AN initiative which aims to achieve faster and more consistent responses to concerns about vulnerable children and adults has been launched in the region.

The Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH), believed to be the first in the region, has opened inside a former police social club.

The MASH, housed within Darlington Police Station, will deal with new safeguarding concerns where someone is concerned about the safety or well-being of a child or adult, or thinks they may be at risk of harm.

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The new Darlington Hub brings together representatives from Darlilngton Borough Council adult and children’s social care, police and health in a single room.

Previously, communications between the different agencies was made more difficult by them being at different locations scattered across the Darlington area.

The large and well-equipped new office also has a hospital style big screen showing current cases and their status.

The MASH is now the first point of contact in the town for new safeguarding concerns or inquiries.

Within the hub staff from different agencies will pool information to build up a better picture of the risks to the child or vulnerable adult.

A manager from either children’s or adult’s social care will make the final decision as to what action is taken.

The Hub will also provide advice to people making referrals.

It is also hoped that it will improve outcomes, allow preventative action to be taken before incidents escalate and provide a better response to professionals or members of the public who raise a concern.

Bill Dixon, leader of Darlington Borough Council, who has worked in child protection, said: “Unfortunately there are lots of vulnerable people, who are easy to pick on, often by their nearest and dearest. It is our job, despite the cuts, to protect them when we can.”

He said the MASH was “a fantastic facility” which would mean that professionals from different disciplines would be able to talk face-to-face about cases and make decisions “almost immediately.”

A typical child referral might be a youngster playing truant, said Coun Dixon.

He added: “Health might say his brother has missed recent health checks, the probation service might say his dad has just been released from prison. It all helps to build up a better picture of what is going on."

Elsewhere in the region, Sunderland is currently setting up another multi-agency safeguarding hub.