ISOTIS releases a new publication on inter-agency working with young children and their families, by Jacqueline Barnes and colleagues. The title of this publication is: Comprehensive review of the literature on inter-agency working with young children, incorporating findings from case studies of good practice in interagency working with young children and their families within Europe. It explores different models of inter-agency work, evidence of impact, facilitators and challenges, and the implications for good practice. It illustrates successful inter-agency working with culturally and linguistically diverse families, including lower-SES, immigrant, and Romani families, in Belgium, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, and the UK.
According to the publication, the development of inter-agency work would benefit from addressing the following suggestions:
"- Ensure political will and commitment, at multiple levels – top down to facilitate funding and bottom up to facilitate the relevance of services;
- With political will, there is more likelihood of sustained funding;
- Develop a programme model that provides a system of strong governance, leadership and management;
- Work from the outset to create a shared purpose and culture between the relevant agencies, with jointly agreed goals;
- To facilitate this process, provide opportunities for agencies/service to come together to discuss the concepts related to integrated services, focusing on not only benefits for each agency but also potential difficulties;
- Develop a management model with clearly defined structures and a shared protocol, and revisit it regularly;
- Allow for frequent and effective communication and meetings between all agencies to address any issues, both at the start of a programme but also as an on-going aspect of the management model;
- Allow opportunities for good communication between leadership and staff to clarify roles and responsibilities;
- Providing joint training between staff from different services/agencies to foster understanding and reduce any mistrust or rivalry; - Provide sufficient funding (allowing for staff time away from other duties) for regular staff supervision and discussion to reduce stress associated with change and to promote professionalism;
- Consider co-location of services, especially close to or attached to an educational establishment, while strengthening communication with services that cannot be co-located;
- Address data protection issues so that all aspects of service delivery and outcomes can be documented through a common IT system, enabling the best use of data to document need and impact of services;
- Most importantly, using on-going evaluation with both established questionnaires and more open-ended methods (e.g., focus groups) to monitor implementation, staff satisfaction, and child/family outcomes;
- If possible involve a university or other research partner so that evidence can be set in the context of strong research designs;
- Reviewing progress regularly and amending the service accordingly based on the results of reflective practice, monitoring and evaluation;
- Initiate studies that might test the longer-term outcomes for clients of inter-agency working."
Knowledge of these facilitators will be important when putting together policies to develop inter-agency provision in other contexts.