MAST (Multi Agency Safeguarding Tracker)
A Data Driven Approach to Multi-Agency Safeguarding
Data for Good Initiative of the Year:
Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council
To enable key services to quickly and easily identify a person that may require key support or services, to reduce the potential of them falling into the social care system at all or further – such as a vulnerable person or child in care. Using key demographic identifiers, frontline responders can access historic and ongoing interventions to support and recognise the need to act before a person is defined as ‘at risk’, thus reducing the pressures on social care and other public sector services.
A partnership between Walsall Metropolitan Borough Council (Adults, Childrens and Public Health) alongside Walsall NHS Healthcare Trust, West Midlands Police and West Midlands Fire Service to automate information sharing to improve the safeguarding of both adults and children.
These organisations are giving the project oversight and input to ensure what is developed in the West Midlands will be replicable and valuable elsewhere.
Councils have a responsibility to safeguard their vulnerable residents, but too often vulnerability is identified too late. Safeguarding teams can’t easily see if someone they are working with has had interactions with other services or agencies. The consequences in adult social care can be costly, in domestic violence deadly.
There is a legitimate interest in sharing this data to better coordinate multi-partner approaches and to support those most vulnerable within our communities. New smart approaches to data management can overcome legitimate security and data governance concerns. Information can be easily and securely shared, matched and anonymised, and by limiting access to the necessary information to only authorised parties, this approach sits squarely within the GDPR regulations and wider requirements as demanded by the Data Protection Act 2018.
The platform aims to develop and deliver an agreed approach to:
- data governance for safeguarding purposes
- data transfer, data management and information security
- automated data matching and subsequent anonymisation
- user research on an authorised, restricted and audited data access
The ability to pool datasets across partners securely and in a repeatable way has long been a goal of local authorities and the technical partner Policy in Practice (see more below). By restricting the scope of the project to record only the most recent contact with a given agency, the single safeguarding hub will develop a secure, easy-to-access and trusted approach to data sharing, that will allow safeguarding staff to quickly see if there has been any interaction with other services and co-ordinate where appropriate.
The key strands of development will cover:
- Data anonymisation
- Building of underlying algorithms and triggers
- Authenticated access
- Search functionality
- Interface & usability
The resulting service will save money, save lives, and become the backbone of a local area’s approach to data management, while reducing current social care and safeguarding pressures through a more intelligent method of delivering the right information to the right service at the right time.
The business case for pooling datasets across organisations either for safeguarding, prevention of crime or cost management reasons is well established:
- Anonymised analytics in this space can help councils better understand changing demand and offer a consistent approach
- By combining these datasets over a period of time there is the potential to understand the types of households or families that are likely to progress into escalated safeguarding issues,
- By developing predictors, best practices can be established for prevention and give a true sense of direct and indirect cost avoidance.
- This approach is supportive of MASHs and Child Protection information sharing initiatives but removes the information sharing barriers that these initiatives can suffer from
This project will look to build and test the business case as well as produce clear metrics that other areas of the country can review before choosing to implement MAST in their own geography.
MAST CASE STUDY
West Midlands Police were called out to a domestic violence case, in this instance they were made aware of repeated calls from a neighbour about concerns at the address. What they were not able to access by the time of arrival at the scene was any additional information, e.g.: previous concerns raised at this address by public sector partners, which would have helped them assess the situation in real time and better support their response.
Pre-recognition of needs or activities is a key role in these situations, and we are sure everyone understands the impact this might have on a vulnerable person, as well as the benefits to the wider community and the public purse.
SAFEGUARDING & THE IMPACT OF THE PANDEMIC
More widely, the pandemic has brought additional pressure to the safeguarding system. The total number of serious incident notifications during the first half of 2020-21 increased by 27% on the same period in 2019-20. This follows a decrease between 2018-19 and 2019-20.
- Number of serious incident notifications during the first half of 2020-21, 27% more than the same period in 2019-20
- Number of serious incident notifications relating to child deaths, 89 more than the same period in 2019/20
- 36% serious incident notifications of incidents relate to children under age 1
- 15% increase in safeguarding concerns raised during 2019/20
- 13% increase in Section 42 enquiries commenced during 2019/20
- 32% of Section 42 enquiries relating to neglect and acts of omission
TECHNICAL PARTNERS: POLICY IN PRACTICE
Policy in Practice is a socially-minded software company that works with councils, government, housing and community organisations to target and improve welfare support and public services. Combining cutting-edge technology, insightful data and expert analysis, Policy in Practice helps organisations to understand what’s working, what can be improved, and how.
The approach will build on Policy in Practice’s data analytics platform that delivers analytics on longitudinal administrative data from more than fifty councils for policymakers and authorised frontline staff. The platform is currently helping councils to identify key groups impacted by the measures put in place to contain COVID-19.
These insights (shown visually here) have been used by senior leadership teams planning their response to households hit by COVID-19, and delivered targeted income maximisation support to vulnerable adults, helping people get back on their feet faster.
Policy in Practice developed an award winning Benefit and Budgeting calculator, which helps around 10,000 people every day find out what support they may be eligible for. However on this project it is their data analytics services, which help organisations find relationships in datasets and visualise the drivers of poverty to deliver positive change, which will be put to use.
Case Studies: http://policyinpractice.co.uk/case-studies/
CO-DESIGN & CO-FUNDING APPROACH
Each of the participating partners has co-funded this project, with match funding from NHS Digital, via the Local Government Association’s Social Care Digital Innovation Accelerator 2020/21.
MAST is a data driven solution that allows all partners with mandatory responsibility for safeguarding to securely share headline data, underpinned by a documented information governance structure.
To date, the project has successfully delivered a reusable information governance framework, undertaken significant partner engagement as well as data identification and matching work. Over 100,000 records have been successfully brought into the system and matched with significant results.
Feedback from safeguarding professionals so far:
- “It’s not replacing our professional judgement, it’s just helping us to know when our professional judgement needs to be applied.”
- “We’ve been interested in ways of doing this better for ten years, it’s great that it’s finally happening.”
This project is currently in the final development phase with testing and deployment in the West Midlands scheduled for June 2021. There is already significant work to showcase around data matching success, multi-agency engagement and information governance, and we are currently demonstrating the platform with other organisations keen to deploy the system to support their regional safeguarding approach.
Please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org should you have any questions on this project or want to schedule a demonstration – you can also find a project case study on the Local Government Association’s website.