Signs of Safety England Innovations Project newsletter.
Newsletter #9 | April 2016
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Newsletter #9, April 2016

It’s incredible that the EIP period of intense Signs of Safety implementation has drawn to its finish. MTM and local authorities share the view that much has been achieved but that there is much that is yet to be done. The final workshop involved a hard look at practice and leadership, local authorities sharing their EIP journeys, and a concrete proposal from MTM for sustaining the journey.
Getting underway, the leadership workshop in November 2014
Above: Getting underway, the leadership workshop in November 2014.



Finding Safety Networks

Finding safety networks is probably the single quickest and biggest transformational change you could lead in English Children’s Services is to get naturally connected support networks involved in the casework from day one.
Difficulties in Finding Safety Networks – an exercise for managers and workers
What are the objection/difficulty you hear most often about parents involving others to support them that you hear most often?
  • “the whole family is dysfunctional
  • there isn’t anybody
  • don’t want the rest of the family or their friends to know their business
  • I can’t tell anyone
  • family live away, cant get hold of them
  • telling lies
  • haven’t got the time (social worker)
  • they don’t speak English
  • don’t want my family involved”

Questions to unlock the networks
  • Identify and think about the biggest of these objections / difficulties
  • Write down at least two questions about that issue in each of the categories – past, present and future – first, digging into the negative, and then questions that pose the possibility of a positive outcome. 
  • The worksheet sets out the areas for the questions.

Examples of questions



All leaders at the workshop thought that they could run this exercise with their managers.
And as always, it is a matter of thinking through where the blocks or gaps are, what the organisational strengths are to build on, and taking action.
Biggest gaps or blocks to getting more of this practice
  • Too risky, belief that professionals bring more safety than family, not trusting the family
  • Networks not passing viability assessments
  • Confidence of workers to manage network meetings
  • How do you bring everyone together when we don’t even involve fathers?
  • Multi agency partnerships and bureaucracy used to be too risk averse
  • Harvesting information through Signs of Safety tools for traditional child protection processes rather than using the assets of families and their networks
  • Workers saying they have not got time, feels like extra work
  • Staff turnover, agency staff
  • Managers not being prepared to take a risk – doing the ‘easier’/‘safer’ thing
  • Legal Department (not Signs of Safety briefed or trained and need to be) – putting constraints on involving family and stifle workers’ flexibility 
Biggest assets, strengths, in personal leadership or the organisation in helping to bridge or remove the gaps
  • Social workers, and workers across service areas, embracing the model and wanting to do something different
  • Seeing families in a more positive way and families responding well
  • Relationship building with parents, children, more imaginative relationships looking more at solutions
  • Templates and forms that have been aligned – helps workers and provides consistency, pushes people into the practice
  • Other agencies including schools and health taking this on and positive feedback from partners
  • Strong leadership, clear this is the way we are going to do things
  • Tenacity and belief, enthusiasm and encouragement
  • Energy, enthusiasm, commitment from practitioners
  • Providing more space for thinking for workers – group supervision
  • Good community links
  • Learning and development team committed to looking at networks
This might be difficult, but the next steps are…
  • Specifying what the things are that we want to see in every case
    • Signs of Safety QA case audit tool
  • Mini audit to see where teams are at / identify the gaps and plan
    • Taking responsibility for asking more searching questions about involvement of family and friends
    • Driving within teams
  • Model safety planning more – asking safety questions and asking the family, ‘who else can you invite?’
  • Joining up the dots across the child’s journey – so we can describe the whole journey (front door to conferencing and beyond)
  • Sharing what good work looks like
  • Be more assertive about insisting people attend group supervision sessions
  • Some going back to the beginning to get the shift in mindset
  • Leaders actively holding the risk, providing strong leadership
    • Asking managers what they are worried about that could go wrong and holding the risk with them
  • Do the policy that reflects the practice
  • Making sure continuing implementation plans capture networks
  • Setting the ICS system to record networks
  • Revisit with whole senior management team our commitment to this practice
  • Push for legal people to get more involved – training, briefing, understanding, implementing
  • Speak to CAFCASS & Family Justice Board – explain
  • Keep driving – keep the momentum going


Each local authority presented their EIP journey to the leadership workshop in March, variously describing successes and challenges and next steps. One slide from each presentation gives the flavour of the journeys when viewed together.  













Tower Hamlets




West Sussex





Whole system implementation as envisaged by Munro, Turnell and Murphy (MTM), as illustrated below, anticipates a two-year period of intense activity within the context a long term, five year, commitment. So, the eighteen months of the EIP has been a short time.

MTM has presented a number of strategies for sustaining the implementation including economic arrangements for services to be available for the next year, new opportunities for further development, and key organizational arrangements for both LAs and the Signs of Safety community in the UK.


Signs of Safety Quality Assurance System
Collaborative case audit, family feedback on practice and staff feedback on the organisational culture and fit, and a streamlined core data set.
Ofsted Inspections and Signs of Safety
how to evidence Signs of Safety against the major categories in the inspection assessment framework (Annex F).
Practice Guidance
Signs of Safety Continuity of Case Practice – how the Signs of Safety is best applied through the life of a case.
Signs of Safety Conference Workbook.
Signs of Safety Adaptations across the Continuum of Service – how the Signs of Safety methodology is adapted from early help through to looked after children.
My Three Houses App
Available on Apple, Android and Windows platforms.
Information Management Prototype and Community Interest Company
Suitable for agencies to provide to suppliers to illustrate their case recording needs.


Project Management Responsibility in Local Authorities
MTM’s view is that that LA’s do need to identify a position to hold project management responsibility for continuing implementation.
Signs of Safety Regional Groups
Continue the trend of establishing Signs of Safety regional groups.
Yammer (and Signs of Safety Policy Clearing House)
Reconfigured and maintained as an all UK Signs of Safety site.
UK Signs of Safety Director and Office
Permanent director and office.


Targeted Organisational Consultation
MTM and associates providing organisational consultancy by video and in person.
Mentoring Local Authority Leaders and Implementation
Directors and assistant directors of EIP LAs supporting other LAs implementing Signs of Safety.
Signs of Safety Leadership Workshop – London, 30 September 2016.


Training and Practice Leader Development
Targeted regionally delivered events and courses, through lead LA’s.
Exemplar Case Consultation with Resolutions Consultancy
End to end complex case consultation for assistance and practice development.
Signs of Safety International Gathering, Norwich, 5–7 July 2016
With suitable academic partners.
Above: This chapter drawing to an end, the leadership workshop in January 2016.
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