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National Risk Framework to Support the Assessment of Children and Young People

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2.4 Stage 3 - Risk Management

Risk Management is the third stage of the risk consideration process. It is where the work undertaken in Stages 1 and 2 is brought together to shape and plan the agencies interventions aimed at keeping the child safe. Once risks have been identified and assessed it is critical that clear and specific actions are set out to successfully address and reduce that risk. These actions have to be formally written and recorded within the Child's Plan.

This risk management planning also has to clearly outline the various steps to be taken that actively consider and address risk, both in the immediate and in the longer term. A robust risk management plan helps to ensure shared accountability, clarity of professional roles and responsibilities and supports the interventions of the various staff involved.

While social work services will have lead responsibility for convening and chairing child protection meetings; risk management approaches overall need to reflect the primary GIRFEC principles of agencies working closely together to both promote children's welfare and ensure their safety. To do this effectively key professionals from other agencies have to prioritise attendance at, and commitment to, these meetings. Care planning and risk management, thus, has to be equally owned across all the services.

Practitioners from across a number of agencies, therefore, contribute to multi-agency care planning and risk management for the child. The team require to consider the information collected; organise and weight it in terms of its significance and examine the relationships between the different domains of the My World Triangle. This builds further upon the early analysis undertaken from the initial assessment to move towards the development of a clear risk management/care plan.

Risk Management Planning

Risk assessment must be balanced and separate facts (observed evidence of risk) from opinions to arrive at an informed professional judgement. Practitioners require to approach the risk management task with a degree of both optimism and scepticism.

Assessment of risk is not a stand-alone exercise it has to have the purpose of leading to the management and eventual reduction of risk. Indeed it is not purposeful unless it results in identified actions to keep the child safe.

By identifying risks, vulnerabilities and protective factors practitioners ought to arrive at a comprehensive and informed assessment that provides agencies with:

  • An evidence base on which to proceed and make defensible decisions and actions
  • A platform for future planning and interventions
  • A clear idea of what needs to be done to protect the child/young person
  • A framework for managing and reducing risk
  • A framework against which progress (or deterioration) can be measured

Practitioners within multi-agency forums such as looked-after children reviews, case conferences or core groups need to be specific about the various risks that a child/young person is facing and identify both the potential for those risks occurring and the impact they will have on the child/young person if not managed or addressed. Multi-agency decision making wherever possible should be arrived at in conjunction with parents/carers, be informed by the views of the child/young person and an understanding of the circumstances of the child.

Risk management also has to be adaptive and flexible and be modified in light of changing events and circumstances.

The Child's Plan

The Child's Plan/Multi-Agency Child Protection Plan is fundamentally informed by the assessment and should identify how the following will be addressed:

  • The identified needs of the child or young person - including their need to be protected from future harm
  • Factors that impact on parents/carers capacity to respond to the needs of the child or young person, drawing on their strengths and areas of competence whilst recognising difficulties
  • Wider family and environmental factors which may have an impact on the child or young person and family, drawing on strengths in the wider family and community as well as identifying difficulties

Risk management plans should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-limited) and specific about the actions to be taken and:

  • Identify who is at risk: from whom and what and, if possible, in which circumstances
  • Set out the range of needs and risks to be addressed and outcomes to achieve
  • Identify who is responsible for each action
  • Identify any services or resources that will be required to ensure that the planned outcomes can be achieved within the agreed timescales
  • Agree how agencies can measure reduction in risk
  • State the timescales within which changes/improvements are to be made
  • Note what the contingency plans are

The plan should clearly set out the key outcomes that are required for the child and all actions must be separately identified and linked to individual needs/risks. The plan should be set out in a systematic way that is achievable, accountable and accessible for all parties involved, including the child/family. Risk management planning must also be subject to regular review, which, where statutory involvement is present, will reflect statutory review requirements and timeframes where these exist.

Any intervention to better protect a child/young person must be proportionate to the presenting evidence/information available and formally set out within the Child's Plan or the multi-agency child protection plan.