2.6 Multi-Agency Sharing of Risk Assessments: Guidance
- Working Together
- Sharing new risk factors or changes in risk factors
- Further Information
- Related Policies, Procedures, and Guidance
Many staff undertake risk assessments, which are carried out within the guidelines and models prescribed by their individual organisations or professions. These assessments are often directly or indirectly relevant to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and young people. Local audits and serious case reviews, however, reveal that whilst individual risk assessments may be robustly applied by staff in each agency, often they are done so with insufficient ‘linkage’ to risk assessments completed by other agencies, that may be relevant to the same child/family.
Many staff also become involved in informal risk assessments; identifying risks without this being the primary intention, for example while advising on benefits or demonstrating equipment, they might observe or hear about behaviour that causes concern. Any subsequent referral to another agency would contribute to the overall understanding of risk.
This guidance has been produced to encourage the sharing of relevant information contained in different risk assessments, whether they be formal or informal.
This does not mean that agencies should adopt the same model of risk assessment – the distinct methods and models of individual agencies’ assessments must be maintained, as they draw upon the essential knowledge and focus associated with different professional disciplines.
This guidance aims to:
The sharing of relevant information from risk assessments applies to all agencies working with family members, even where the implications may not be obvious. If when working with adult service users there are changes in behaviour (e.g. changes in offending behaviour or take-up of medication), it is important to always consider the potential impact for any children in the family.
This does not mean that the professional has to assess the impact on the child/children themselves, but that they share the changes in their risk assessment with those who assess risk for the child/children and that they contribute relevant opinions to help others in revising their own risk assessment.
Similarly, if a professional’s work involves assessing risk to children, any changes in a child’s circumstances (e.g. exclusion from school) may need to be shared with those who are working with the parent (who may, for example, be receiving mental health services).
Sharing new risk factors or changes in risk factors
With newly identified risks or changes in risk, always consider who else needs to be informed in both adult and children’s services – Think Family.
Do not assume that the changes will not be relevant to another agency’s interpretation of risk.
Confirm which agencies/services are involved and share any new or revised risk assessment. Think beyond those agencies currently involved – new risks might require the involvement of different agencies/services.
Information about decreases in risk should also be shared. Not to do so might undermine progress for the service user and prolong service intervention unnecessarily.
Be open and honest with the service user (and/or their family where appropriate) from the outset about why, what, how and with whom information will, or could be, shared, and seek their agreement, unless it is unsafe or inappropriate to do so.
Remember that information may be shared with professionals who need to know in order to promote the wellbeing of a child or young person – the Data Protection Act is not a barrier to sharing information. Different agencies may have different processes for sharing information. Professionals should be guided by their agency’s policies and procedures and, where applicable, by their professional code. Further guidance on information sharing is available.
When in doubt about whether to share a risk assessment, seek advice from a line manager or the designated lead for child protection.
When sharing a risk assessment, always specify whether it is currently relevant or historical information.
Ensure that subsequent professional decisions about risks associated with the service user involved are informed by the risks assessments associated with other family members, and vice versa. This might mean inviting a wider group of professionals to professional meetings (or to relevant parts of the meeting) and/or sharing reports (or sections of reports) with other agencies.
Always alert other professionals working with family members when planning or proposing to close the case – Think Family.
Further information/guidance on sharing risk assessments include:
- Department for Education. Information sharing advice for safeguarding practitioners. 2015.
- Aldgate J and Rose W. Assessing and Managing Risk in Getting it right for every child. Scottish Government 2009
- Health and Safety Executive. Risk Management. A series of case studies on sharing risk assessment may help in putting this guidance into practice.