Rochdale Borough Council has joined forces with Greater Manchester Police and NHS Heywood, Middleton & Rochdale to launch a new way of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of vulnerable children and young people in the borough.
The Multi-Agency Screening Service (MASS) aims to ensure the highest level of communication, understanding and analysis of safeguarding intelligence and information within the organisations responsible for keeping children safe.
It will be run by representatives from children’s social care, the police, health workers and early help advisors, supported by the youth offending team, probation, housing and education welfare services.
Once launched, the MASS will identify and assess the needs of children and young people as soon as a concern is raised by a fellow professional or member of the public. Decisions about the next steps will then be taken based on the professional expertise and the information available to each agency. This will ensure that any activity to protect or intervene on a child’s behalf is appropriate, timely and proportionate.
The MASS will also offer advice and support, and act as a ‘broker’ on behalf of the person making the enquiry to ensure they receive a response from the right people without delay.
Gail Hopper, Director of Children’s Services at Rochdale Borough Council, said: “The MASS will identify any need, harm or risk to a child as early as possible, and provide a more consistent, timely and unified response to welfare and safeguarding concerns.
“At the core of the MASS is a greatly enhanced level of collaboration and communication with our partners, and we are confident that this type of joined-up working will create a more effective system for keeping our children and young people safe.”
Mrs Lesley Mort, Chief Officer of NHS Heywood, Middleton & Rochdale, said: “Too often, the gaps and boundaries between agencies are highlighted as the reasons why vulnerable children and young people aren‘t protected as well as they should be – too often, the intelligence gathered by individual agencies is lost and not passed on appropriately.
“In Rochdale we have been determined to plug these gaps. The health sector in Rochdale borough is confident that this is a more efficient approach to dealing with concerns and cases, and will result in better protection for local children and young people.“
Superintendent Alistair Mallen from the Rochdale division, GMP said: “The embedding of our specialist Public Protection police officers within the MASS will ensure crucial information in relation to the safeguarding of vulnerable children and adults within Rochdale will be shared and assessed in a dynamic way.
“The MASS builds on local arrangements already in place in order to identify the risk of harm at the earliest possible stage and take preventative measures, including getting the right service, to the right people, at the right time.”
Anyone who has a concern about a child can contact the MASS by phone on 0845 226 5570; by fax on 0844 963 2483 or by email: Crossfieldcc@rochdale.gov.uk
The Improvement Board
The introduction of the MASS is part of a series of improvements made following the Improvement Notice served to Rochdale Council’s children’s services by the Secretary of State in November 2012.
To address this, a multi-agency Improvement Board was established, with an Independent Chair, and a multi-agency improvement plan was developed. Delivery of this plan is overseen by the Improvement Board, which meets monthly to ensure that all aspects of the plan are on-target.
The Board consists of senior officers and lead members of a wide range of agencies that are involved in helping and protecting children in the borough, including council services, the Department for Education, NHS, the Police, Probation and schools.
The Safeguarding Children Peer Review
In September 2013, an independent review of children’s services by senior leaders and councillors from several local authorities recognised the progress made by council and its partners despite significant internal and external challenges.
The Safeguarding Children Peer Review noted that members and senior managers were totally committed to driving improvement and acknowledged an impressive and committed workforce across the partnership.
The review also concluded that the council and partners were fully aware of the challenges and what needed to be done to improve the service, and that the partnership has moved forward at a strategic level with some good examples of partnership working at the front-line.
This was particularly highlighted by what the review called the ‘exemplar practice’ of the Sunrise Team, a multi-agency team created to specifically target and deal with child sexual exploitation.