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.

  1. What are we worried about?
  2. What’s working well?
  3. What needs to happen?

Professor Andrew Turnell, the co-designer of the SOS approach, gives a brief overview of the approach here; https://knowledgebank.signsofsafety.net/resources/introduction-to-signs-of-safety/what-is-signs-of-safety

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 addressing concerns.

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.

Signs of Safety Graphic

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. https://knowledgebank.signsofsafety.net/resources/whole-case-examples/end-to-end-cases/lucy-nancy-lacie/lucy-nancy-and-lacie

Principles of Signs of Safety

There are four principles to Signs of Safety to ensure its success.

  1. Partnership:

    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;


  2. Keep an Open Mind:

    Thinking critically, maintaining a position of inquiry and resisting the urge to make definitive conclusions will produce good practice.

  3. 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.


  4. 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.

  1. Respect: respect parents/carers as partners in building safety.
  2. 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.
  3. Recognising Strengths: All families have competencies and strengths and keep their children safe some of the time; give these signs of safety careful consideration.
  4. Aspirational: Practice the belief that families can change and motivate them to identify shared goals.
  5. Offer Choices: Avoid unnecessary coercion and offer choices to build cooperation.
  6. Intervention: View your interaction and relationship with the family as the vehicle through which change can be achieved.
  7. 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.

  1. Case Mapping: What are we worried about, what is working well, what needs to happen. See following example of the case mapping template.

  2. 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.

    Watch this 50 minute video on safety planning using pictures and words;


  3. Scaling: Scaling questions are used with both parents and partners to assess the current situation and to determine what the preferred future would be.

  4. Danger Statements: clear definitions in everyday language of past harm and future danger.

  5. 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;

This 30 minute video around Signs of Safety in schools and early years the case studies demonstrate how the words and pictures tools have helped to build relationships with the family;



If you require any additional information or training on Signs of Safety please contact catherine.davis@tameside.gov.uk

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.


Two case studies with creative ways around using SOS. The video lasts for 30 minutes.


If you require a full briefing report on Signs of Safety please follow this link.


What to do if you are worried about a child

If you think a child is being abused or mistreated or you have concerns about a child’s well-being please contact one of the numbers shown on this page.

Your phone call could help to safeguard a child who may be at risk.

If the situation is immediately dangerous for the child then ring 999 and ask for the Police.

If the child is not in immediate danger contact:

Children's Hub

  • Monday to Friday during office hours - 0161 342 4101
  • Monday to Friday outside office hours and weekends and public holidays – 0161 342 2222
  • GM Procedures Manual
  • Safeguarding concerns can be reported to the Children's Hub using the Online Electronic Referral form