Accessibility Statement
Skip to main content
Chat icon Chat with us live

Signs of safety

What is Signs of Safety?

Signs of Safety is a practice framework which 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 the worries are and how they can be supported to sort the worries out.  It 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.

Why is Signs of Safety right for Tameside?

CharactersTameside is implementing Signs of Safety as its overarching practice model for all its work with children and families. The overall aim is to transform our approach to how we deliver services and support to children and families and that we implement the model across all our services.  Tameside believes that the model will provide a clear theoretical framework and methodology to drive practice standards, service delivery and workforce development in line with Tameside’s improvement plan and vision for the children and families we are working with.

Tameside has a clear vision that:
  • We will always want to find a way for children and young people to be safe and happy living together with their families.
  • We will support and empower families to solve their own problems and make their own plans, helping families think through the problems and who could help them
  • We will treat parents/carers with respect, working hard to find out what is already working well for the child and in their family.  We will always be honest about what we are worried about and what we want to see change.
  • We believe relationships are important and we will work hard to make sure whoever is involved really gets to know the child and the family they are working with.  We hope the child and the family feel they can talk openly with their worker and trust them.
  • We believe that the relationships children and families already have with people around them (family and friends) are really important and we will work hard with them to improve things and try to sort out the worries.
  • When we think it is not safe for children to live at home we will do everything we can for the child/children to be looked after by people they know and trust.  We will work hard with parents and carers for children to return home when it is safe.
  • We will do everything possible to keep children connected to the people they have told us are important to them.
  • We believe every child deserves an explanation of why people are worried - to help them understand what has happened to them.
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/carers in order to achieve this.
Signs of Safety Leaflet

Signs of Safety Leaflet


Signs of Safety Posters

Signs of Safety Posters



Context and Philosophy

Signs of Safety is a model developed in Western Australia in the 1990’s by Andrew Turnell and Steve Edwards which is based on strengths based interview techniques and draws on solution focussed brief therapy.  The model has developed and is widely used across a number of different local authorities within the UK and worldwide.

The three core principles of the approach are:
  1. Establishing constructive working relationships and partnerships between professionals and family members, and between professionals themselves.
  2. Engaging in critical thinking and maintaining a position of inquiry.
  3. Staying grounded in the everyday work of child protection practitioner



Research has shown that these processes have been found to have a positive impact on different areas within a social work organisation ranging from workforce development through to improved service delivery.
  • parents say they are clearer about what is expected of them and they receive more relevant support
  • the approach encourages transparent decision-making
  • the professionals had to be specific about their concerns for the child’s safety
  • this encouraged better presentation of evidence
  • the degree of protective elements and of actual or apprehended risks could be set out visually on a scale, easier for all to understand than lengthy reports
  • once set out the risks did not have to continually be revisited
  • the group could acknowledge strengths and meetings could focus on how to achieve safety
(NSPCC 2013)

This is what happenedQuick Guide - How Does Signs of Safety Work?

Signs of Safety Principles:

    building effective relationships between professionals  and family members and between professionals themselves
    thinking critically, maintaining a position of inquiry  and resisting the urge to make definitive conclusions
    using the model and sharing what works and what’s been difficult
    actively engaging children in planning and  assessment and helping them to understand what is happening in their family

Signs of Safety Practice Elements:

    respect parents/carers as partners in building safety and success
    we don’t have all the answers; work with the family/carers to develop a shared understanding of what needs to change and allow parents/carers to bring their own solutions
    all families have competencies and strengths and keep their children safe some of the time; give these signs of safety/success careful consideration
    practice the belief that families can change and motivate them to identify shared goals 
    avoid unnecessary coercion and offer choices to build cooperation
    view your interaction and relationship with the family/carers as the vehicle through which change can be achieved
    use simple, jargon free language which everyone can understand


Signs of Safety Tools:

    what are we worried about, what is working well,  what needs to happen
    safety goals and a safety plan will be developed with  the family which outlines the best hopes for safety in the future and how this will be achieved   
    scaling questions are used with both parents/carers and  partners to assess the current situation and where the preferred future would be
    clear definitions in everyday language of past harm and future danger
    three houses, fairies and wizards, words and pictures