This is an occasional newsletter regarding the Signs of Safety England Innovations Project.
Signs of Safety Newsletter

Newsletter #7 | December 2015


It’s All About the Practice – Safety Networks – Building and Sustaining the Network

Following the previous Signs of Safety England Innovations Project workshop session on safety planning, the focus shifted to the critical area of safety networks with which most organisations have the most challenges embedding practice.

Safety networks – the core of safety plans
  • family owned safety planning with Children’s Services bottom line requirements including a network found by the family
  • the network informed about the danger and the safety goals
  • forming the safety plan with the network
  • monitoring the safety plan by both Children’s Services and the network
“It is not usual practice to do safety plans like this – we struggle because we generally don’t trust families.”

In considering this practice, local authority leaders analysed what challenges their organisations and staff as well the strengths and resources they can draw on to shift practice.


Leadership that Supports Working with Safety Networks

The broader English policy environment, and consequent entrenched ways of working, preference services over family actions as well as professionals’ decision making over that of families. This is formally reflected in Sections 52, 53 of the Working Together guidance, though it does encompass a range of actions and family involvement enabling this practice. So, Signs of Safety practice - truly putting families in the centre of assessment and planning and building safety through the actions of family, extended family and social networks - demands leadership. The England Innovations Project is signalling the opportunity to change the policy landscape, locally and beyond. Local authority leaders identified a range of attitudes and actions they need to demonstrate to build effective safety planning and safety networks.
  • Additional support to be brave, for new workers to be confident
  • Need to pay attention those teams where the high risk cases are such as court cases, or where professionals are worried.
  • As a leader, being more proactive in the multi agency network,
  • Leading practice changes to be more evident and giving people confidence to be great
  • Everyone talking the same language, taking ownership of safety plans
  • Sharing leadership
  • Line managers asking about networks
  • Continual learning, regularly sharing when it went well
  • Big step change from this date this is how we do things
  • Conference chairs seeking networks, helping families look at their plans, building the confidence for others to do this (if its already there so don’t need to construct at the conference)
  • Using LSCB as a network – preparing the ground for partner agency involvement
  • More modelling of family network meetings, it is a different skill
  • Quality assurance encompassing networks within practice accountability, with a learning focus
  • Healthy debates and challenge in the service leader groups,
  • Keeping Signs of Safety and safety planning on the agenda
  • Just getting on with family led plans instead of professionals
  • Get a reference group of families to think about what families might need to do this work
  • Information from families to inform senior and middle managers
  • Implementation plan for network practice
  • Clarity about expectations from senior leadership;
  • Practice leaders are the backbone, discuss this with them, using them in training and promoting network practice
  • Let go of stuff!

Practice Reform Projects

All local authorities are progressing on the projects reforming specific key areas of practice. The projects are summarised below:

Front door to conferencing
Establishing a simplified and single assessment and plan using the Signs of Safety framework for intake / first response and applying Signs of Safety methodology through into child protection conferences, family support/child in need meetings and family group conferences.

Continuum of service
The Signs of Safety methodology being applied in all cases in Children’s Services, the continuum of service across early help, family support, child protection and looked after children – using the common framework to allow for seamless transition and service provision.

Partner integration
Driving further integration with other key services such as schools, health, police, youth services; and with the Troubled Families programme.

Public Law Outline
Applying the Signs of Safety methodology in all PLO meetings and reflected clearly in the documentation for meetings.


Signs of Safety Quality Assurance

Case audit tools (mapping, safety planning) trial

Trials of the two case audit tools are underway in five pilot local authorities with others also choosing to use the tools. Feedback on the trails will be received in mid-January and inform the final version of the tools as well as how they fit into the whole Signs of Safety quality assurance system. Feedback will include the following information:

Audits completed
  • Number (mapping, safety planning)
  • Collaborative (by whom) OR file
  • Any adjustments made to the tools

Plans with respect to using the case audit tools.
Core data set

A proposed core data set is being developed as one part of the Signs of Safety quality assurance system. The data set will also be proposed the Department for National Education to streamline national reporting as part of the England Innovations Project. The draft core data set is as follows:
  • Outcomes
    • Education attainment of EH / CIN / CP / LAC
    • Rates of violent and sexual offences against children (per 10,000)
    • Rate of A&E presentation / Hospital admissions for unintentional or deliberate injury (per 10,000)
  • Activity
    • Referral & re-referral rates per 10,000
    • % referred by who
    • % of referrals leading to NFA / EH / CIN / CP / LAC
    • Assessments and Section 47 enquiries per 10,000
  • Timeliness
    • Days to decide if CIN / to hold ICPC / to get to and through Court
  • Plans
    • Number of children EH / CIN / CP / LAC (per 10,000)
    • % EH / CIN / CP / LAC plans lasting over 6 months / 1 year / 2 years
    • % becoming subject to EH / CIN / CP / LAC again within 12 and 24 months
    • % where children seen in accordance with plan
  • Workforce
    • Vacancy / Turnover / Sickness / Agency Rates
    • Average caseloads

Research Update

The parents survey work has been completed. Local authorities will receive a second staff survey before the end of the year for all staff using Signs of Safety across all Children’s Services. Additional data and interviews with key staff will inform a description of each of the local authority’ reform journey through the project.

The independent evaluation is on track with interviews of two cohorts of families, one recruited early and one late in the project, at two time points. Staff questionnaires will inform a deeper understanding of the practice with the families. Value for money is being assessed by a daily diary to give a measure of time spent with families.


Information Management

The ICT system blueprint development is progressing with the next ITC Signs of Safety EIP users workshop January 2016. Industry engagement is continuing with – ZAIZA (open source), Alfresco (open source), Core Logic (Mosaic, modular approach).

The beta version of the Three Houses App is currently being tested by local authorities and other agencies internationally.


England Chief Social Worker, Children and Families

Isabelle Trowler was welcomed to the Signs of Safety England Innovations Project workshop in November. Isabelle spoke about the medium and long term journey of reform in England, the seminal work of Moira Gibb on social work in 2009 and Eileen Munro reviewing England’s child protection system in 2011 in this journey, and the substantial distance yet to travel. The England Innovation Project is a major feature of the vision for reform of recent and the next four years with its emphasis on flexibility and freeing up the system from rules and procedures to focus on practice.


Join with us on Yammer

  • Working on integrating Signs of Safety and the statutory assessment?
  • Want to check whether your implementation plan has captured everything that the other local authorities are doing?
  • Has anyone done…?
  • Has anyone got…?

Head to the Signs of Safety EIP network and share your knowledge and resources and have your queries addressed. The more ways we have of communicating the better!  


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