Multi Agency Safeguarding Hubs - MASH


What is MASH?
MASH co-locates safeguarding agencies and their data, into a secure assessment, research and referral unit for notifications of vulnerable children. By providing a fire walled facility (confidential unit), each MASH partner can disclose information securely and proportionately. This is particularly important as failures by partners to share and act on information has impeded effective operational activity to prevent serious harm and death through abuse and neglect. MASH identifies unknown risk by building a full picture on the child of concern and their family.

How is MASH different from a Police Public Protection Desk?
The co-location alongside partners and the Local Authority officer with statutory responsibility for 'safeguarding decision making' reduces delay and allows for earlier recognition of risk. A confidential environment permits earlier information exchange than previously. Agreed thresholds and process support clearer rationale for risk and vulnerability assessment. A fuller information product, at an earlier stage supports interventions by the most appropriate agency.

What key benefits does MASH provide?

  1. Early identification and understanding of risk
  2. Victim identification and intervention
  3. Harm identification and reduction

Who is responsible for MASH?
Safeguarding children is a statutory responsibility of most agencies including police. The Local Authority (LA) has a general duty to safeguard children by virtue of Section 17 Children Act 1989. Section 10 of the Children Act 2004 details the requirements for the LA to make suitable arrangements for co-operation between relevant partners in order to improve the well-being of children in the local authority area. Section 11 the Act creates a duty for agencies to put in place arrangements to safeguard and promote the welfare of children when undertaking their duty. Therefore MASH is implemented upon Local Authority areas.

Why are Police Officers deployed within MASH?
MASH police teams consist of police officers and staff. A sergeant makes decisions for police and leads the team. They are supported by DC/PCs who risk assess and evaluate cases using their professional judgment, training and operational experience to identify risk within MASH intelligence. Police staff research MPS and National intelligence systems. The MASH requires skilled input from police as information must be gathered from a number of sources. Some of these sources are confidential and restricted and great sensitivity and skills are needed in evaluating this intelligence in the context of the MASH enquiry. Some cases may require immediate and parallel operational response or access to higher levels of resource and senior management because of high risk of significant harm to individuals or the organisation.

What is the escalation process within MASH?
Within all partnerships there will be occasions when there is a difference in views as to the level of response required or the status of a particular case. Each local MASH should establish an escalation process and agencies agree to operate within this. Escalation may require the involvement of line managers with responsibility for MASH staff.

Why is MASH in Local Authority (LA) areas?
LAs have statutory responsibility for safeguarding arrangements. It makes sense for LA's to co-ordinate all safeguarding partners and by providing secure premises they meet the needs of the partnership and the public. In London all agencies have agree to these arrangements.

Should police officers from MASH be deployed operationally?
The role is a full time commitment to a confidential process requiring the presence of officers where they have direct access to other agencies to make decisions based upon the fullest information. Time-frames are vital in risk management to support effective operational activity. Abstraction or absence of police officers would undermine the MASH process and create intelligence gaps, incomplete evaluation and introduce risk.

Why is the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) involved in MASH?
The MPS works with partners to reduce crime and safeguard citizens. These responsibilities are both statutory and fundamental to policing objectives. Operational experience, public inquiries and serious case reviews illustrate benefits of effective information sharing and working closely with partner agencies as a means of keeping vulnerable people safer. MASH clarifies responsibilities at an earlier stage and benefits individuals by getting the right level of service to them earlier and in some cases before harm and risk has become critical. Benefits will also be found in reduction in demand for police services where other partners are required and in repeat services as interventions will proportionate to the issue.

Partner agencies are a valuable source of intelligence that if accessed appropriately can assist in reaching policing objectives of reducing crime, protecting the public and keeping the peace.

