East Lothian Council child protection approach 'empowering for workers and families'

Scottish Government Minister for Early Years and Childcare Maree Todd made a fact-finding visit to East Lothian Council’s Children’s Services Team Wednesday 9 May 2018 to see the ‘Signs of Safety’ (SOS) child protection approach in action. East Lothian Council has been using SOS for the last five years and was one of the first local authorities in Scotland to use it. It is used more widely in England, Australia and in the USA.

SOS is based in the belief that it is better to work with families rather than telling families what they have to do. It looks at what’s working well in families as well as identifying areas where families might need additional support and helps parents and practitioners to work together to see what needs to happen to keep children safe. Children also give their views on what’s good and what they worry about. They do this using pictures that are presented at the Initial Case Conference meeting. Hearing from their child how their behaviour makes their child feel is sometimes the hardest thing for parents come to terms with but doing this in a way that is supported by highly skilled professionals helps both the child and the parents to move forward

More traditional social work approaches may leave parents feeling frightened, excluded, powerless and not listened to. They can feel that plans from meetings are unclear and they don’t know what’s expected of them. SOS sees parents as partners at the table.

Councillor Shamin Akhtar, East Lothian Council spokesperson for Education and Children’s Services, said:

We really like Signs of Safety and it has had some very positive outcomes for children, young people and families in East Lothian. Councillor Shamin Akhtar

‘We have moved away from a ‘blame’ culture. We listen closely to parents and make sure that anyone involved in case conferences deals with everyone else clearly, honestly and respectfully. I know that we have made great strides in getting children and adults the support they need and building networks of safety around children and families so that we are now actually able to close cases. But, most importantly of all, we know that Signs of Safety is really helping to keep our children and young people safe.’

Ms Todd added:

‘I was impressed by the way that Signs of Safety has been implemented in East Lothian. I could see that it energises social workers and allows them to use their skills to really make a difference. Both workers and families seemed to find the experience empowering.

Published: Monday, 28th May 2018