Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hubs (MASH)

Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hubs (MASH)

Summary

From February 2024, we are commissioning University College London (UCL) and Newcastle University to conduct an implementation and process evaluation (IPE) looking at Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hubs (MASH)* and other similar multi-agency integrated front-door services within children’s social care.

This work is funded by the Department for Education and Home Office. The findings from this work will be used to help inform future policy decisions around Working Together to Safeguard Children in 2024.

*While these multi-agency front door services sometimes go by the name MASH, similar structures are also known as Integrated Front Doors, Single Point of Access or Children’s and Family Hubs. We use the shorthand ‘MASH’ to talk about the whole range of multi-agency front door systems in children’s services.

Who, what, why and how?

MASH deal with incoming contacts and referrals about children and young people who have prompted safeguarding or child protection concerns and, in some cases, may also act as a route to Family Support (previously Early Help and Child in Need). The fundamental principle of a MASH is to bring key professionals together to facilitate better-quality information sharing, analysis, and decision-making to identify risks and needs of these children at the earliest possible point and respond with effective and joined-up actions. Professionals in a MASH will decide whether a child and family will be best supported through universal services (e.g. schools, health visitors), Family Support or child protection services.

MASH in England are highly variable in implementation, components, tailoring and contexts, with all elements interacting to influence service delivery and outcomes. Additionally, the context in which MASH models work will vary across England, with differences in risk and need in local populations, infrastructure (e.g. information systems) and wider support services for families. MASH is a widespread example of interagency working across English local authorities and a policy priority. However, its practices are not well understood or evaluated.

Research Questions

This evaluation aims to understand and explain how and why MASH contribute to better outcomes for children, young people, and their families. In doing so, it seeks to inform local practice.

As part of this evaluation, UCL and Newcastle University will develop an initial programme theory and logic model using prior research on MASH. The programme theory and logic model will be tested and refined in three sites by analysing practitioner and service manager perceptions and experiences of MASH in their local area, and young persons’ and parents’ experience and views of referrals to and assessments from children’s social care. The evaluation will also test the generalisability of the findings with a wider group of stakeholders through a workshop.

What this evaluation can tell us

The IPE should be able to tell us:

  1. What are the common components, functions or features of a MASH?
  2. What is the perceived impact? What do practitioners, service managers, young people and their parents think about whether MASH works and why it works?
  3. In what contexts do people perceive MASH working or not working, and why?
  4. What are the primary mechanisms by which we expect MASH to work?
  5. What is the place of feedback loops, audits, and quality improvements?
  6. If this a MASH works, what outcomes would we expect to see?

The IPE will also take into consideration ideas around equality, diversity, inclusion and equity (EDIE), such as how MASH works for families from minoritised ethnic backgrounds. The findings will be used to inform principles of practice for MASH for local adaptation and implementation through discussion with the national MASH Steering Group.

What this evaluation cannot tell us

This study is qualitative. It is not an impact evaluation and will not be able to conclude whether MASH does or does not work to improve child or service outcomes. However, this evaluation will help form the foundation for future impact evaluations. By conducting this evaluation in one year, the findings will be able to be used to help inform future policy decisions around Working Together to Safeguard Children in 2024.

SHARE

Related Projects

Use of evidence-based tools and guidance in service design and commissioning

COACHES: Child and Mental Health Services (CAMHS) Referrals and Outcomes for Adolescents and Children with Social Workers