Release date: 11 May 2018
The significant work carried out to develop the county’s Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) for children has been recognised in a recent Ofsted inspection.
The MASH is designed to be the first place a professional or resident can turn to if they have a concern over the safety and wellbeing of a child and is made up of a wide range of partners, including West Sussex County Council, Sussex Police and Health.
The recent Ofsted inspection in March reviewed the Local Authority’s arrangements for contacts and referrals into the MASH and thresholds for early help, children in need and those in need of protection.
Inspectors reviewed a range of evidence, including children’s case records, case discussions with social workers and managers, and supervision files.
Within the report, the Ofsted Inspector highlights: “Since the last inspection of children’s services in 2015, there has been significant work across the partnership to develop the multi-agency safeguarding hub.
“Partners benefit from being co-located, with greater opportunity for joint working, though not all information sharing is effective yet.
“The integrated prevention and earliest help service is an integral part of the MASH and provides an accessible point of contact for children, families and professionals.
“This means that many children get support before their needs escalate. The MASH provides a timely and child-focused response to children at risk of harm.”
Other highlights noted in the report include; timely decisions and decisive action to protect children at risk of harm; the newly formed senior leadership team is clear about the work needed to secure improvement; strategy meetings held in the MASH ensure a joined-up response to concerns regarding children’s welfare; and partners have responded effectively, committing additional resource and offering solutions to support improvements.
Staff spoken to by inspectors were positive about working for West Sussex. They said they felt well supported by managers and have access to training and development opportunities.
Stephen Hillier, County Council Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said: “The MASH is still in its infancy as it was first launched in 2016 after it was recognised that there was a need for a new joined up system with partners across health, social care and police.
“I have seen the hard work which has gone into improving the service and I am always proud to see how much passion the staff have for their work and their desire to protect our children across the county.
“So having the Ofsted inspectors recognise the amount of work which the team has put in is really significant. We are not under any illusion that the hard work is over as there is more to be done but it is important to recognise the accomplishments along the way.”
The Ofsted report noted more work was needed to provide an efficient service for all children; observing that systems are over-complex, with too much duplication and too many decision-making points. It also said that some children in need wait too long to get help and ‘this has been more evident in recent weeks, when the service has experienced additional pressures’.
Inspectors also recognised that the current MASH Improvement Plan had already identified areas for improvement and all safeguarding partners had taken action to address these.
To view the report, visit https://reports.ofsted.gov.uk/local-authorities/west-sussex.