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

Newsletter #5 | August 2015

The July leadership workshop for the ten partnering local authorities marked the half-way point for the Signs of Safety England Innovations Project. Local authorities took stock of their progress and immediate priorities in growing practice and aligning their organisations. The workshop also started work on developing a Signs of Safety quality assurance system.



Many local authorities were already on the Signs of Safety implementation journey before the EIP with only two entirely new and one fairly new to Signs of Safety. The 18-month EIP project is an intense development period, with clear steps in local authority plans, in what is nevertheless a continuing journey.

So, how do local authorities see where they are?

On a scale of 0 to 10:

where 10 is we are fully implemented, and this is what it looks like:

  • Staff are thoroughly familiar with Signs of Safety practice—the principles, the tools, the disciplines, the processes—and working with it;
  • Supervision is occurring and is aligned with Signs of Safety;
  • We have continuous learning strategies in place;
  • We are organized in our work teams to support practice;
  • We have our policies, procedures and forms aligned with Signs of Safety practice, and streamlined;
  • We are managing and leading in ways that are consistent with Signs of Safety practice, speaking the language, living the principles, mapping issues, and connected to practice;
  • Staff would say they are supported to learn, through contention, anxiety and crises;
  • We are on an ongoing journey of growing our depth of practice;
and 0 is we have barely begun:
  • There has been training;
  • You see some of the practice;
  • Mostly though staff think they are being asked to do something extra;
  • And a lot of people are just waiting for this to fade away.
Local Authorities rated themselves between 3–4 and 4–7. These sober assessments recognised inevitable unevenness in practice within authorities and the steps yet to be achieved in aligning organisations. They also reflect local authorities seeing Signs of Safety increasingly in front line practice, growing consistency of practice, substantial momentum for development, positive feedback, evidence in supervision, workers having pride and enthusiasm, creativity, continuous learning strategies including group supervision, clear implementation plans being enacted, knowing the areas for improvement, partners “buy in”, senior management being keen and driving it forward, and feedback from families.

Also welcome were comments from local authorities that ‘the more we do the more we realise there is to do’ but that ‘it’s coming together’. All local authorities also cited authorities coming together in the EIP and being part of the Signs of Safety community beyond the EIP as major drivers in development.

Some current challenges

  • IT systems
  • Quality assurance
  • Increased demand at the front doorworkloads
  • Legal—support from courts and solicitors
  • Staff changes and re-structures
  • Resisting the urge to proceduralise in a system that is moving away from  compliance, tick box and deficit dominance
  • Ofsted
  • Making sense in areas other than social care (fostering & adoption, adult care)
  • Shared understanding of risk across the organisation
  • Funding issues—will workers have jobs next year?
  • Pace—so busy and so much to do—time to increase the depth of practice
  • Local political leaders

Priorities and imperatives to drive progress

Local authorities have identified individual priorities and imperatives to drive progress, across a range of practice and organisational areas, while they continue implementation of comprehensive plans of action. The practical and strategic thinking of the local authorities is demonstrated by the this sampling of actions under the key themes :
Practice development
  • Practitioners’ feedback informing assessment and development
  • Families feedback informing practice development
  • Focusing on key practice skills – use of plain language, core skills such as questioning, devising safety plans
Continuous learning
  • Developing practice leaders and their role to guide staff practice
  • Creating a learning culture, not just more and more training
Leadership development
  • Developing leadership further, modeling Signs of Safety 
Organisational alignment
  • Aligning forms, policies and process to fit Signs of Safety
  • Having and IT having a system that works for practitioners
  • Building lignment of QA process to Signs of Safety
  • Caseloads that are conducive to Signs of Safety practice
  • Continuing to build LSCB & partner engagement with Signs of Safety
  • Do not let momentum slow, continue to encourage enthusiasm and support staff to develop, learn and grow as a children services department, not shy away from challenge and continue to drive from the “bottom up and top down”



Ask yourself…
On a scale of 0–10 where 10 is that as a leader of practice you feel really well able to supervise, lead and quality assure Signs of Safety practice because you have a good understanding of all of the elements of mapping and 0 is that you know there is such a thing as a mapping but really have no idea how you would QA it, where would you rate yourself?
Some thoughts of local authorities on assessing the quality of a mapping – the elements that make a good Signs of Safety mapping
  • Clarity in the statements non jargon; particularly for harm
  • Clear impact on children
  • Up to date information
  • Whole family included
  • Opinion from outside i.e. school
  • Separate out danger statement and linked safety goal (for each issue separate)
  • Sufficient clarity in safety goals
  • Use of examples
  • Child’s voice
  • Timeline and progress needs to be clear
  • Strengths need to be demonstrated as safety


