County makes new moves to protect at risk children

Vulnerable children in Norfolk are set to get better protection, thanks to moves to get more joined-up working between agencies such as the county council, police and partners.

Staff from Norfolk County Council and Norfolk Constabulary are set to come together under one roof so they can quickly identify children who are at risk from abuse, domestic violence, drugs and crime.

The aim of the new Multi-agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) is that when Norfolk County Council receives calls regarding protection of children, the background of the case can quickly be discussed with colleagues from other agencies and necessary action taken to protect the children.

Although the police and county council already work closely together, with their partners, bringing the teams into one location will speed up communication and assessment.

Alison Thomas, Norfolk County Council's cabinet member for children's services, said: 'Child protection continues to be one of our main priorities and we want to do all we can to keep children safe from harm.

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'Currently in more than half of our referrals we need to speak to the police, particularly if there are issues with domestic violence or suspected abuse.

'By having a joint team we will be able to respond more quickly, avoid duplication and therefore provide a service that is more effective and offers the best value for money.

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'In these challenging economic times we need to focus on acting swiftly to prevent problems from escalating, this reduces financial and human costs.

'We know that this model has been effective elsewhere in the country and we are keen to develop it within Norfolk.'

The scheme is based on a similar model in Devon, a county with much in common with Norfolk. The county council says it has led to cases there being processed much more effectively and referrals have been cut because issues have been addressed at an early stage.

Kevin Wilkins, Norfolk Police's assistant chief constable, said: 'We know that young people who are exposed to risk factors including abuse, domestic violence, drugs and crime within the family unit are more likely to commit crime themselves.

'This MASH will enable the police, county council and other partners to deliver joint identification, assessment and action.

'This will ultimately improve outcomes for young people, providing more effective and targeted services to these groups by identifying early those who are most at risk of harm.'

In Norfolk, the scheme is still in the early stages of development but it is hoped other agencies will come on board as the project develops.

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