children’s Social Care as necessary and appropriate;
  • Ensure that feedback is provided to the referrer and families;
  • Maintain a daily overview of caseloads, practice standards and performance measures;
  • Dip sample and audit one case per worker per month. All NFA cases will be audited on a monthly basis by the MASH service manager. All Single Assessments resulting in NFA will be audited by the Duty and Assessment Service manager. Feedback will be given to the Deputy Strategic Director on a monthly basis through the performance meetings;
  • Prepare and attend fortnightly Performance Meetings with the Deputy Strategic Director.


11. Action if a Criminal Offence May Have Been Committed

Whenever MASH receive a referral that constitutes, or may constitute, a criminal offence against a child, South Yorkshire Police will always be informed at the earliest opportunity.

In dealing with alleged offences involving a child, the Police work in partnership with Children’s Social Care and/or other agencies. While the responsibility to instigate a criminal investigation rests with the Police, they should consider the views expressed by other agencies. There will be less serious cases where, after discussion, it is agreed that the best interests of the child are served by a Children’s Social Care led intervention rather than a full Police investigation.

For more information see Practice Guidance: Achieving Best Evidence in Criminal Proceedings Guidance on interviewing victims and witnesses, and guidance on using special measures (March 2011).


12. Immediate Protection

Where there is a risk to the life of a child or a likelihood of serious immediate harm, a social worker or the police should use their statutory child protection powers to act immediately to secure the safety of the child.

If it is necessary to remove a child from their home, a local authority must, wherever possible and unless a child’s safety is otherwise at immediate risk, apply for an Emergency Protection Order (EPO). Police powers (Police Protection Order) to remove a child in an emergency should be used only in exceptional circumstances where there is insufficient time to seek an EPO or for reasons relating to the immediate safety of the child. An EPO, made by the court, gives authority to remove a child and places them under the protection of the applicant.

When considering whether emergency action is necessary an agency should always consider the needs of other children in the same household or in the household of an alleged perpetrator.

The local authority in whose area a child is found in circumstances that require emergency action (the host authority) is responsible for taking emergency action.

Planned emergency action will normally take place following an immediate Strategy Discussion.

Social workers and the police should:

  • Initiate a strategy discussion to discuss planned emergency action. Where a single agency has to act immediately, a strategy discussion should take place as soon as possible after action has been taken;
  • See the child (this should be done by a practitioner from the agency taking the emergency action) to decide how best to protect them and whether to seek an EPO; and
  • Wherever possible, obtain legal advice before initiating legal action, in particular when an EPO is being sought.

If a child is in immediate danger and there is no time to discuss the matter with colleagues, a practitioner should phone 999 to access emergency services immediately and then contact their Line Manager to make an immediate referral to Children’s Social Care and the police. A Strategy Discussion or Meeting should follow as soon as possible after the safety of the child has been secured.


13. Children in Specific Circumstances

All contacts and referrals received in relation to Domestic Abuse are reviewed on a daily basis by the MASH within 24 hours (working week) in the multi-agency team (Social Care, Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs), health, police and probation) to assess the risk and formulate a safety / protection plan if the risk is high. This will be referred to MARAC for review. For more information see Safeguarding Children at Risk because of Domestic Abuse Procedure, MARAC. For high risk cases, schools and health practitioners (e.g. GP, health visitor, school nurse, CAMHS etc.) involved with the family are alerted to ensure the child is supported and monitored after witnessing a Domestic Abuse incident the night before.

All contacts and referrals received in relation to reports of children and young people missing from care or home will be reviewed by the Missing Coordinator. If the child is currently an open case to Children’s Social Care the information will be forwarded to the allocated social worker for action. If the child is not an open case and there is additional vulnerability identified, the case may be passed to MASH for multi-agency screening – see Section 5, The MASH Process - Screening. If the threshold for Significant Harm is met, a Strategy Meeting (see Strategy Discussions/Meetings Procedure) will be held to determine if Section 47 Enquiries are required. If the threshold is not met but there are additional vulnerabilities identified for the child, a multi-agency meeting may be held to determine what action should be taken. For more information see Safeguarding Children and Young People who go Missing from Home and Care and Referral Pathway for Children and Young People who go missing.


14. Children Moving Across Boundaries

Where a referral is received regarding a child normally resident in another local authority (responsible authority) area, the local authority in whose area the child is found (the host authority) is responsible for taking any emergency action required to safeguard a child. This includes children who are looked after or subject of a Child Protection Plan. The host authority is also responsible for convening a Strategy Discussion/meeting to establish how a Section 47 Enquiry is to be carried out and who will be responsible. Where agreement cannot be reached between two local authorities, the matter should be referred to Senior Managers within 24 hours of the initial referral.

Only when the responsible authority explicitly accepts responsibility (to be followed up in writing) is the host authority relieved of its responsibility to take emergency action.

Both local authorities should ensure that all agreements are recorded.

Where a child resident within one South Yorkshire authority is found within another South Yorkshire authority in circumstances that warrant emergency action and a Strategy Discussion/Meeting, the originating authority should progress any Section 47 Enquiry/Child's Assessment.

For more information see Children Moving Across Boundaries Procedure.


15. Data Sharing and Fair Processing

All partner agencies have committed and signed up to Rotherham’s MASH Information Sharing Agreement that specifies what data can be shared in the MASH and the legal basis for doing so. All partner agencies are required to ensure that staff are fully trained and aware of their responsibilities under the Data Protection Act 2003. Multi Agency partners and their staff are responsible for ensuring that all information sharing is undertaken in accordance with the Information Commissioner’s Data Sharing Code of Practice.

Section 10 of the Children’s Act 2004 places a duty on key agencies to cooperate to improve the safety and wellbeing of children and young people. This includes the proportionate sharing of information, where appropriate, to facilitate decision making for children and young people. It is the responsibility of all professionals to ensure they are aware of their responsibilities in this regard in order to ensure they are able to respond within the required scales so that children and young people are safeguarded and protected.


Appendices

Appendix A: First Response Process Map

Appendix B: Haringey Judgment (2013)

Appendix C: MASH RAG Rating Descriptors

End