Signs of Safety

In Cumbria, Signs of Safety is about more children and young people remaining with families when the families have the potential to care for them safely. 

Signs of Safety is an innovative strengths-based, safety-organised approach to child protection casework.  The approach focuses on the question "How can the worker build partnerships with parents and children in situations of suspected or substantiated child abuse and still deal rigorously with the maltreatment issues?"  

This strengths-based and safety-focused approach to child protection work is grounded in partnership and collaboration with families and other professionals.  It expands the investigation of risk to encompass strengths and Signs of Safety that can be built upon to stabilise and strengthen a child's and family's situation. By utilising a questioning approach rooted in Solution Focused Brief Therapy, the family are at the heart of all decision making and are empowered to make positive choices about their own lives. 

Although primarily developed as an approach to working with child protection, Signs of Safety it is equally applicable to:

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

(Please see Signs of Safety analysis categories attached at the bottom of this page) 

What we will see in Cumbria

When we work with families we will lead with a strengths based approach and honour these strengths. This will acknowledge any positive aspects that all families have, and we may build these strengths into safety when they are tested over time. We will also be clear about what we are worried and what behaviour causes us to be worried, and what impact this has on the child. 

In discussions with families and in professionals meetings we will consider: 

What’s working well? 

Existing Strengths - What is the family currently doing well that improves the lived experience of the child? 

Existing Safety - What behaviours and actions are evident that keeps the child safe from harm? 

What are we worried about? 

Past Harm - What behaviours have we seen in the past that causes us to be worried about this child? 

Danger - What is the impact of this behaviour on the child and what do we see/know that evidences this? 

Complicating Factors - What aspects are present that makes it more difficult to improve safety for the child. 

What needs to happen? - What are the family’s goals? What are the agencies Goals? 

We will develop a clear statements with the family that are written in clear jargon free language that the parents and children understand :

Danger Statements

Specifies, who is worried, what behaviours are they worried about, and what the impact will be on the child. 

Safety Goals - A statement about what, not how, the family will do to convince everyone to no longer be worried and for the case to close. 

Scaling Questions - A scale of 0-10 that the family and professionals can score where they feel the case is at in terms of risk to the child. 

(please see mapping tool attachment at the bottom of this page) 

  • 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 – need to spend more time looking at strengths

• August 2016 LSCB endorse approach

• 2 day training began September 2016 and will be completed for phase 1 and 2 in June 2018 

• Internal pool of Signs of Safety trainers now trained and in place

• 80 practice leads attended 5 day training in July 2017 plus ongoing coaching program continues with Signs of Safety National trainers

• Further 5 day Practice Lead training will take place October 2018 

• LSCB partner briefings Sept/Oct 2017 which trained over 300 professionals

• Further briefing and training program being implemented in 2018 for partners

• Signs of Safety planned to go live in Child protection Conferences September 2018 

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.
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