For anyone involved in the protection and safeguarding of children and young peoples - at any level - risk and risk assessment are key concerns and preoccupations. Decisions are made every day, some without full evaluation, some after evaluation. Professional dilemmas over how best to balance unnecessary or excessive risks with being too timid about seizing opportunities that may produce better outcomes.
Yet, across and within the various professional groups involved in safeguarding children, there is an inadequate knowledge base to inform practice, no standardized definition of risk or risk assessment, and no guidance from official sources. There is not even a shared agreement, on whether risk means only the possibility of harmful outcomes, a balancing of possible food and possible harm, or whether it even includes the idea of positive events. This context reflects both the importance of different agencies - with different imperatives - being involved, and the practical difficulty of eliminating uncertainty.
But this book's varied and illuminating perspectives can help refine the exercise of professional judgement in estimating and managing uncertainties prospectively, rather than being judged retrospectively with the benefit of hindsight. they can help us to learn how to improve our conduct of risk assessment strategies where level of intrusion are commensurate with levels of risk, and consider the possibility of developing a common language to assist this important task.
Reflecting the importance of inter-agency approaches in policy, practice and training, the chapters are drawn from a number of different professional groups and disciplines, and should be of value to each of them. For staff in the social care and criminal fields, psychologists, councellors, as well as trainers, researchers, policy-makers and students on many courses this book attempts to:
- clearly explain the concept of risk and risk assessment
- explore the key areas where risks need to be assessed
- summarize relevant research and practice wisdom
- examine dilemmas in the daily decision-making of staff and managers
- consider how managers and staff, acting without local or national guidance, are inevitably inconsistent in their approaches and decision making
- examine actuarial risk tools alongside clinical judgement, and the tension and confusion caused by different professionals talking at cross purposes
- explore assessment in an accessible manner with a practice-based emphasis
- review the origins and contemporary features of professional and organisational dangerousness, and suggest antidotes
- examine the links between strengths (needs)-led and risk assessment practice
- consider ways of engaging service users in risk assessment and management
- consider emerging dilemmas associated with rights, protection and responsibilities
- offer some contemporary risk assessment framework
The emergence and ongoing development of safeguarding, which unifies preventative and protective structures and systems, and people at all levels of safeguarding responsibility will find benefit in considering the messages within this book when constructing their policies, procedures and practice guidance in relation to risk assessment across all the agencies serving children.