The Multi-Agency Safeguarding Tracker creates a data driven digital approach enabling information from multiple safeguarding bodies to be easily and securely shared, matched and anonymised. 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.
- Safeguarding is everyone’s business.
- To make this happen, appropriate information sharing between statutory partners is critical.
- Intelligent matching and use of data ensure professionals access the right contact information at the right time.
- Other councils and safeguarding agencies can now adopt the co-production approach and solution taken by Walsall Council and police, health, and fire service partners in the West Midlands.
The context of multi-agency safeguarding and information sharing
Councils have a responsibility to safeguard their vulnerable residents, but too often vulnerability is identified too late. Safeguarding teams cannot easily see if someone they are working with has had interactions with other services or agencies. The consequences across the safeguarding system can be costly; in domestic violence cases this can often be deadly.
Every serious case review cites the lack of information sharing as a criticism of the safeguarding system. With each safeguarding body having their own IT system and processes, there is no way for a safeguarding professional to quickly see whether a person is known to other safeguarding partners, when the last intervention from a partner happened, and/or who to contact about it.
There is a legitimate interest in sharing safeguarding data to better coordinate multi-partner approaches and support those most vulnerable within our communities. MAST creates a data driven digital approach enabling information from multiple safeguarding bodies to be easily and securely shared, matched and anonymised. 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.
This project involving multiple partner organisations used a collaborative approach, where the principles of co-design were applied to identify the data common to all parties that could be shared. It does not seek to replace the professional judgement of social workers or share case details. It simply gives safeguarding professionals across a dedicated area insight into the activity that has taken place with a person or address. The name and contact details of the safeguarding lead or case worker involved at each partnership organisation are shown. This comprehensive view of a situation helps professionals make contact to better support people.
It is expected that this approach service will save money, save lives, and become the backbone of a local area’s approach to data management. It also helps to reduce social care and safeguarding pressures through a more intelligent method of delivering the right information to the right service at the right time.
Wider safeguarding overview and impact of the pandemic
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 per cent 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 per cent 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 per cent serious incident notifications of incidents relate to children under age one
- 15 per cent increase in safeguarding concerns raised during 2019/20
- 13 per cent increase in Section 42 enquiries commenced during 2019/20
- 32 per cent of Section 42 enquiries relating to neglect and acts of omission
About MAST – Multi-Agency Safeguarding Tracker
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.
Key project partners involved in MAST are Walsall Council (Adults and Children’s Social Care), West Midlands Police, Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust and West Midlands Fire and Rescue. This group has wider engagement from other safeguarding organisations across the West Midlands and from local authorities across England who form the ‘MAST Gallery’.
MAST has been co-designed and developed as part of the LGA’s Social Care Digital Innovation Accelerator 2020/21 to enable safeguarding organisations to quickly and easily identify a person that may require support or services, to reduce the potential of them falling into the social care system at all or further.
MAST project and delivery
To date, the project has successfully delivered a reusable information governance framework, undertaken significant partner engagement as well as data identification and matching work.
- Data identification
The following process was completed with each of the safeguarding partners/departments: Walsall Council (Public Health, Adults and Children’s Social Care); West Midlands Police; Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust; and West Midlands Fire and Rescue.
- Data/IT and operational workshops
- Schema defined
- Relevant records defined
- Sample data extracted
- Secure file transfer protocol (SFTP) connection set up
- Sample data received
- Data deep dives undertaken (ongoing)
- Daily data updates
- Digital solutions (as of 4 May 2021)
- secure data ingest, cleansing and matching processes (ongoing)
- database definition and build (ongoing)
- search requirements and functionality confirmed and built (ongoing)
- front end design (ongoing)
- user management requirements confirmed
- Information governance
Completed documentation co-produced as part of the project which is now available for re-use:
- data sharing agreement
- data processing agreement
- safeguarding partnership memorandum of understanding
- template data schema
- contract and service level agreement.
- Due to the challenges of COVID-19, multi-partner working the project is running three months behind schedule and is due to complete in June 2021.
Initial data matching headlines
Over 100,000 records have been successfully brought into the system and matched with significant results:
- Half of all Walsall Council's Children's Social Care records and two-thirdsof adult records match a record from at least one of the other partners.
- There were cases that were not known between the services and where there have been multiple incidents.
- This is not to say that these cases were unknown to each organisations or that there was an incident to investigate, however having sight of the wider landscape is certainly both interesting and valuable for safeguarding professionals.
- The project is about to go into 'deep dives' on all the data matches.
- The move to daily updates from each partner is progressing and the system will - by the end of May 2021 - handle 400,000 records covering the past 12 months.
MAST feedback from safeguarding professionals
It’s not replacing our professional judgement; it's just helping us to know when our professional judgement needs to be applied.”
We can see how useful this is going to be.”
We’ve been interested in ways of doing this better for ten years, it’s great that it’s finally happening.”
We thought this would be another system you'd have to enter into - it’s great that it uses existing data from other systems.”
Partners (x6) co-funding
NHS Digital match funding
A commercial model for the MAST solution has been developed and shared with Gallery partners for review.
Original co-funding partners
£7,000 per year
New partners joining from the West Midlands
£10,000 per year
New partners joining from other regions
£14,000 per year
Lessons learned so far
- Focusing on the information governance documents in the first phase was critical to the success of the project.
- Having a peer reviewed and locked down Data Sharing Agreement, Data Processing Agreement and Safeguarding Partnership Memorandum of Understanding meant that each partner was able to sign up to the vision of the project and progress at pace with the necessary and appropriate governance in place.
- Projects are more difficult to progress at pace, particularly when engagement is required from multiple departments.
- As an additional output the MAST project has developed a three month ‘MAST project engagement timetable’, which will support the future rollout of MAST.
All MAST project partners have agreed that the project will progress for another three months and are committed for another year to March 2022. This allows enough time to undertake the outstanding development and data work required and deploy the solution in all partner settings for proper testing and assessment.