A NEW service to help hundreds of vulnerable children in Southampton has been launched as part of a radical shake-up of children’s services in the city.

As previously reported by the Daily Echo council bosses undertook a root-and-branch review of how it looks after children most in need of care.

It came in the wake of an inspection of how Southampton City Council looked after vulnerable youngsters which branded the service “inadequate”.

It was carried out on 2011 – the same year which saw four child deaths in the city, which all subsequently became the subject of serious case reviews.

Inquests into the deaths of the children Blake Fowler, Nico Maynard and brothers Jayden and Bradley Adams all identified how agencies could have worked more closely to share information.

As a result a new “nerve centre” has now been established, which allows key agencies to literally work under the same roof when dealing with the most serious cases of safeguarding children in Southampton.

Called the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH), the facility will allow for better communication between agencies including social services, the police, probation service and health agencies.

It is one of a number of new measures introduced by council chiefs as part of a major shake-up in the way it looks after vulnerable youngsters.

They say it is a key step in improving early intervention for at-risk youngsters.

As part of its shake-up the council has announced that more than 50 social workers involved in the most serious child protection cases are now employed on a permanent basis by the council, replacing its reliance on agency staff.

The council has also adopted an “early intervention” policy so that problem families can be identified and offered help quickly.

And educational welfare, children’s centres and social services care have all been brought under one team so families can be offered one single package of support rather than having to go through different departments.

Labour councillor Mark Chaloner, who was appointed to a newly-created position of Cabinet member for child safeguarding last year, said: “The safety of children and young people in Southampton remains our utmost priority. “The MASH will be vital for information sharing amongst key stakeholders which will greatly improve our ability to identify any potential risks at the earliest possible stage. “I’ve been encouraged with the results from other local authorities who have introduced this way of working and I’m pleased to say that the introduction of the MASH is a key step in Southampton becoming an early intervention city.”