Why The Hype? Family Safeguarding and the case for MDT working

The more jaded reader may well question the “new and innovative” ways of working that seem to hit our in-boxes and training schedules on a regular basis. All too often the latest technique or theory feels like a rehash of an earlier approach and the adage, stand still long enough and it comes round again seems well suited. However, in defence of one such approach – that of multi-disciplinary teams or MDTs – I would argue that it is a combination of both the theory and the practice that brings about effective change.

MDTs are by their very nature melting pots in which different ideas and approaches are brought together to bring collective pressure on what can be long-standing challenges. Their power comes from using the skills and experience of team members who approach social issues and problems from slightly different angles while sharing a broadly coherent view about what success looks like. The pursuit of the common goal from different standpoints where interchangeable disciplines can take the lead often shifts blockages. It is the combination of the approaches that makes the effort yield results e.g. clinicians and social workers tackling issues in a holistic manner.

What I believe is less appreciated, and perhaps at this point the more cynical reader may feel slight enthusiasm, is that establishing MDTs is in itself a powerful force for good. Teams that have continued for years with the “same old same old” can find that a new set of colleagues sparks innovation, fresh thinking and creative problem-solving.  Experience from other agencies and settings and the urgency of project plans, that often accompany the creation of new teams, focuses minds and pushes boundaries; in short, there is a step-change to getting the job done.

Case Example

Family Safeguarding is a multi-disciplinary approach to working with families where domestic abuse has previously led to the removal of children. This different way of working uses a trauma informed method of working combined with motivational methods to keep families together when safe to do so. The MDTs are comprised of social workers, psychologists, substance misuse workers, mental health practitioners, probation officers and victim support workers. Collectively they work with all aspects of the family to safeguard the child by bearing down upon those factors that have led to abusive behaviour, often though not exclusively, from the male parent. The results are impressive with many fewer children removed from their homes, service users reporting higher degrees of satisfaction and significant cost avoidance[1] savings for local authorities.[2][3][4]

About Nigel:

Nigel has worked in criminal justice since 1987. He has worked at every grade from probation officer to Chief Executive across England, in community, prisons and court settings.

His strategic roles include posts in Government offices in Liverpool and Manchester, Senior Advisor in the Home and Foreign Affairs Team of the Prime Ministers Delivery Unit, and a secondment to the Turkish Ministry of Justice.

His work has focused on improving outcomes for Community Payback (for The Director General of HMPPS) and improving child safeguarding in an innovative new project for the DfE.


[1] https://councildecisions.bury.gov.uk/documents/s32214/Family%20Safeguarding%20Model.pdf

[2] https://whatworks-csc.org.uk/research-project/family-safeguarding-model-trial-evaluation/

[3] https://childrenssocialcare.independent-review.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/IRCSC_The_Case_for_Change_27.05.22.pdf

[4] https://justiceinnovation.org/project/family-safeguarding