Local authorities have detailed and comprehensive audit systems and processes. Yet aligning quality assurance to Signs of Safety practice is widely considered to be a challenge and an opportunity for driving better practice.
The Signs of Safety England Innovations Project proposal has committed MTM to work with local authorities to co-create (through a structured learning process involving multiple authorities and leadership teams) a set of practice measures and data collection methods to form the basis for a new quality assurance system.
The development will draw substantially on first, Signs of Safety fidelity research to capture practical measures of the experience of families and staff, including a new study for organizational fidelity; and second, the Signs of Safety theory of change or results logic. 
The July and September workshops involve sessions to support the development of a Signs of Safety approach to quality assurance. A draft case audit tool and guidance for Signs of Safety mapping that emphasizes its use in collaboration with case workers was considered in July. In September a case audit tool and guidance for safety planning will be reviewed.
Considerations in developing a QA approach
  • A first consideration is always, ‘do the family understand why Children’s Services are worried’, and asking different members of the family
  • Content is not the driver, we need to help workers to think they’re way through mapping a case, it is more about process than content
  • Need to understand the logics of the Signs of Safety model, the core elements, and specifically your theory of change for Signs of Safety in your local authority  
A collaborative action learning process involving the actors whose life and work is being reviewed, to rigorously explore together with the reviewers the successes and weaknesses of the work, and how to improve the endeavor.
The improvement process must always listen to the experience of and be accountable to the least powerful people who are directly affected by the work.
In the same way as we seek to work with families, quality assurance should seek to meet, wherever possible, the maxim of “nothing about us without us”.
Structuring Quality Assurance – Case Audit – Signs of Safety Mapping 

Towards a quality assurance system
Working with the representatives of quality assurance sections of all local authorities as well as senior managers from the five local authorities that will pilot the new tools and system, a Signs of Safety quality assurance system is emerging that aims to be a useful resource, in part or in whole, to organisations.




Local authorities are progressing alignment of their key forms, and associated policies and procedures, with Signs of Safety. This is occurring both as part of the comprehensive implementation across all children’s services and as practice is reformed through specific projects for Signs of Safety practice (as it applies 'from the front door to conferencing’, across the continuum of services and for Public Law Outline cases).
Noteworthy is taking an approach that listens to practitioners and finds out what works best and then develops guidance.
While local authorities are at different stages, and some aligned policies and forms are in draft and about to be trialed, between all the authorities there is an impressive and near complete list of resources. Plans are underway for these to be shared through a ‘policy clearing house’ on the EIP Yammer site.
  • PLO letter before proceedings and guidance notes
  • Guidance to help families understand PLO procedures
  • PLO planning meeting reports
  • Pre-proceedings reports
  • PLO expectations
  • Family feedback form
  • Multi-agency referral form
  • Screening through to front line
  • Statutory assessment
  • CAF
  • Single assessment
  • Early help service delivery plan
  • Family network meeting (replacing family group conference)
  • Family feedback form
  • Agency report to conference
  • Child protection conference report
  • CP conference summary for the family
  • PLO letter before proceedings and guidance notes
  • Guidance to help families understand PLO procedures
  • PLO planning meeting reports
  • Pre-proceedings reports
  • PLO expectations
  • Care planning
  • LAC panel
  • Supervision
  • And aide memoires for anything rewritten in Signs of Safety format!


  • Action research survey of parents is well underway with all local authorities.
  • Independent evaluation by Kings College is well into interviewing a first cohort of families and establishing a value for money methodology.
  • The first prototype of a Signs of Safety information management system has been developed. The project aims to overcome the blockages identified in feedback from local authorities — inertia and cynicism, 'street level bureaucracy’ and existing ICT! 
  • The Three Houses app is on track to be trialed in September, refined between September and November and available in February or March. 
  • Wakefield continues to lead development of a proposal for streamlined national reporting to be submitted as a practice exemption by all local authorities and MTM. The draft proposal will be presented in the September EIP workshop. 
  • Meetings between MTM and Ofsted with local authorities attending are continuing and exploring what good practice looks like, how to quality assure Signs of Safety, and specific areas such as safety plans. Local authorities are encouraged to continue regional consultation.


UK Signs of Safety Leadership Day – 2 October, London

The all UK Signs of Safety leadership workshop is now in its third year.
The day will coincide with close to a year of the Signs of Safety England Innovations Project. The 10 local authorities that partner in the project will be at the leadership day to share the learning from the EIP and as core members of the Signs of Safety learning community.
Comprehensive implementation across all of children’s services as well as the new work on quality assurance and information management will be focuses for the workshop.
With around 50 local authorities across the UK having had some involvement with Signs of Safety, and a number seeking the benefits of comprehensive implementation for their whole organisation, the UK Signs of Safety community has the opportunity to achieve substantial reform in line with local authority needs and together with great outcomes for children and families.
Register through

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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