Signs of Safety

Cumbria County Council is a Signs of Safety Local Authority. Working in a strength based, solution focused way, we place children and families in charge of their own lives and empower them to achieve long lasting sustainable safety, welling, and success. 

Signs of Safety is an innovative strengths-based approach, using solution focused practice to support the family and network to come up with their own solutions to their difficulties, moving away from professionals like Schools, school workers or health visitors having the answers and telling families what to do.

The Signs of Safety practice principles support our vision that the best place for children and young people to grow up is within their families and networks where they have the potential to care for them safely, and when this is not possible, we will provide a secure and stable home and help them achieve their full potential.

Working in partnership with children, families and their naturally occurring network is central to our work; we compassionately work on building positive relationships, as we recognise the importance of this in achieving positive change for children and young people. Full involvement of family and network is always pursued, whether the child lives within or outside their family of origin, so that everything is done to sustain the child’s lifelong connection and belonging with their family, culture, and community throughout children’s services involvement.

One of the key principles of Signs of Safety practice is to use simple language that everyone understands, therefore moving away from professional jargon and abbreviations that can be confusing for children and families. The simple, descriptive language we use is important to help families to have a good understanding of why professionals are involved and what goals we are working towards.

Signs of Safety is more than a set of practice tools, it is a set of practice principles around how we think about our approach to practice, how we interact with children and families, how we shift power imbalance, how we put children and families in charge of their own lives and how we communicate this in a clear, compassionate and solution focused way. 

In our different services we may use Signs of Safety, Signs of Wellbeing or Signs or Success, although the practice principles remain the same. Signs of Safety practice principles are equally applicable to:

  • Early Help 
  • Looked after Children
  • Schools 
  • Fostering and Adoption 
  • Children with disabilities 
  • Health 
  • Third sector 

What we will see in Cumbria

  • When we work with families, we will lead with a strengths-based approach and honour these strengths.
  • By acknowledging the positive aspects that all families have, we will build these strengths into safety where they are tested over time.
  • We will be clear about what behaviour causes us to be worried, what impact this has on the child, and what needs to happen to reduce these worries. 
  • Families will be empowered to take charge of their own plans and will coordinate their own family network to respond to the worries. 
  • The voice of the child will be central to and will govern all planning. 
  • Relationships will be at the heart of all our practice with children and families as we know that all successful work is underpinned by honest, compassionate, and trusting relationships. 
  • We will see families and networks managing the worries, and problem solving in their own families in a new and empowered way, meaning less need for professional involvement. 

What you have told us is going well with Signs of Safety in Cumbria

Worker feedback

  • The more direct work you do the more confident you are in your questioning style”.  
  • “It is not a deficit model; it is playing to people’s strengths”.  
  • “It doesn’t always have to be about written evidence but is as much about building a relationship”
  • ”We are starting to get more evidence that if we don’t use a family network to build safety plans this is not as successful as involving professional networks”
  • "It is impressive how Social Worker’s remain focused on engaging networks”. 
  • “It is important the use of networks as it evidences to families the resources they have, and they don’t always need support from professionals”.    
  • “Families have ownership of their plans, and this helps to make the plans work for their family”.
  • “It is all about empowerment with safety planning and not telling families”.   

Child and Family feedback

  • “It has helped me to feel more organised and aware of what needs to happen and by when”
  • “It helps me look at relationships differently cos I was scared of being on my own”
  • “She was easy to talk to and I felt that she cared, and it wasn’t just a job”
  • “The social worker didn’t make me feel that she wanted to take my children or dodge me but wanted to help to get things back to normal again”
  • “The worker wanted things to be better and listened to me”
  • “I’ve never felt this strong in my life I don’t want be a victim anymore but a survivor”

  • Working relationships

  • “Thinking critically and fostering a stance of inquiry” (Munro) – questioning approach

  • Landing grand aspirations in everyday practice

  • Families as assets – honour and build on their strengths

  • Fostering hope not hopelessness

  • Help families to make changes for themselves

  • Apply relationship based practice

  • Putting children at the heart of how we plan and deliver support to them

  • Importance of direct work with children and families

  • We have nothing more to learn from mistakes – we will need to spend more time looking at strengths. We will grow in our practice from these strengths

Signs of Safety Partner Briefingsthis external link will open in a new window - The CSCP have already delivered a large number of briefing events across the county that explains the ethos of 'Signs of Safety'. To support ongoing learning we have now produced an online narrated briefing that colleagues can access remotely if you wish to understand the theory of Signs of Safety. Please access the briefing here

Signs of Safety Core Training - This is a blended learning programme and includes all aspects of the Signs of Safety 2 day training, but with the additional practice elements outlined in Cumbria’s practice bottom lines. Delivered solely online through narrated presentations and reflective activities, this will allow participants to access the training and move at their own pace whilst testing out what they have learned by directly applying this learning in their own practice after each session. 

For External Partners who have an account with us on My Learning - then please login to your account and either click on this link or search Signs of Safety – Core Training in the course search box.

For External Partners who do not have an account with us - then you will need to self-register to request an account. Details of how to do this are on the CSCP website

If you have any questions please email SignsOfSafety@cumbria.gov.uk

Early Help - Signs of Wellbeing and Success - recorded training video

At the Signs of Safety (SoS) briefing sessions you told us what was going well in Cumbria. You told us that you had seen that paperwork had been updated including templates, and you reported some changes in the  use of language. You also told us that the LSCB (now the CSCP) was more evident and the website was more accessible with lots of relevant information and that it was a positive step forward that Cumbria had adopted the SoS model.

Worker Feedback 

  • “We have the ability to frontload work and avoid unnecessary escalation”
  • “Families are aware of what is expected of them, and clear plans are in place”
  • “Being supported effectively at early help level - avoided the stress of child protection, developed family network to sustain the progress made”
  • “When we look at the family’s strengths, they visually become more involved in the meeting”
  • “More cases are being stepped down / closed / being worked at a lower level of intervention”
  • “Baby is able to stay with mother, supported by family network with minimal level of statutory intervention”

Family Feedback

  • “It helps me look at relationships differently cos I was scared of being on my own”
  • “She was easy to talk to and I felt that she cared, and it wasn’t just a job”
  • “The social worker didn’t make me feel that she wanted to take my children or dodge me but wanted to help to get things back to normal again”
  • “The worker wanted things to be better and listened to me”
  • “I’ve never felt this strong in my life I don’t want be a victim anymore but a survivor”
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