Pavilion author, former Detective Superintendent and multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) pioneer Nigel Boulton, reveals what led him to write Multi-agency Safeguarding in a Public Protection World: A handbook for protecting children and vulnerable adults and his visions for a truly integrated, inter-professional safeguarding workforce.  

Since leaving policing much of my work has focused on intelligence-led safeguarding, inter-professional practice and the multi-agency safeguarding hubs, commonly known as the MASH.

My idea has always been to develop intelligence-led safeguarding through closer integrated working, with the aim to achieve a fundamental shift in safeguarding and early intervention practices.

We need safeguarding and early intervention delivery to change so we can deliver the excellence of practice that is required to keep our children and vulnerable adults safe. This excellence of practice needs to evolve, with some speed, into a truly integrated inter-professional working environment.

Public protection isn’t just one professional domain but a collection of practice areas where work is carried out to ensure vulnerable people are protected as much as possible. Each area has its own processes, practices and even language.

As a key part of the work to move inter-professional safeguarding practice forward I joined forces with a great friend and colleague, Russell Wate QPM, to write a handbook for professionals who work in any area of safeguarding, whether that be social workers, education, probation, health services or for a voluntary organisation.

Multi-agency Safeguarding in a Public Protection World: A handbook for protecting children and vulnerable adults aims to cover all these main areas of safeguarding and involve working with children, adults at risk, troubled families and domestic abuse. It also looks at online abuse, the increase in grooming and sexual violence, and the dangers of radicalisation.

For probably the first time we discuss the idea of intelligence-led safeguarding along with the MASH model as a shared vision. To that end we identify risk assessment tools that cover the diverse safeguarding disciplines.

Ultimately, the aim is to reach out to professionals working in local authorities, healthcare, the probation, police, education and voluntary sectors to link arms, if you like. We want to build a shared responsibility where the child is the centre of focus. Safeguarding is a hugely complex puzzle and all the different professionals and agencies need to come together to build on a sense of shared vision.

Unfortunately, not all professions regularly interact with all practice areas when it comes to safeguarding, but all are inextricably interlinked. Many working in different practice areas implicitly understand the need for multi-agency working, but they’re limited in their capabilities to achieve this. For them to pull all these disparate elements together – to solve the jigsaw puzzle – is too big a task. Just the idea of creating this multi-agency network is confusing for most involved.

Russell and I are aware of this colossal task. But because we believe passionately in safeguarding children and vulnerable adults we set out to write this book to draw on the collective expertise of practice professionals. The result is a book with many contributors – indeed, it was our desire to have many practice experts provide the best knowledge.

The work to put this together has been unbelievably difficult, stressful and – dare I say – fun. Both of us have done postgraduate studies, which were a big help to understand how to complete the work. Also – and again unbelievably – not only did we succeed in pulling it together, but we did so in time. Just!

We’re really pleased with the feedback we’ve received during the commissioning, writing and editing of the book and after the first manuscript was published. Professionals from across the multi-agency partners agree the book fills a void and is invaluable for all. The great Lord Laming also willingly supported the project and wrote the foreword. The authors have chosen to give all royalties to two charities – The Victoria Climbié Foundation and Embrace Child Victims of Crime.

Would we ever write another? Possibly, but we’ll certainly know more about how to do it next time.

Any practitioner who begins work in public protection knows they are entering a different world with its own internal processes and language. I hope this book gives practitioners of all professions an understanding of what’s involved in public protection.

This is a book that is intended to be used by all professionals, regardless of roles, experience or status. It’s designed to be a guide for anyone who needs insight into a world that’s often overlooked by the vast majority of our fellow citizens. 

If the book can help to change just one young life for the better, then all the hard work will have been worth it.

Multi-agency Safeguarding in a Public Protection World: A handbook for protecting children and vulnerable adults is available to buy here.

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