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National Risk Framework to Support the Assessment of Children and Young People

Risk is a difficult and complex notion that can create understandable anxiety for many. It is, however, also a core consideration of any intervention that is undertaken
with children and families.

Risk is not just about considerations of concern or harm. It is also an inherent aspect of all healthy human development. Children and young people have to be exposed to experiences that may raise their risk potential at differing stages of their growth and development to help them develop into rounded, secure, healthy individuals. It is further an aspect of life in every area of society. Staff within every service at every level, no matter where they work and with whom, are at some point going to be working directly with children and young people who may be both in need and at risk.

Risk is also a dynamic concept that can be multi-dimensional in character – it’s not static and seldom mono-dimensional, it is fluid and critically shaped and
characterised by a range of events and movement in the context and setting where it occurs. For instance, when supporting an individual adult to address a substance misuse issue, it may become apparent that there are also clear parenting issues, self-esteem and confidence concerns, possible mental health matters, relationship difficulties with partner and child, aspects of violence and aggression and so on. Thus, practitioners may be faced with trying to address a single area of need (eg. parental substance misuse) while this in itself may be reflective of a wider combination of risk variables that also require close consideration.

In approaching risk within the assessment task, thus, there is a need to take account of, not only current circumstances but past history and future potentials. This means we have to investigate and explore family circumstances in some detail in order to acquire adequate grasp of how needs may have gone unmet and how risk circumstances may have emerged. Using the understandings acquired, Named Persons, Lead Professionals and others then need to project the future probability or likelihood of harm and to determine if this harm is significant in nature or not. Projection of probable risk of harm significantly also means that there is a potential for error in terms of what we think may occur. This is no small task indeed.

This Guidance therefore, aims to support and assist practitioners at all levels, in every agency, to be able to approach the task of risk identification, assessment, analysis and management with more confidence and competence. It seeks to provide tools that, if used, support methodical and systematic approaches to not only better understanding risk and its presentation with children and families, but also enhance interventions and potential outcomes.