Signs of Safety is a model of social work which began in Western Australia in the 1990s.

Signs of Safety is a strength based, solution-focused approach. It emphasises professionals building relationships with families.

It values simplicity of language and values 'what works' in any given situation.

This approach is combined with a risk assessment and planning framework.

All work is undertaken with the family and their naturally connected network of support. This helps create a practical and realistic plan which will protect the child or children.

The benefits of Signs of Safety

The Signs of Safety model helps child protection agencies to deliver their services with a rigorous focus on child safety and wellbeing.

The model helps make sure that the children, parents and family are at the centre of the assessment and any decision making. To do this the model explains the full process, including all:

  • practices
  • policies
  • procedures
  • organisation.

Signs of Safety gives the family every opportunity to come up with and apply their solutions before the professionals offer or impose theirs. 

Full involvement of family and network is always pursued. This is whether the child lives within or outside their family.

Whilst children's services are involved, everything is done to sustain the child’s lifelong connection with their:

  • family
  • culture
  • community of origin.

Structure of the Signs of Safety model

The basic risk assessment and planning framework is built around 4 questions:

  • what is working well?
  • what are we worried about?
  • what needs to happen?
  • on a scale of 0-10, where would you rate things right now? (10: this child is safe and 0: there is nothing keeping this child safe)

How Children’s Social Care and Family Solutions use Signs of Safety

In Medway, we are working to integrate this model into every aspect of Children's Social Care and Family Solutions.

Signs of Safety is both an approach and an ethos, and takes time to embed fully.

We plan to use this model in every interaction with a family. We will ask questions to look for strengths and safety that may be present.

In every assessment, we will be mapping:

  • harm
  • complicating factors
  • strengths
  • safety.

We can use this to create a clear analysis that we share with families so that they understand professional worries using:

  • danger and worry statements
  • safety, wellbeing and success goals.

We will help naturally connected networks to form safety plans, which we and the network will monitor to make sure they are working. We will monitor this by speaking with the family, the network and the children.

A scaling question is one that asks someone to rate something on a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 and 10 are clearly defined.

We will use scaling questions and other direct work tools in our:

  • visits to families
  • meetings
  • discussions about families.

This will help us monitor progress, or where things aren’t progressing, to track increasing worries.

What families can expect from the new Signs of Safety model

If you're receiving a service from one of our Family Solutions or Children's Social Care teams, they will be using the new Signs of Safety model. 

This means, even if you do not agree on everything, your allocated worker should be using the Signs of Safety approach so that they are working in partnership with you.

It will also mean that you are clear on why they are involved in you or your children's lives and what the plan will be going forward.

Partner agencies and Signs of Safety

For Signs of Safety to work well, partner agencies are important.

Some of the main tools to help our teams and agencies work with the model are:

  • describing worries in a jargon-free way
  • even when we are very worried or need to criticise a family, that we acknowledge strengths at the same time (also known as honouring)
  • using a relationship-based approach with regular communication with the family and other professionals
  • when explaining worries, that these worries are grounded in specific behaviours or examples to allow the family to understand and hopefully make changes.