By Peter Limbrick in 2012
From the Introduction –
"Though interagency collaboration is easy to define, it has not proved easy to achieve and good examples are a rarity. While service providers, whether concerned with education, health, social care, law enforcement, the courts, housing, etc struggle against the odds to comply with government regulations and guidance, and while the media have a field day each time the persistent fragmentation results in a high-profile tragedy, we seem to have made no progress in learning how separate agencies can work together effectively in systems – systems that are allowed to grow beyond pilot projects and are sustainable against persistent pressures to revert to fragmentation.
In the UK we stumble forward, forever groping in the dark, always trying to make the best of a bad job without the benefit of accepted scientific or technological formulae about how to do it. Time and again we construct a more or less effective integrated system for this or that category of service users only to see it crumble in the face of stronger forces like a sandcastle before the incoming tide.
This essay is offered as an exploratory contribution to thinking about interagency collaboration and, seeking a fresh perspective in the hope that it will open up new solutions, will examine the issues in terms of verticality and horizontality.
Thus the subject matter of the essay comprises vertical organisations and the horizontal structures they must create between them in pursuit of interagency collaboration for particular service users or categories of service users. From this explorative viewpoint I intend to keep a close focus on the people who require simultaneous or consecutive support of some sort from two or more of their local agencies on the understanding that the effectiveness for them of interagency collaboration is the only criterion of success.
The essay will:
- draw clear distinctions between vertical organisations and horizontal structures
- demonstrate their interdependence
- inform the development of rich horizontal landscapes in which service users are more powerful and from which they receive effective joined-up support
- encourage and reassure practitioners and managers about the opportunities for improved working practices and job satisfaction in horizontal teamwork
- refresh debate and discussion about interagency collaboration for policy makers and academics
- add new insights and perspectives to training programmes
- suggest that national professional colleges help promote interagency collaboration and training for professionals in horizontal teamwork
Interagency collaboration, whether achieved at the grass-roots through the efforts of a keyworker (or ‘lead professional’) or the child’s small collaborative team in the TAC model, is elevated in this essay to life-saving status as an essential and imperative modernisation of service provision. I always wonder how many suicides and infanticides would have been prevented if agencies had been fully integrated around the particular service user. I wonder how much sheer misery and despair would be alleviated now amongst the multitudes that are given chaotic and piecemeal support in the UK but do not reach that tipping point – or have not done so yet."
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