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Scottish Government report backs child protection hub at Stirling

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Scottish Government Analytical Services has today published an independent review of the Multi Agency Resource Service (MARS) and the Scottish Child Care and Protection Network (SCCPN), based at Stirling.

The review helps to provide a case for future funding of the MARS/SCCPN hub, by demonstrating that it has been cost effective in delivering a series of initiatives, while supporting the difficult and demanding role undertaken by hundreds of Scotland’s practitioners involved in child protection.

SCCPN and MARS were established following the Social Work Inspection Agency's 2005 report into the care and protection of children in Eilean Siar. The report stated that the Scottish Government should establish a ‘multi-agency resource which all staff in Scotland working with complex child protection issues can draw on for advice, expertise, training and research.’

Beth Smith, MARS Director, says: “MARS and SCCPN are unique. The combination of national interconnected research and dissemination and operational support complements Scotland’s existing reputation for taking a holistic approach to the welfare of children. They aim to ensure that children in Scotland who are in need of care and protection benefit from informed, effective and efficient practitioners working together.”

The in-depth report draws on data from many sources, including the views of professionals working in different disciplines, and individuals working in academia. It demonstrates that the two projects have become a highly regarded point of reference for practitioners.

Key messages of the report:

  • Those who have used the MARS for direct support reported an overall positive experience
  • Respondents highlighted MARS’ work on the Short Life Working Group on Significant Case Reviews that harnessed knowledge and expertise within a relatively short timeframe. This resulted in a series of recommendations to bring about change in government policy and practice.
  • The combined activities of MARS and SCCPN have helped practitioners to access research evidence and evidence-informed resources that can lead to improvements in practice. Highly valued activities include MARS’ direct support in brokering knowledge and expertise for local challenges and a SCCPN’s seminar series geared towards practice needs.
  • Research briefings produced by SCCPN are widely viewed by practitioners as being highly relevant and of high quality.
  • Stakeholders highlighted the value for all local areas in a national service that can coordinate the exchange of knowledge and avoid replication and duplication of effort across Scotland.

The report backs future plans to merge the MARS and SCCPN projects into one child protection ‘hub’ and recognises that there are significant economies of scale in amalgamating their activities.

Beth Smith says: “We are delighted with the outcome of the first major review into the work of MARS and SCCPN. Child protection can cover such a diverse range of issues and specialisms that staff cannot be expected to become ‘expert’ in all areas. A national resource, set up by the Scottish Government, was considered to be an appropriate solution to this gap in the knowledge base and to provide a central point where agencies could gain specialist advice and support when required.

“This review proves that we are helping Scotland’s child protection practitioners to feel better informed and better equipped to carry out their extremely demanding roles.

“The report also identifies a number of ways in which we can strengthen our contribution and these will be taken on board when considering future developments.”

The initial three year commitment to funding for MARS and SCCPN by the Scottish Government ends in March 2012.

The Scottish Government review of MARS and SCCPN can be read here.

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