A Brief Consideration of Signs of Safety Accreditation

What are we worried about?

  • Doing the best for children
  • Organisation knowing what is happening
  • Protecting reputation of Signs of Safety

Problems with fidelity

  • Dominant approach internationally is to require ‘fidelity to model’
  • Typically, very detailed compliance requirements
  • If used somewhere other than location where developed, then some adaptation is needed
  • Problems in specifying what is or is/not permissible
  • Can’t easily adapt to new learning

Athena Swan as a possible model

  • Universities can seek accreditation for being gender equal
  • Not tied to any single way of doing so but the goals of the programme are set out in a charter
  • Self-assessment, encouraging improvement
  • Three levels: bronze, silver gold
  • By 2019 university must have an award to be eligible for research funding


  • Have self-assessment team
  • Have analysis and plan
  • Have self-benchmarked against other organisations
  • Have defined data to support claim to meet principles in charter
  • Applications are peer-reviewed

Pros and cons

  • Accreditation as a driver for change/improvement in organisations
  • Each becomes aware of what others are doing
  • But slow progress and gaming of the system

Your views?

Do we need any check on what is being done in the name of ‘Signs of Safety’?

Could something like the Athena Swan approach be useful for your own improvement ambition and need to demonstrate quality to Ofsted?

Realistically, how much effort would you be prepared to put into developing and maintaining an accreditation system like this?

  • Yes, we do need something which looks at the quality of what we are doing in Signs of Safety
  • Self-assessment will be really helpful, then could look at what we need to do
  • Not liking demonstrating quality to Ofsted
  • What would system look like if families were to judge that if we were doing was helpful; but perhaps families might want to look at this like they look for schools – is that a good thing? Do we get into gaming if we do this?
  • Would look at how we set our parameters
  • Process of EIP2 could that be the accreditation in terms of what you need to do; this wouldn’t be additional i.e. parent surveys,
  • How helpful is this to the families we are trying to help – they are the judge
  • There is an aspiration to improve; there is a certain baseline of competence
  • Assurance that people are doing x, y z.
  • Links to a quality assurance system
  • Keep noticing where the plasters are cracking, continuous improvement
  • Peer review would have to be an LA who has already achieved the standard
  • Needs to be more than a peer, not friendly challenge as this can’t always be helpful
  • There has to be a benchmark to avoid misrepresentation
  • This a hard place to be in that if you don’t have a benchmark it can lead to all sorts of confusion. It needs to be inclusive, where children, families, workers and organisations are part of the process.
  • Can’t be too prescriptive in the how but can look for the ethos and principles of the model – broad enough to be helpful but not so broad its meaningless
  • There is potential to demonstrate the practice principles and disciplines to create the benchmark
  • Up for investing but what does it bring to us?
  • Good social work needs constant investment – will it include this?
  • If it has no credibility with Ofsted what’s the point?
  • If some Ofsted inspectors don’t get the model, then they put the fear of god in workers when they ask them what’s this? i.e. Danger Statement
  • Ofsted do speak about the ‘model of practice’
  • What if you were a gold award winner of Signs of Safety but failing in the eyes of Ofsted?
  • It depends on how much this would cost
  • Given everything else we have to do around auditing / QA can it compliment or replace current activity.
  • We have been suspicious/worried that it could be a money-making process for MTM
  • Not sure where the link is with universities
  • Don’t think people are very bothered about it at the moment – unnecessary distraction
  • Would be useful to have a self-assessment tool – but for my own use, not to send off
  • Can make staff feel proud – are beyond mainstream – a good badge; could use it for marketing
  • Where does accreditation sit with / across partners


Back to the EIP2 Journal – October 2018