3.15 Framework to Support Multi-agency Working Together in Norfolk

1. Introduction

The relationship between core agencies in safeguarding vulnerable children is crucial
Working Together to Safeguard Children (2023) sets out the shared duty of everyone who works with children having a responsibility to keep them safe.

No single practitioner can have a full picture of a child’s needs and circumstances and, if children and families are to receive the right help at the right time, everyone who comes into contact with them has a role to play in identifying concerns, sharing information and taking prompt action (taken from WT2023 p18). This means we need to be working together effectively.

The following framework has been developed to support multiagency professionals in working together. It ensures that practice is collaborative, curious, reflective and supportive of good quality decision-making in the best interests of children.

Framework to Support Multi-agency Working Together in Norfolk

2. Joint Assessments and everyday collaborative working

Joint assessment and collaborative working between professionals are fundamental to all safeguarding practice.

The professionals around a child should expect to talk to each other, especially if they notice anything unusual or have any worries they want to talk through.

All professionals should ensure that the other agencies around the child have their contact details, including telephone and email, to ensure that they can be notified if anything changes that they should know about, and to support collaborative working together. When not available due to leave or out of the office for any length of time then a second point of contact should be placed on their out of office reply so as not to hinder communication.

Where a lead worker is identified to undertake an assessment with the consent of the child and family, they should work with all those who are seeing the child in a professional capacity.

However, those professionals around the child should not wait for the lead worker to contact them if they have information to contribute to an assessment and should always make contact with the lead worker if they have any issues they want to raise or discuss.

Where meetings are arranged to support planning for children, all professionals directly involved with the child should be invited, unless the child or family feel they do not want them to attend. Where this happens, it should not stop the lead from talking to those professionals to ensure their views can be represented. If parents do not want professionals included in the meeting this should be recorded in the minutes and participants of the group should consider this as a safeguarding concern and agree a plan to manage non engagement and review thresholds.

‘Fears about sharing information must not be allowed to stand in the way of the need to promote the welfare, and protect the safety, of children, which must always be the paramount concern’. (WT2018, p19)

Consideration should be given to undertaking joint visits where this would promote healthy working relationships, to introduce new workers or to help allay any parental fears about professional’s involvement in their life.

Joint visits and assessments for children under 5 between Children’s Services and Health Visitors/Midwifes is already common practice, supported by the NSCP protocol.

3. Locality Based Reflective Practice Discussions

Reflective practice discussions involve taking the time to ‘think about’ and ‘reflect upon’ what we do within our everyday practice. Actively reflecting on your work is vital for improving self-awareness, learning, professional development & provides the opportunity to be trauma informed.

The process of reflection alongside others helps the workforce think analytically about anything relating to their professional practice with the intention of gaining insight and learning to maintain good practice, gain confidence and recognise opportunities for development.

Action learning sets are used to structure reflective group discussions and foster learning in the workplace. It is a process which involves working on real challenges, using the knowledge and skills of a small group of people combined with good questioning, to produce fresh ideas and reinterpret familiar concepts, whilst also providing a safe space to talk about the emotional impact of safeguarding. The emphasis is upon giving everyone time to make use of the collective experience, insight and support from their peer group.

The action learning set cycle involves a group of practitioners coming together to work through a challenge, situation or new opportunity within their practice. The cycle begins with a group member presenting an issue to reflect upon, followed by others within the group asking further questions that seek clarification, probe and support potential action.  Subsequently, the group reflects upon what they have heard giving ideas & their reflections.  Lastly, the group member presenting the issue reflects upon what they have heard and discusses what actions and learning they intend to take forward.

Reflective practice groups do not replace the function of professional or case supervision. It is a space to ‘slow think’, share practice ideas, resources & knowledge through group conversation.  Discussion within groups can be thematic or involve anonymous case discussion.  The group does not make decisions or task participants with actions, although supports self-directed actions from learning acquired through reflection.

The NSCP supports professionals from varying disciplines to come together to establish reflective practice groups. Opportunities to join or form a reflective practice group are available on the NSCP website.

4. Joint Agency Group Supervision

The purpose of joint agency group supervision across is to provide a mechanism to reflect on cases which are very complex, feel ‘stuck’, or are drifting.

Joint supervision provides a reflective space for joint analysis of assessment information, an opportunity to explore what professionals know about the lived experience of the child and should help strengthen the relationship between professionals who are working together with families to secure the best outcomes for children.

Joint supervision is not about sharing new information or making case decisions. Norfolk uses the Signs of Safety as it’s practice framework and within this there is a restorative commitment to children and families to include them in all meetings and ensure they are given full opportunity to understand concerns and make their own plans to safeguard their child/children before professionals impose theirs. The request of children and families can be summarised as: ‘nothing about us, without us’ and should be adhered to in accordance with the principles of the Children Act (1989).

We should always be working transparently with children and families. However, this should not prevent professionals meeting for group supervision, to reflect on the progress of a child’s plan and what they might do differently to better work alongside the family in supporting them to achieve their goals for the child where this is required.

Where there are serious concerns which place a child, young person or their families at immediate risk of harm a Section 47 Strategy meeting should be convened to discuss the concerns and make a plan to keep the child safe.

All participants of the group should be made aware before supervision starts that the content of the discussions will be recorded in minutes and that the minutes will be shared in the event of a subject access request being made by a parent/carer.

Further guidance is available on NSCP website.

5. Resolving Professional Disagreements

(Please refer to NSCP Protocol 10.2 Resolving Professional Disagreements)

All agencies are responsible for ensuring their staff are competent and supported to escalate appropriately intra and inter-agency concerns and disagreements about a child’s wellbeing. Professional disagreements should be seen as part of ‘healthy’ professional working relationships and practitioners should be encouraged to give or receive professional challenge in a constructive and positive way. Professional disputes between agencies should be addressed in timely manner and should not result in a loss of focus on the child or placing the child at increased risk of significant harm. Most disagreements should and can be resolved between the staff working directly with the child and the principles of Signs of Safety (SofS) should be adopted in the management of all professional disagreements to ensure the process is transparent and robust. Clear records should be kept of disagreements and resolutions reached by all parties.

  • Stage One: Direct Professional to Professional Discussion.
  • Stage Two: Direct First Line Manager to First Line Manager
  • Stage Three: Senior Manager to Senior Manager
  • Stage Four: Norfolk Safeguarding Children Partnership (NSCP) Resolution Panel chaired by the NSCP Independent Chair.