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Diffusion theory and multi-disciplinary working in children’s servicesPurpose The purpose of this paper is to explore how innovation in children’s services is adopted and developed by staff within new multi-disciplinary children’s safeguarding teams. It draws on diffusion of innovations (DOI) theory to help us better understand the mechanisms by which the successful implementation of multi-disciplinary working can be best achieved. Design/methodology/approach It is based on interviews with 61 frontline safeguarding staff, including social workers, substance misuse workers, mental health workers and domestic abuse workers. Thematic analysis identified the enablers and barriers to implementation. Findings DOI defines five innovation attributes as essential for rapid diffusion: relative advantage over current practice; compatibility with existing values and practices; complexity or simplicity of implementation; trialability or piloting of new ideas; and observability or seeing results swiftly. Staff identified multi-disciplinary team working and group supervision as advantageous, in line with social work values and improved their service to children and families. Motivational interviewing and new ways of case recordings were less readily accepted because of the complexity of practicing confidently and concerns about the risks of moving away from exhaustive case recording which workers felt provided professional accountability. Practical implications DOI is a useful reflective tool for senior managers to plan and review change programmes, and to identify any emerging barriers to successful implementation. Originality/value The paper provides insights into what children’s services staff value about multi-disciplinary working and why some aspects of innovation are adopted more readily than others, depending on the perception of diffusion attributes.