Signs of Safety

Sue Cook | Eastern Region Chair | Corporate Director for Children and Young People’s Services, Suffolk County Council

It is not common that child protection chairs are universally praised. It is a tough job to do well and consistently, and in a way that improves the quality of plans and the outcomes for children. It’s tough because it requires high levels of attention to planning, dynamics, observation of self and process. It also requires interventions into process that are skilfully designed to create the changes that are needed.

I went to observe one of our child protection review conferences last week – one of three I have recently observed. We are on a journey in Suffolk implementing Signs of Safety across all parts of children’s services, and with partners across the whole system to achieve a common language and a common approach to the task of supporting and challenging families to make the changes that are needed.

I continue to be impressed by many families’ capacity to change when the approach taken is inclusive, honest, frank and clear. And focuses on what might be the consequences for the future development and life chances for the children if nothing changes. I am also often taken aback by the love parents have for their children, and saddened by how much they wrestle with consistently putting their child’s interests first because of their own difficulties, despite this love. We have a common purpose that is shared with all partners and with most parents; to make things better for children and this is an overriding and unifying force for good that we are privileged to be tasked with harnessing, without compromise or collusion. This is what I witnessed at play in the presence of a competent and experienced child protection chair and highly competent and well trained professionals at that conference. It is a humbling profession I occupy.

We are at a stage in Suffolk where the intelligent and skilful application of the Signs of Safety framework is gaining more emphasis than the framework itself. We are focusing our effort to ensure that we are identifying the heart of the issues for families to reach sound judgments about risk and the quality and the nature of plans; this conference was an example where we are achieving that.

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