Thresholds – consistent decision making when assessing risk

  • Ensuring staff use the Risk Model to test the threshold of likelihood of significant harm.
  • Building on our current practice and integrating this into other elements of the model (i.e. conversations, change and measure).

The threshold of likelihood of significant harm is critical to the duty on Local Authorities to undertake enquiries and intervene in the private lives of families.  This is an important threshold in ensuring the rights of families to private life on one hand and the state’s role in protecting children from abuse on the other.  This threshold is continuously assessed during the day to day work of Children Services and practitioners need to reach these decisions consistently and in accordance with a framework that assures quality of decision making.

Gwynedd Children Services and Bruce Thornton, developed the Risk Model to provide an analysis framework for decision making about the threshold of likelihood of significant harm.  It is well embedded in practice and integrated into child protection processes.  This includes Section 47 Enquiries and the Social Work Report to Conference.  The Risk Model is a two stage model, supported by guidance and support tools.  The Risk Model assesses the degree to which a child’s needs are met and the parent’s capacity to meet those needs.  It identifies potential harm and its likelihood to occur.  Where there is harm it assesses whether this is ‘significant’ or not.

The skills of undertaking risk assessments using the Risk Model are developed through training workshops for staff and mentoring support.  Mentoring is provided within the Local Authority by managers, practice mentors and through facilitated support groups.

The Risk Model is an approach that has been developed and adopted by Gwynedd Council.  Gwynedd Council was awarded a Social Care Accolade in 2011 for the work and Dafydd Paul was awarded a BASW Award for Innovation in Social Work in 2013.  The Risk Model has been adopted by several other Authorities in England and Wales, modified for use by CAFCASS Cymru and in early intervention in England.

Training is provided locally and through Bruce Thornton and includes:

  • Assessing Risk of Significant Harm using Risk 2
  • Undertaking Pre-birth Risk Assessments
  • Parental Capacity to change
  • Using specialist assessment tools (e.g. Graded Care Profile, Home Conditions)

This is supported in practice through supervision, peer support and the Child Protection Co-ordinator.  The Effective Child Protection project provides individual and group mentoring support.