Most things are socially defined by what people say or do, or how they are in their social groups and teams.
Through the eyes of a child, all professionals “are all simply adults with authority”. They do not necessarily see or understand professional training, status, qualifications or experience. They also do not necessarily understand the complexities involved in keeping them safe from harm or support delivered through partnership arrangements.
So, when working for children it is they who must come first, not professional differences, status and definitely not political issues.
Working together is a requirement for professionals working with children, young people and their families; those who have particular responsibilities for safeguarding children; and those who undertake section 47 enquiries under the Children Act 1989 or who work with complex cases.
As professionals we are being schooled into the discipline of our individual professions and with relevant training and mentoring and guidance from our supervisors we grow into our roles. It is for example important for social workers to understand the sociology of family life and psychology of family interactions as well as child and adult behaviour.
Similarly, it is crucial that health visitors know current theories of child development that teachers understand the theories and models of how children learn, that doctors understand the fine details of the biology and physiology of the child, and that the police know the laws of the land and how to uphold them.
As professionals we cannot know it all and must own, nurture and treasure our knowledge-base and skills. But we also have to respect that others are educated into a different way of “seeing”, which is just as valid as our own, and can offer insights that we might not otherwise see or have considered.
In the current climate of change and uncertainty it is more important than ever to look at what we do and what we do well, and take some control of what we need to improve, locally. The implementation and embedding of the MASH model and connected business areas in practice ensures an effective multi-agency response. Moreover, it requires that practitioners and their managers who have been schooled in a single discipline can appreciate and understand the basis of other disciplines, and acknowledge alternative ways of seeing.
To effect real change on the ground and on the frontline a whole systems view is essential within any partnership arrangement. In my experience, working with individual teams in isolation can mean opportunities for greater effectiveness and efficiency are missed and some solutions can have knock-on consequences that may not be identified at an individual level.
Policies, legislation, structures and procedures are of immense importance, but they serve only as the means of securing better life opportunities for each young person. It is the robust and consistent implementation of these policies and procedures which keeps children and young people safe.
More importantly in my view, it is the MASH model that delivers the confidence and trust required by partnerships and has removed the inhibitors to professionals sharing information about children. MASH therefore ensures that concerns are seen, assessed, and correctly understood early. Victims and Children are seen and heard. The model ensures involvement of professionals, early intervention, and prevention strategies are necessary and proportionate. It also allows us to re visit why we do the job we do and claims back some professional identity in an ever changing world; whilst working in a team in a partnership arrangement.
By Marisa De Jager