Signs of Safety

In Cumbria, Signs of Safety is about more children and young people remaining with families when the families have the potential to care for them safely. 

Signs of Safety is an innovative strengths-based, safety-organised approach to child protection casework.  The approach focuses on the question "How can the worker build partnerships with parents and children in situations of suspected or substantiated child abuse and still deal rigorously with the maltreatment issues?"  

This strengths-based and safety-focused approach to child protection work is grounded in partnership and collaboration with families and other professionals.  It expands the investigation of risk to encompass strengths and Signs of Safety that can be built upon to stabilise and strengthen a child's and family's situation. By utilising a questioning approach rooted in Solution Focused Brief Therapy, the family are at the heart of all decision making and are empowered to make positive choices about their own lives. 

Although primarily developed as an approach to working with child protection, Signs of Safety it is equally applicable to:

  • Early Help 
  • Looked after Children
  • Schools 
  • Fostering and Adoption 
  • Children with disabilities 
  • Health 
  • Third sector 

What we will see in Cumbria

  • When we work with families, we will lead with a strengths-based approach and honour these strengths.
  • By acknowledging the positive aspects that all families have, we will build these strengths into safety where they are tested over time.
  • We will be clear about what behaviour causes us to be worried, what impact this has on the child, and what needs to happen to reduce these worries. 
  • Families will be empowered to take charge of their own plans and will coordinate their own family network to respond to the worries. 
  • The voice of the child will be central to and will govern all planning. 
  • Relationships will be at the heart of all our practice with children and families as we know that all successful work is underpinned by honest, compassionate, and trusting relationships. 
  • We will see families and networks managing the worries, and problem solving in their own families in a new and empowered way, meaning less need for professional involvement. 
What you have told us is going well with Signs of Safety in Cumbria

Worker feedback
  • “We have the ability to frontload work and avoid unnecessary escalation”
  •  “Families are aware of what is expected of them, and clear plans are in place”
  • “Being supported effectively at early help level - avoided the stress of child protection, developed family network to sustain the progress made”
  • “When we look at the family’s strengths, they visually become more involved in the meeting”
  • “More cases are being stepped down / closed / being worked at a lower level of intervention”
  • “Baby is able to stay with mother, supported by family network with minimal level of statutory intervention”

Family Feedback
  • “It helps me look at relationships differently cos I was scared of being on my own”
  • “She was easy to talk to and I felt that she cared, and it wasn’t just a job”
  • “The social worker didn’t make me feel that she wanted to take my children or dodge me but wanted to help to get things back to normal again”
  • “The worker wanted things to be better and listened to me”
  • “I’ve never felt this strong in my life I don’t want be a victim anymore but a survivor”
  • Working relationships

  • “Thinking critically and fostering a stance of inquiry” (Munro) – questioning approach

  • Landing grand aspirations in everyday practice

  • Families as assets – honour and build on their strengths

  • Fostering hope not hopelessness

  • Help families to make changes for themselves

  • Apply relationship based practice

  • Putting children at the heart of how we plan and deliver support to them

  • Importance of direct work with children and families

  • We have nothing more to learn from mistakes – we will need to spend more time looking at strengths. We will grow in our practice from these strengths

Sigs of Safety Partner Briefingsthis external link will open in a new window - The CSCP have already delivered a large number of briefing events across the county that explains the ethos of 'Signs of Safety'. To support ongoing learning we have now produced an online narrated briefing that colleagues can access remotely if you wish to understand the theory of Signs of Safety. Please access the briefing here

Signs of Safety Core Training - This is a blended learning programme and includes all aspects of the Signs of Safety 2 day training, but with the additional practice elements outlined in Cumbria’s practice bottom lines. Delivered solely online through narrated presentations and reflective activities, this will allow participants to access the training and move at their own pace whilst testing out what they have learned by directly applying this learning in their own practice after each session. 

For External Partners who have an account with us on My Learning - then please login to your account and either click on this link or search Signs of Safety – Core Training in the course search box.

For External Partners who do not have an account with us - then you will need to self-register to request an account. Details of how to do this are on the CSCP website

If you have any questions please email SignsOfSafety@cumbria.gov.uk

Early Help - Signs of Wellbeing and Success - recorded training video


At the Signs of Safety (SoS) briefing sessions you told us what was going well in Cumbria. You told us that you had seen that paperwork had been updated including templates, and you reported some changes in the  use of language. You also told us that the LSCB (now the CSCP) was more evident and the website was more accessible with lots of relevant information and that it was a positive step forward that Cumbria had adopted the SoS model.

Worker Feedback 

  • “We have the ability to frontload work and avoid unnecessary escalation”
  • “Families are aware of what is expected of them, and clear plans are in place”
  • “Being supported effectively at early help level - avoided the stress of child protection, developed family network to sustain the progress made”
  • “When we look at the family’s strengths, they visually become more involved in the meeting”
  • “More cases are being stepped down / closed / being worked at a lower level of intervention”
  • “Baby is able to stay with mother, supported by family network with minimal level of statutory intervention”

Family Feedback

  • “It helps me look at relationships differently cos I was scared of being on my own”
  • “She was easy to talk to and I felt that she cared, and it wasn’t just a job”
  • “The social worker didn’t make me feel that she wanted to take my children or dodge me but wanted to help to get things back to normal again”
  • “The worker wanted things to be better and listened to me”
  • “I’ve never felt this strong in my life I don’t want be a victim anymore but a survivor”
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