What is Signs of Safety?
The Signs of Safety model has been adopted by Tameside Children’s Services as a
practice framework for all of its work with children and families. Tameside Children’s Services
has a clear vision to empower and enable families to bring about their own change and to require
less intrusive levels of intervention. The Signs of Safety Model provides a clear set of skills,
values and principles for practitioners and partners to use in their practice with families.
Originally developed in Western Australia during the 1990s, Signs of Safety is now being used
across the globe and in many local authorities in England to work with children and families. It
is considered one of the world’s leading models on Child Protection.
At the core of the SOS approach there are three questions around the child’s safety.
- What are we worried about?
- What’s working well?
- What needs to happen?
Professor Andrew Turnell, the co-designer of the SOS approach, gives a brief overview of the approach here;
How will Signs of Safety work in Tameside?
Signs of Safety will enable professionals to work collaboratively with families to conduct assessments and
produce plans; focussing on their strengths and resources. The model provides tools for professionals to
build effective relationships with families in order that they develop a clearer understanding of what
needs to change and how this can be achieved.
Signs of Safety recognises the strengths within families and aims to give them the best chance to bring
their own solutions to problems. The approach moves away from the professional adopting the position
of expert towards a more constructive culture where families and professionals engage together in
Child participation is central to the Sign of Safety model and specific tools are available to involve
and engage children to ensure their views are understood by professionals and their families. The model
can be adapted to be used at all stages of work with children and families from early help, child
protection through to looked after children and adoption.
This video clip shows the launch of Signs of Safety in Tameside.
There is a Signs of Safety leaflet that can be used by practitioners with children and families,
designed by the Children in Care Council.
An A3 poster to be used within your organisation to promote Signs of Safety.
The below link is an example of the signs of safety process from start to end.
Principles of Signs of Safety
There are four principles to Signs of Safety to ensure its success.
Building effective relationships with families and other professionals will produce good practice.
Watch this 30 minute presentation on the use of family network meetings to support children;
- Keep an Open Mind:
Thinking critically, maintaining a position of inquiry and resisting the urge to make definitive conclusions
will produce good practice.
- Sharing Practice Experience:
Sharing what works and what’s been difficult will produce good practice.
The Knowledge Bank on the Signs of Safety website has hundreds of presentations/discussions from across
the world around signs of safety. It is regularly updated, and include topics on Signs of Safety and Covid-19.
- Child Centred:
Actively engaging children in planning and assessment will help them to understand what is happening in their families.
Watch this 40 minute case study on the importance of being child centred and its impact on the child;
Signs of Safety Practice Elements
There are 7 practice elements to Signs of Safety to ensure successful outcomes with families.
- Respect: respect parents/carers as partners in building safety.
- Humility: We don’t have all the answers; work with the family to develop a
shared understanding of what needs to change and allow parents to bring their own solutions.
- Recognising Strengths: All families have competencies and strengths and keep
their children safe some of the time; give these signs of safety careful consideration.
- Aspirational: Practice the belief that families can change and motivate them to identify shared goals.
- Offer Choices: Avoid unnecessary coercion and offer choices to build cooperation.
- Intervention: View your interaction and relationship with the family as the
vehicle through which change can be achieved.
- Common Language: Use simple, jargon free language which everyone can understand.
Signs of Safety Tools
There are 5 tools that can support yourself in implementing Signs of Safety.
Case Mapping: What are we worried about, what is working well, what needs to
happen. See following example of the case mapping template.
Safety Plan: Safety goals and a safety plan will be developed with the family which
outlines the best hopes for safety in the future and how to achieve it.
Scaling: Scaling questions are used with both parents and partners to assess the
current situation and to determine what the preferred future would be.
Danger Statements: clear definitions in everyday language of past harm and future danger.
Child Participation: Ensuring the voice of the child is captured.
The SOS tools are here to support the practitioner to have a conversation with the child/family. There
is no reason why the principles of these tools can not be adapted to suit individual children and
families. The case studies below show how practitioners used cartoons to engage with the children;
If you require any additional information or training on Signs of Safety please contact email@example.com
Signs of Safety Case Studies
A case study around a social work team using SOS for the first time. The video last for 30 minutes.
If you require a full briefing report on Signs of Safety please follow this link.