Multi Agency Integration – a challenge?

By Nigel Boulton

Since leaving policing some four years ago I have been involved through my company with safeguarding professionals across all types of organisations. My work has involved intelligence-led safeguarding, inter professional practice and my own baby, Multi Agency Safeguarding Hubs, which are commonly known as MASH.

To anyone who’s prepared to listen I’ve been evangelical about pursuing my vision for intelligence-led safeguarding through closer integrated working. My passion is how this can achieve a fundamental shift in safeguarding and early intervention practice.

As I’ve forged my vision of the MASH and taken it to countless organisations, I’ve been flattered and somewhat amused when asked if I have a social work background and if so “was it before or after my policing career?” I am as all ex cops say “just a cop” or in my case “was a cop”.

Career in policing

I never dreamt of a career in policing, my mother must bear that responsibility. Always being one step ahead of me, she thought a good job in a uniform would be infinitely better than a winter season in the Alps climbing mountains with some university climbing club. I don’t recall the debate with her at the time, but she had a point and set me on a roller coaster ride that spanned 31 amazing years.

Over the years I climbed the managerial ladder and gained too much experience of homicide along with the murky worlds of intelligence and surveillance. Everything I did, however, varied greatly in whatever part of the world I was lucky enough to serve.

A focus on the victim

Focussing on the victim became a mantra during my managerial days. Later, in my lectures, I used to insist that the audience of budding detectives look out the classroom window to remind themselves why they were there – of course, the answer was the public and victims.

This victim-centric view of policing was not always in tune with colleagues, managers or others in the criminal justice world where offenders were (and often still are) the focus. I suffered the misguided performance regimes of countless senior leaders and politicians. Some policing practice I witnessed in my young and inexperienced days has shaped my intellectual, ethical and moral thinking of the present.

Shrink together

I realised over the years that no one organisation can succeed alone to identify and reduce harm and I now fervently believe that all public sector practice needs to come much closer together, while retaining its individual identity. In these times of austerity or post austerity, the public sector, if it has to shrink, should work out how to shrink together with each organisation, ie the police, children’s services, adult social care etc. To do this effectively means identifying priorities together and delivering truly integrated public sector reform.

We need safeguarding and early intervention delivery to change in this way so we deliver the excellence of practice that is required. This excellence of practice needs to evolve, with some speed, into excellent and truly integrated inter professional practice.

Standing still is untenable

My opportunity and challenge is to be a part of a conversation about our safeguarding practice, the multi agency structures we currently have and the vision for the future we need to aspire to. Standing still is untenable. We know it doesn’t work.

The challenge to those who read my musings is to engage in the conversation and the practice changes required. No politics, no egos, just practice-based views and change for the benefit of potential victims in the future. If we work together you never know what might come of it!