It’s self-evident that people not talking to each other is counterproductive. And, in the world of children’s services, it’s been said many times (and ought to be again, lest we forget): not talking to each other sometimes leads to disastrous consequences, of which little Victoria Climbie’s death will forever be a sad example.
So, the multi-agency approach to supporting children, young people and families with extra help, early, makes perfect sense. It’s the most obvious way for children’s professionals to avoid ‘talking past each other’, and gives them vital information that helps them co-ordinate their actions around children’s and families’ needs, so they can reach common understandings. This approach is putting the ‘swift and easy’ into families’ access to services, which will allow agencies to go that extra mile for them. And, because families are involved in multi-agency discussions and decisions, the days of people feeling ‘done to’ are, hopefully, coming to an end.
A point made by Casey Stengel, a famous baseball player, however, might well apply to multi-agency working: ‘Gettin’ good players is easy. Gettin’ ‘em to play together is the hard part’. While children’s professionals of all hues are learning how to communicate with and understand each other better, and to work systematically, the hard part of multi-agency work is also being supported and driven forward by: co-ordinated, regular analyses of the needs of vulnerable people in schools and communities; using up-to-date data; using the new and evolving tool called the common assessment framework (CAF); and the expertise of people in ‘lead professional’ positions, whose clearly defined role is to support, lead and co-ordinate this collaboration between children’s services practitioners.
In this way, families are being helped to be more receptive to early assistance and to take a more active role themselves by working alongside professionals to find solutions that make sense to them.
This Know How shows how leaders and staff in extended/community focused schools and children’s centres (in meeting the high-level challenges set out in the national agendas for children’s well-being and the children’s workforces in each UK country) can use multi-agency approaches to identify and meet vulnerable children’s, young people’s and families’ needs, through building productive relationships with all agencies and professionals that deliver children’s services.
Multi-agency working models
Multi-agency working has been developing in the UK for several years and there are many variations in its structure, management and focus. Three models have been identified:
Multi-agency panels Here, practitioners remain employed by their home agencies; panels meet regularly to discuss children with additional needs who would benefit from multi-agency input. Sometimes, casework is carried out by panel members. Some panels take a more strategic role: for example, youth inclusion and support panels.
Multi-agency teams More formal than panels, and practitioners are seconded or recruited into these teams, which have leaders and work to a common purpose and goals. Practitioners may maintain links with their home agencies through supervision and training and may work with universal services, at several levels: for example, behaviour and education support teams or youth offending teams.
Integrated services A range of services share a common location or service hub and work together for the community; the management structure facilitates integrated service delivery with a commitment by partner providers to fund/facilitate it. Early years settings and extended/community focused schools offering access to a range of integrated, multi-agency services use this approach.
What does multi-agency working involve?
The common assessment framework (CAF) The CAF helps practitioners identify a child’s or young...