Multi-agency working and outcomes for children looked after

‘At risk’ children and families will frequently interact with multiple agencies and services. It has been a long-held aspiration that these bodies and the services that they provide are better coordinated and, moreover, centred on the people that they are seeking to help. With other work focusing on the factors that lead to children being in care and the uniqueness of issues and pathways of children in care, this review seeks to advance the topic by analysing how multi-agency working in children’s services can lead to positive outcomes. This is predicated on an understanding that greater coordination and coherence can lead to improved outcomes for children and their families.

As a result, multi-agency working has been discussed both academically and by governments around the world as a key driver in improving the children’s social care system. In the UK, multi- agency working has been a focus for children’s services since the 1980s. In Wales, there is an extensive policy framework that buttresses multi- agency working for children, which includes programmes such as Families First, legislation such as the Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Act, inspection frameworks from Care Inspectorate Wales, and a Ministerial Advisory Group on Improving Outcomes for Children.

This briefing note seeks to draw together insights from academic and grey literature to connect multi-agency working and outcomes for children looked after. Seventy-five studies were reviewed, most from the UK, although there was relevant evidence from other countries, such as Portugal, Australia, and New Zealand. These studies also cover a range of specific needs, such as children with disabilities, but also young children and children in vulnerable situations.

We explore the factors that the literature shows can increase the effectiveness of multi- agency working in children’s services and what that effectiveness can mean in terms of outcomes for children in care and their families.