How can Inter-agency Training Improve Outcomes for Children?

“What has clearly emerged is a failure of system compounded of several factors of which the greatest and most obvious must be that of the lack of, or effectiveness of, communication and liaison.”

“Cases usually involve several professions and two or more agencies, but effective work is often hampered by ignorance, or misunderstanding of respective functions. All workers need… a clear and common understanding of the extent and purpose of each individual’s involvement in the case.”

Where do these statements come from?  Victoria Climbie?   Baby Peter?

They are actually taken from the inquiry into the death of another 8 year old, Maria Colwell, who died in 1973.

The persistent and continuing failure of child care professionals to communicate more effectively and work together more successfully to promote improved outcomes for children is clearly not new.    Successive initiatives over four decades have almost certainly made a positive impact.

The trouble is, “Child didn’t die” is not the sort of headline which appeals to editors of some of our popular newspapers!  While we must not lose sight of the good practice which is happening around the country, we are also only too aware that some children continue to suffer dreadfully when that abuse could have been avoided

As an inter-agency Training Co-ordinator for a Local Safeguarding Children Board I believe, with a passion, that workers who train together are likely to work together more effectively.  Good inter-agency training helps to break down barriers between professionals, promotes a clearer understanding of the issues from each other’s point of view and thus improves communication.  This is in addition to any increase in practitioner knowledge and skill intended by the course content.

I am not naive or arrogant enough to suggest that training will solve all problems of poor multi-agency working but it can play an important part in the process.  One of the issues for me, however, is that it always seems that when time and resources are tight, training (often together with supervision) is one of the first things to go.

I consider it an important part of my role to promote a culture where training is recognised as crucial in protecting children.  Part of this is to show by the quality of course content particularly, but also by the venue and the refreshments, how much we value child care workers and the service they try to provide children and their families, often in difficult circumstances.

Cold rooms, no parking, uncomfortable chairs and curled up sandwiches – or worse, no lunch – do not send out a message that we care about the individual member of staff or what they do.  We should nurture them.  A comfortable venue and decent refreshments do not need to cost a fortune, and of course we must use scarce resources wisely.   But quality training, which achieves published learning outcomes, depends on a range of factors and it is a complete waste of resources to put on a training event which does not deliver an impact on practice but merely gains a “tick in the box” for attendance.

Chapter 4 of Working Together 2010 helpfully lays out a framework for who should do what training in safeguarding/child protection.  The challenge for inter-agency training now is to encourage busy managers to incorporate these expectations into staff development and supervision.  In this way we will have a fully joined up system whereby lessons from local and national Serious Case Reviews and from good practice are incorporated into training and the training is incorporated into practice, thus promoting improved outcomes for children and their families.  Whatever the outcome of the Munro review of child protection, these issues will remain fundamental.

A real acknowledgment of the power and importance of training, including the particular benefits of inter-agency training, to support those who are responsible for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children will help in preventing comments similar to those at the beginning of this article being repeated in future inquiries

So please, go and look at your LSCB’s inter-agency training programme now.  You are sure to find much that is of interest!

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