This study focused on whether the multi-agency arrangements, of which schools are a part, have been sufficiently robust not to place children at increased risk during the first months of the coronavirus pandemic in the UK (COVID-19). The study explored the role of the school in multi-agency work during this time, not only from the perspective of schools and Childrens Social Care (CSC), but from that of other agencies including child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS), school nurses and the police. The researchers also contacted practitioners and researchers in Australia, Israel, New Zealand, Republic of Ireland and the United States (US) who provided reflections on how they had managed services during this time.
King’s College London King’s Together Fund supported by Economic and Social Research Council
The research was conducted July to September 2020 in five local authorities: a London borough, a county council, and three unitary authorities. 40 interviews were conducted via video and telephone, involving 46 informants. In addition to strategic and operational leads for education and children’s social care, participants were representatives of the Police, strategic managers in health services, schools and colleges, school heads, school nursing and child and adult mental health services. Local authority staff sent a survey to schools designed to gain views on if and how multi-agency working had changed under COVID-19 restrictions.
The research evidenced how agencies working with children and families had adapted quickly to maintain services and worked together to monitor the quality of practice and outcomes. However schools had found it more difficult to engage with children’s social care and early help services. Although most schools did not rate their experience of working with CAMHS pre-COVID-19 very highly, the relationship did not deteriorate during the COVID-19 period. Schools’ engagement with the police fell slightly but this seems to be because fewer schools needed to contact the service. It was possible to determine that multi-agency relationships were more robust in some authorities than others during COVID-19.
Supporting and engaging schools in decision-making and multi-agency working for the protection and safeguarding of children