Children in care often receive support from a range of different services. Cooperation between these professionals and services is required to ensure that children placed in local authority care receive a consistent core offering of support.
What is Multi-Agency Working?
Care experienced children and young people will interact with different professionals and services throughout their lives. Good examples of multi-agency working are when all of these professionals and services communicate effectively with each other to coordinate the support they offer. At the core of multi-agency working is collaboration across services to improve outcomes for the children and young people they support.
Ensuring effective multi-agency working is an ongoing process, involving continuous training and improvement. Agencies should have the opportunity to come together to learn from each other, and better understand the kind of information they each need to best support the children and young people they work with.
Key Factors in Effective Multi-Agency Working
Effective communication between different services is essential to multi-agency working. Always be clear about why you are sharing the information, and make sure that there is a written record of any face-to-face conversations. It is usually best to follow up with an email. If you receive information from somebody else, you should acknowledge that you have received it, and inform them of the result. This kind of feedback will make sure that people know the impact of the information they have shared, and encourage them to continue to do so.
Different services should meet frequently to ensure that information sharing is ongoing. If this is not possible, there should be clear processes for sharing information. Having clear pathways and standardising the process for sharing information will make it easy for individuals to share with other agencies. All terminology should be clearly defined so that all services understand the information that is being shared. This is especially important for language describing risk or vulnerability. If possible, collocating services can improve communication between them.
- Working Relationships Across Services
It is essential that professionals across services have good working relationships. All members of a multi-agency team should feel equally valued in the decision-making process. Everybody should feel able to challenge decisions, and hold each other accountable. This process of discussing decisions will help all members understand the child’s situation, and ensure that the decisions made are appropriate. These relationships should be at all levels of services.
To build these relationships, the multi-agency team should collaborate as far as possible when creating the child’s care plan. Working together from an early stage will allow each agency to clearly understand their role in supporting the child. Without these working relationships, communication can break down, reducing the quality of support the child receives.
The DfE’s Working Together to Safeguard Children guide provides comprehensive guidance on multi-agency working.
Ofsted’s commentary on the guide highlights the importance of effective multi agency working, and how to create an environment in which multi-agency working can flourish.
The NSPCC also have a library of resources related to multi-agency working.
Later this year we'll be taking a more focused look on how to better support children and young people at the Looked After Children and Care Leavers Forum 2021. Insights and expertise will be shared by the Department for Education, Adoption UK, The Fostering Network and many more key leaders and organisations. View the agenda here.