Signs of Safety: The view from early help

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


Signs of Safety is a strengths-based approach to work with children and families where there are concerns about abuse or neglect. Signs of Safety is widely used in the UK and internationally, and there is a growing range of empirical research exploring its use within statutory children’s social work. However, there is little research exploring how, and to what effect, Signs of Safety is being used by other childcare professionals. This paper reports on an independent evaluation of the use of Signs of Safety by an ‘early help’ agency in the South West of England. At time of evaluation, the agency was commissioned by the local authority to support children and families with multiple and complex needs who did not meet the threshold for statutory children’s social care involvement.
The study was multiple methods with two strands. To better understand the work that the agency did, data was collected from case files, to develop a profile of families engaging with the agency. Interviews were undertaken with five practitioners about their experiences of using Signs of Safety. Saliency analysis was used to explore the qualitative data. Overall practitioners felt that Signs of Safety was accessible, supported clear communication with children and families and aided critical reflection. However, existing tensions - relating to statutory threshold decisions and multi-agency relationships - were reflected and magnified via the Signs of Safety tools. Based on these findings, implications for practice are discussed, providing original insights about an issue highly relevant to national and international audiences.
Original languageEnglish
JournalChild Care in Practice
Publication statusPublished - 7 Sep 2020

Structured keywords

  • SPS Children and Families Research Centre
  • Signs of Safety
  • Risk assessment
  • early help
  • thresholds
  • children's social care

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