Friday, 31 May 2019

Visit to the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub

You see a child in the road where you live who looks neglected and withdrawn. You may notice he or she has some bruising. You wonder if the child is alright. You are concerned and want to help but you are not sure how.  You are in a supermarket car park. You hear a child being shouted and sworn at.  The parent rough-handles the child and you feel worried and want to raise a concern. These are just a couple of examples of situations where our Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) is there to help.

You can make contact with our MASH either by phone 01403 229900 or by email  If you make a telephone contact it goes through to our triage team in Bognor Regis where call handlers treat all enquiries sensitively and sympathetically.
Having been triaged, calls are referred to the MASH in Horsham, where all partners work together to help keep children safe. It is a large team made up of social workers, police, health, specialist Early Help support workers, an emergency out-of-hours team (EDT) and an admin team to help with the smooth-running of the service.

Together with Paul Marshall (Cabinet Member for Children and Young People) and I visited the MASH last Wednesday. In a large open plan office there are various teams made up of particular specialisms, such as Child Protection, Domestic Abuse, Child Mental Health, to name a few, working together.

However it is not only concerned residents/family members who will report into this service.  Teachers, doctors and nurses all use the MASH to raise concerns. This means that the MASH receives around 10,000 calls/ emails/police notifications a month – yes 10,000. All are looked into and dealt with.

It was fascinating to see this important team in action and hear first-hand about the work they do. What was evident was the close collaborative working, which is essential bearing in mind the complexity of some of the cases they deal with.

While visiting, Paul and I attended a strategy meeting following a report a couple of days earlier.  The meeting was made up of representatives from the police, health, social workers. Background information had been gathered following the referral into the MASH and the representatives reported their findings.  Everyone discussing the case had a full picture of the detail and the risks. It was a well- structured meeting focused on finding appropriate intervention to resolve a particular situation. The team all agreed the relevant action to be taken - a reassuring example of the great work taking place every day at the MASH.

The out-of-hours team (Emergency Duty Team) cover evenings, weekends and bank holidays so there is always someone to take a call. I had reason the contact the out-of-hours team over the Bank Holiday after I was made aware of someone in particular need of help.  I was so impressed by how my report was responded to and within a short time the family had been contacted and a plan to give support arranged. Fortunately I was able to meet the EDT manager during my visit so I was able to personally thank them. 

The MASH is known as the front door to Children’s Services.  From first contact, cases could be referred to our Early Help Service or to one of the other specialist teams whether it is to protect a child who needs our help or offer support to families.

In March 2018, Ofsted did a one-off inspection of our MASH noted that it was working well and in the recent Ofsted inspection, there was praise for the service and the work that they do.  I cannot mention the recent inspection without acknowledging the inadequate rating that Children’s services received overall. I want again to reassure residents that we are doing everything we can to make improvements.  I will be visiting other parts of our service in the coming weeks and months to show my support for staff and managers as they make every effort to improve the service the children and families who we support need and deserve.

From my visit I saw dedicated, knowledgeable professional people working to help support and protect children across the county who maybe in crisis or on the tipping point of crisis. Both Paul Marshall and I were very impressed with the work of the MASH so a big thank you to the team for all they do to keep our children safe.

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Climate Change – discussing the future

It is often said that some of the best meetings are those impromptu ones, spur of the moment, maybe a chat round the coffee machine which can be informative and helpful, no agenda but just sharing ideas and thoughts.

That was very much the case last Friday when I met a group of youngsters who had come to County Hall to raise awareness about Climate Change.

As I arrived at County Hall I saw the group sitting in the sunshine outside the building, peacefully protesting and voicing their concerns.

This provided a real opportunity for me to spend some time listening to their very genuine concerns about their future if action is not taken, and also gave them a chance to ask me some great questions – which I was very happy to answer.

I was asked to write to the Education Minister to ask that Climate Change is put on the national curriculum. It was interesting to hear the comment from one of the protestors that they thought that the way the subject is covered at the moment doesn’t convey the seriousness of the issue. So I will be writing this week as promised.

I listened to the concerns about the chemicals used in Fracking and the impacts in West Sussex and was able to reassure the group that there is no fracking in West Sussex.

We talked about cycle lanes in Chichester and how to make public transport more accessible. We also all agreed that plastic food wrapping and the use of plastic shopping bags are completely unnecessary.

We mentioned the Refill scheme as one way to help reduce using plastic bottles and whether WSCC could help make available more recycling bins in towns and buildings.

There was a concern about councillors not listening to the voice of the youngsters on this issue so we agreed to meet again in a couple of months’ time so we can continue to share thoughts, ideas and concerns.

One question I was asked was ‘what worries me’ and of course Climate Change really concerns me. As we sat outside enjoying the warm sunshine it was an ironic reminder of the impact Climate Change is having on our weather patterns. Although many of us like the warmer weather, in the long term the effects of global warming and the lack of rain will have devastating consequences.

In the South East we live in a very water stressed area so it is a very important issue and something that has concerned me for many years now. On a personal level we need water to live our lives - to drink, shower, clean our teeth, and wash our clothes - but on another level without water our food crops fail, the grass becomes dried, and animals do not have enough to eat or drink. In cases of severe drought water is extracted from our rivers but that in turn has a big impact on our environment and wildlife. Everything suffers and that really worries me.

So one of the big things all of us can do is to make a real effort to reduce our water usage, such as cutting down on the time it takes to shower, making sure we don’t leave taps running when cleaning our teeth and washing our hands and dishes – all simple actions that can make a real difference.

When we raise the issue of climate change we must all accept there is a need for every one of us to take urgent action and we will be talking about this more next month when we will be launching a new campaign and asking you to take the ‘West Sussex Climate Pledge’.

As part of the campaign we will be suggesting what you can do to help and also asking you for your top tips as well.

If we all make changes now we should make that difference – the difference that those youngsters want to secure their future.