Norfolk SofS Partnership Newsletter - Sept 2019

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September 2019

Continuing on the path of implementation

ST & Break logo

In February of this year Cindee Creehan stepped down from her position as Chair of the Signs of Safety Partnership Steering group and handed this responsibility to me, Suzie Thurlow, Operations Manager at Break Charity. I have been lucky enough to be part of the Innovation Project in Norfolk since this journey began back in 2014. Some may remember me as part of Norfolk Children’s Services during the 18 years I was with them.

I now able to use this experience to shape the voluntary sector and develop my own knowledge whilst delivering services to some of most vulnerable young people across Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire within residential homes, foster care, community support provision as well as those engaged with therapeutic services.

We are now approaching the conclusion of EIP2 and will be taking every opportunity to consider how we continue on the path of implementing Signs of Safety within our work across all organisations working with children and their families. Our planning this far is focused on Leadership, Risk sensible and collaborative practice, learning, system alignment and measuring impact. We will continue to work alongside the NSCP Strategic Workforce Development Group and report to the LSCP on a regular basis and hope that we continue to deliver a purposeful and collaborative pathway to ensuring Signs of Safety is recognised and used by all of the workforce across Norfolk so that there is a common language, understanding of risk.

Compass NSFT

Fast thinking vs slow thinking

The nature of working with people calls for understanding about their health or social care needs or the context for the individual/family, often these needs are linked to safety or risk of potential harm. The process of understanding uses thinking and there’s a balance between thinking fast and thinking slow - practitioners need to know what mode they are using and when to utilise what approach.

Author Daniel Kahneman identifies the two systems of thinking: System 1 is fast, instinctive and emotional – it aims to reach a quick conclusion and to make a decision to ‘improve’ the situation and to remove the emotional discomfort from the practitioner and the professional network. System 2 thinking is slower more deliberate and logical – this allows to identify what the worries are (the risks) and what needs to happen next to improve things. Slower thinking seeks to understand the worries of the whole system and understands that different stakeholders might prioritise the risks differently.

In my work with children and young people I’ve seen that the Signs of Safety approach allows families and the professional network are more willing to engage in the approach through slower thinking processes. Often faster thinking alienates families, leaving them feeling done to, mistrustful of services and lacking clarity as to what needs to be different to demonstrate that things are improving.

Slow thinking can be thought of as a luxury in pressured times but it’s actually helpful to manage risks and to share those risks with the families and the wider network.

Paul Johnson - Psychotherapist, Compass Outreach Service

The Signs of Safety Harm Analysis Matrix

The Harm Matrix is a new SofS tool introduced to help both workers and referrers to think through the harm.

The idea is to map out what is already known about the adult (or child’s own) behaviours that we are worried about and to understand:

  • how long this has been happening (chronicity) & how often (frequency)
  • how bad has this been (severity) and most important,
  • what has been the impact of this on the child

Where there are gaps, we can then think of questions we would need to ask to help us understand what has happened and how this has impacted on the child. This does not replace the mapping itself but is a tool to help focus in and be clear on harmful behaviours and the impact of these on the child.

Click here for a copy of the template with further information and prompt questions.

Reflecting on the Learning

The Advanced SofS 5 day course is often thought to be only relevant to frontline workers, however at the last session in June, Phil Watson (Children's Services Asst. Director, Social Work) attended the training and these are some of his reflections...

“Whilst I was initially concerned about the time commitment out of the office, this really was time well spent, profound and eye opening.  Aside from the chance to spend quality time with a range of practitioners, managers and leaders from across the service, I learned a huge amount about the power of Signs of Safety as a simple but highly effective core framework, upon which to build practice and leadership approaches that empowers others, creates hope not hopelessness and through its clarity, ultimately makes sense of complex and challenging scenarios for all to understand and follow. Witnessing the impact of humane, restorative and child focused practice during the training, in particular the use of ‘words and pictures’ was humbling to observe and take part in. This has reinforced my resolve to ensure that Signs of Safety is embedded in full across all our work, at whatever level and in all we do.”

Vital Signs

Vital Signs is Norfolk Children’s Services new vision for children in the County and is an overarching practice and leadership framework with Signs of Safety (Protection), Well-Being (Prevention) and Success (In Care) at its heart. Becoming increasingly used and recognised as Norfolk’s unique brand, it means working with whole family networks, across a system, in relationship based, outcome focused and strengths oriented ways.  We want to ensure we build resilience in families, that children are prepared and able to learn, and are living in family settings with lifelong networks around them. Vital Signs will thread throughout our work and intervention with families, as whatever level or stage in the child’s journey.  Further information can be found here.

Norfolk Family Networking

There has been positive success in the early implementation of a Family Networking Approach across the County with increasing numbers of families being afforded opportunity to engage with a Family Network Meeting (FNM) to identify a plan of support to address the identified risks, worries and care planning for their children.

