It has long been recognised that for the most vulnerable children, those at risk of going into care, the services that offer support must be provided in a coordinated and ‘joined-up’ way.
This is both because of overlapping problems and needs, with the most frequently cited being the ‘trigger trio’ of substance misuse, domestic abuse, and mental ill-health. But also because the underlying risk factors – poverty, deprivation and wider inequalities – cut across the silos or boundaries of policy and delivery.
Adequately responding to the needs of these children and their families therefore requires partnership working across multiple agencies.
In Wales, improving multi-agency working to support children and families has been a national policy priority at least since 2010 if not before. And yet, evidence suggests that practice falls short of the policy ambition.
We have been working with key agencies in the Cwm Taf Morgannwg (CTM) region to support them to identify how they could improve their multi-agency working to support children and families.
Our aim was to understand statutory requirements, the “maturity” of multi-agency working within the region, and the steps that could be taken to support multi-agency working. We conducted a desk review, spoke to 11 people involved in coordinating and delivering services across CTM, and ran two workshops. These were attended by 34 participants working at a regional level across social services, safeguarding, community safety, police, third sector, the health board, joint commissioning, social care, the third sector, police and the three local authorities.
What did we find? People shared their passion for providing the best offer to communities. They also told us that they are operating in a challenging legislative and political landscape, which generates “too many partnerships” and “too many meetings”. The effort to co-ordinate activities that ‘join-up’ is ‘additional’ and outside core business. Shared leadership, vision and clarity about the respective roles and interaction between Regional Partnership Boards, Public Service Boards, and other strategic bodies is a necessity for this motivated workforce.
WCPP Director of Policy and Practice, Dan Bristow, has published a blog on how policy and legislation has created complex partnership arrangements that are a barrier to effective support for children and families.
Other key areas of interest for our partners in CTM were time and resources to ‘do’ community ownership well, and create a shared understanding of need across the Local Authorities and other agencies. There are examples of work to develop a shared picture, for example through the Population Needs Assessment, but data and intelligence is often siloed within policy domains or regional structures.
We are now exploring whether these findings resonate across other regions in Wales.