In order to address the needs of at-risk children, and make timely decisions on when to intervene, agencies and social practitioners require accurate and up-to-date information about their lives. This isn’t always possible as agencies from different sectors do not often interact – meaning that vital details about children are never shared.
To bridge this interaction gap, many local authorities have set up so-called Multi Agency Safeguarding Hubs (MASH groups). Made up of professionals from a variety of backgrounds, such as police, education and mental health, these collaborate together to protect children.
Whilst many local areas with MASH groups have seen significant and positive results that have “led to high quality and timely safeguarding responses” (Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing), another issue has arisen – a lack of consistent, timely and effective data sharing between MASH stakeholders due to technological, cultural and data privacy barriers.
Data sharing barriers between MASH stakeholders
A government study of 37 local areas, involving expert panels and a questionnaire of professionals was carried out to understand what is causing inefficiency in MASH groups. The results revealed that the key barrier in effective data sharing is miscommunication between leaders about what information is allowed to be shared. More specifically:
- Many felt that information is being withheld too frequently, even though there is an understanding that a fine balance must be achieved.
- The risk of data sharing in MASH groups is perceived to be higher than it actually is.
- Members feel that there is a lack of guidance and legal information available.
- The vulnerability of the people involved causes anxieties and makes practitioners unsure about what information can be exchanged between groups.
Overall, MASH stakeholders are not given enough guidance on what information can and cannot be shared. Without all of the facts, figures and information, practitioners are left unarmed and incapable of making time-sensitive decisions about how to protect children.
How can MASH stakeholders communicate and operate more effectively?
To fix this lack of collaboration, a system must be in place that automates the information sharing process and ensures the greatest possible accuracy, data protection and real-time visibility of that information.
Many organisations misinterpret this as a need for a new case management system that all MASH stakeholders can access. However, with a constrain on budgets where one in ten councils are cutting social care spending by a quarter, and the prevalence of culture barriers where workers simply do not have the time or inclination to learn a new system, this is not the most effective solution.
However, another way to plug this gap is to use Master Data Management (MDM), which is becoming a rapidly recognised technology in achieving effective data sharing between MASH groups, as well as between disparate systems that hold vital information about vulnerable children.
MDM pulls information from separate databases and creates a single view of the citizen or household. It uses sophisticated algorithms to match records, so that there are no duplicates or data inaccuracies. What’s more, it works with an organisation’s existing CRM or case management system; allowing practitioners to access the information they need directly from the case management systems which they already use on a daily basis, without any large scale investment, additional training or administrative work.
The MDM solution eradicates practitioner’s anxieties about what information to share as responsibilities for data stewardship are left in the hands of nominated experts, and the sharing itself is real-time, accurate and therefore trusted.
To understand more about how MDM is accelerating early intervention, protecting vulnerable children and reducing costs in the child social care sector, read our guide below.