Principles of Family Networking…

  • Every child/parent has a family and/or network and they can be found if we try
  • That family and/or network will be involved in the planning and decision making for their child
  • A meaningful connection to their family or network helps a child develop and maintain a sense of belonging
  • The single factor most strongly connected with positive outcomes for children is a meaningful lifelong connection to their family and/or network
Family Network

Since January 2019, briefing sessions have been co-produced by some of our foster carers and young people and delivered to foster carers and partners, including Health, Education & voluntary sector agencies. Training courses have so far been delivered to NCC staff however from 2020, this will be open to partners through the NSCP.

And already, it seems to have gained much interest both nationally and internationally, with the material being shared with 8 other local authorities across the UK and one in Canada. Children’s Services colleagues from Bristol have travelled to Norfolk to experience the Family Network 2-day training first hand and Swansea are currently planning their visit. NCC will be also be presenting this approach at the Regional Fostering Network Conference on 23 September 2019, linking to their ‘Keep Connected’ campaign.

Family Networking in Practice…

Family C.

Tom 15 years; Ben 19 years & Dad who all live together. Mum lives separately. Tom has complex needs and requires high levels of personal support to be safe and able to enjoy his life. For Dad, Tom’s increasing care needs have brought him to the point of exhaustion and struggling to keep Tom safe; Tom was at high risk of becoming looked after on a fulltime basis by the Local Authority. Tom’s network, family and workers, came together and identified a plan of shared care that enabled Tom to spend time with his key family members and to start his transition journey to independence. Mum and Dad also made positive use of the neutral meeting space, coming together for the first time in many years to discuss their son’s needs.

Family P

Four children aged 3 – 8 years subject to CP plans under the category of Neglect. The FGC Co-ordinator spoke with Dad, using appreciative enquiry techniques, enabling him to identify the strengths in his and his children’s family network and think through how he might better engage with and make use of those strengths to improve his care of his children – Dad asked for the key members of the network to come together in one meeting [a FNM] where he put forward his plan to address his children’s needs; 10 members of the family network confirmed the support they would provide for Dad and the children. Those family actions continue to be part of the children’s ongoing care plan.

Many thanks to Jenny Sproule, Family Group Conference Team Manager, for these examples of practice. If you have an example of good practice you'd like to share, please contacts us at

Norfolk Signs of Safety Learning and Development opportunities

SofS Foundation Training                                                                          Family Network Briefings

18/11/2019 & 19/11/2019 - Norwich                                                      11/10/2019 10am - Great Yarmouth

11/12/2019 & 12/12/2019 - Wymondham                                             15/11/2019 10am - Kings Lynn          

23/01/2020 & 24/01/2020 - Great Yarmouth                                         04/12/2019 10am - Dereham

24/02/2020 & 25/02/2020 - Norwich                                                      

For further information and to book a place, please visit the NSCP website.


What are ‘Meaningful Measures’?

As part of EIP2, the Norfolk SofS Partnership have been looking at ways to measure how we work with families and children. One of these ways is by asking for feedback from families as well as staff.

A member of the Early Help Family Focus team in Breckland shared a case she was recently involved with alongside a School Designated Safeguarding Lead and the feedback they received.  

The first meeting with the family was to map the case, followed by meetings covering Genogram and Network Finding, Words and Pictures explanation, Worry Statements and Safety Goals and then the Support Plan. All these were completed with the children and parents leading. This is what Dad had to said about the process:

“I think that the tasks in the meetings (family tree, action plan, etc) were all necessary in that they gave structure to the process, and that we all relived our journey and saw our situation. The greatest value of them was in my opinion, the discussion they generated. I would like to thank you and Heather for the skill and hard work you both put in to supporting us, it has made a difference! A is more settled and J less perturbed. A and myself are getting along better. It seems that after 4 years, we are still a disbanded family, but I think we are all more comfortable with that and most importantly, still have that sense of family. I am not sure that the root of the problem was ever identified. I am not sure that was ever on the agenda. I don't care about that because I have my kids back, they are happy again, we spend weekends together and have adventures. I am very grateful for the part you and Heather played in this.”

Workers involved with Family Network Meetings tell us -

“Because it’s the family’s plan and not me [the worker] telling them what to do, the network is actively thinking about and following their plan to keep their child safe. This was particularly positive as previously the family hadn’t followed a worker created plan”

“We hadn’t realised that there were so many family members who could help to support parents to make [positive] changes to their parenting and who wanted to actively be part of the plan to keep their child safe.”

Families have told us –

“It was the first-time workers actually asked us as grandparents, aunts, uncles, what we could each do to keep XXXX safe; the written plan helps us to keep on track and everyone knows what they are doing”.

“We were listened to in the meeting and were able to work with the social worker to make a clear plan to keep XXXXX safe in his family; he hasn’t had to leave the family. Without the meeting we might not have been able to make such a good plan, XXXXX might have had to live with foster carers.”


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For more information on Signs of Safety in Norfolk, please visit the NSCP website.

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