Does MASH enable operational benefits?
MASH gives police and partners access to information at a much earlier time than all previous arrangements. This is really helpful in providing a fuller intelligence picture to direct operational interventions for police and partner agencies. The MASH has the ability to direct operational activity through each agencies internal mechanism. If a child is identified as at risk then the referral is passed immediately to an investigation team (such as child abuse investigation team (CAIT) or community safety Unit CSU) and emergency police protection can be initiated via Grip and Pace into response policing.

By providing a better quality of information at the earliest stage the most appropriate agency or police unit can be tasked to deal with the case. This will signpost cases to partner agencies that are resourced to deal with matters at hand, this will ensure that one agency takes the lead and has knowledge of all those partners involved with the family this will reduce duplicate and inappropriate responses by various agencies.

Who is responsible and accountable for MASH staff and decisions?
Each MASH partner agency retains responsibility for the management of its personnel (supervision and line management). Performance management is also the responsibility of constituent agencies'. However, MASH is deliberately co-locates agencies so that barriers and silos are reduced and communication is improved. Essentially trust and team work are supported and designed into the MASH environment.

Each agency must decide on the information that they reveal within the MASH and which information from their records can leave the MASH for operational interventions. Decisions will be recorded with supporting rationale by the manager. (Police maker is the MASH sergeant).

Are there links with other multi-agency initiatives?
The MPS is currently scoping and mapping inter-dependencies with Gangs and Integrated Offender Management (IOM). There appear to be links with these multi-agency initiatives; as there are with other schemes such as 'Family Recovery' and 'Troubled Families'. The intention is to identify arrangements to make these partnerships more efficient and effective and to add value between their outputs/interventions and intelligence products and those of MASH.

Why does the MPS support MASH?
London is one of the most diverse, complex and challenging policing environments in the world. The population of over 8 million people with extremes of wealth and poverty in close proximity with 33 Local authority areas, numerous health and educational arrangements and other agencies and organisations providing services. In the past there have been avoidable tragic cases e.g. Victoria Climbie, Peter Connelly where agencies and professionals have actually held the information that identifies the risk but have failed to coordinate and act on it. We have committed to learning lessons from those cases and to improving operational activity and enforcement to protect the vulnerable. MASH enables effective communication across agencies and enables improved service delivery.

Are other areas implementing MASH?
Yes, many areas across the UK are investing in MASH. London and the MPS are amongst the forerunners and the arrangements across the London boroughs have attracted much interest. The London MASH process is seen as a national bench mark and many senior delegations have visited and are advised by our arrangements (e.g. Essex. Thames valley, Kent, Sussex, Suffolk, Norfolk, West Yorkshire, Hertfordshire, Nottinghamshire etc).The London model is based upon the original Devon concept but has been adapted to reflect demand in London.

Has MASH been independently recommended or endorsed?
MASH has been strongly endorsed within the Ofsted report; 'Good Practice by Local Children Safeguarding Boards' and the Munro Review of Child Protection. The House of Commons Home Affairs Committee recommended in its report on 5th June 2013, 'that each LSCB be required to set up a MASH...' The Home Office is supportive of MASH and the Director General Mr. Rimmer has praised the arrangements in Westminster.

When will MASH be extended to include vulnerable adults?
Experience and research has cautioned against widening the remit to vulnerable adults until the MASH process in a local area has developed and imbedded. Safeguarding process in the multi-agency arena is a complex matter and it is considered that unnecessary risks will be introduced if MASH is extended too quickly into adult safeguarding. These risks are in terms of volumes and thresholds of adult referrals, competency and capacity of staff and their managers to deal with the anticipated additional workload. Also, information sharing pathways and processes in relation to adults are less well defined in legislation. Each LA area partnership will need to decide the right time to extend MASH.

Is there any additional training for MASH?
Training material and courses are being developed by specific agencies such as the MPS and by the London Safeguarding Children Board Training Sub-group. The PPD course has been enhanced to reflect the MASH changes. SCO&5 are including MASH staff within the Joint Investigation Course. As each MASH site goes live the MASH Project Team mentors are in attendance to assist.