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Supporting children's mental health and wellbeing
Supporting children's mental health and wellbeing

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3.3 Challenges of interdisciplinary and multi-agency working

There can be challenges in a group of different professionals all coming together. There may be up to 10 different disciplines and agencies working with a child and family; therefore it is not surprising that each professional may have different priorities and perspectives, and sometimes these can be conflicting. For example, CAMHS may be discharging a child with no further follow-up, and other professionals may think the discharge is premature.

Communication can be a key issue when different disciplines come together to work with a child and family. It is important that all professionals have an overview of the child’s mental health, but gaining the big picture can be difficult for a range of reasons. Professionals can end up feeling as if they are holding an individual piece of a jigsaw, and may not be able to come together with other professionals to see how their piece of the jigsaw contributes to the big picture. This approach is often referred to as working in a silo, meaning that there is a lack of information sharing and collaboration.

This is a cartoon showing four figures holding jigsaw pieces.
Figure 4 Professionals with their individual piece of the jigsaw

There are often good reasons why communication can be a barrier to effective interdisciplinary working. These reasons include:

  • Confidentiality: there may be concerns about what is confidential information. However, confidentiality is often interpreted as not passing on any information. In reality, confidentiality means that information should be shared on a ‘need to know’ basis with relevant colleagues. Professional codes of conduct are often bound by a need for confidentiality and this too can make professionals cautious about passing on information.
  • Location: the different professionals involved may work for different employers, are likely to work in different locations and have different line management.
  • Staff availability can be a barrier to effective communication. Staff may be unavailable (e.g. when a teacher is in class during most of the working day) or on leave.