Signs of Safety® in England

Two people sat in chairs with notepadsThe Signs of Safety model is a tool intended to help practitioners with risk assessment and safety planning in child protection cases.

Its purpose is to enable practitioners across different disciplines to work collaboratively and in partnership with families and children. The tools are designed to help conduct risk assessments and produce action plans for increasing safety, and to reduce risk and danger by identifying areas that need change while focusing on strengths, resources and networks that the family have.

Created by Andrew Turnell and Steve Edwards in Western Australia during the 1990s, Signs of Safety is now used in at least 12 different countries across Australasia, North America and Europe.

This report looks at the research literature and the experiences of practitioners who have used Signs of Safety in England. It explores what is known about the Signs of Safety model and its effectiveness. It looks at the theory, aims and method of the model and examines the research literature. Practitioners' experiences of using the approach in England are described through interviews. Finally the advantages and disadvantages of the approach are discussed.

This research was commissioned by the NSPCC.

Author: Amanda Bunn
Published: 2013

  • Practitioners described Signs of Safety as a useful framework for addressing the danger and harm factors in a case and clarifying the concerns, especially with more difficult cases and during periods of crisis. They felt that Signs of Safety helped to identify risk.
  • Signs of Safety helped practitioners to be more specific about child protection issues, ensuring they described behaviours and frequencies rather than just saying the child had experienced 'neglect'. This was also thought to help practitioners think of families as individual families, each different, rather than just having a certain "type" of problem.
  • Signs of Safety methods were thought to increase participation, co-operation and the engagement of parents/families.
  • Parents liked focusing on strengths and not just problems.
  • The approach helped parents to see things from the child's perspective.
  • The tools gave younger children a voice and a say.
  • Using Signs of Safety means that action and change was more likely to happen.
  • There is limited evidence so far on whether Signs of Safety improves outcomes for children.
  • Further research is needed to evaluate the effectiveness of this model.
Acknowledgments 5
Introduction outlining Signs of Safety and aims of the report 7
Chapter 1: Signs of Safety: the model 9
Chapter 2: Research Evidence on the Signs of Safety model and solution Focused Brief Therapy in Child Protection 45
Chapter 3: Findings from the NSPCC survey and interviews 75
Chapter 4: Discussion, implications and suggestions for research 107
References 128
Appendix 1: Notes about levels of usage Signs of Safety in England – 19 May 2011 130
Appendix 2: Geographical development of Signs of Safety (as of May 2011) 134
Appendix 3: Topic guide for interviews 136

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