3.3 Managing Risk

It is important that there are a range of risk assessment tools  available locally to support staff to evidence professional judgement during their decision making. Issues around information sharing may be relevant in this context. See Section 1.1.4 for more details

3.3.1 Involving the adult

Making Safeguarding Personal (MSP) stresses the importance of keeping the adult at the centre. Under MSP the adult is best placed to identify risks, provide details of its impact and whether or not they find the mitigation acceptable. Working with the adult to lead and manage the level of risk that they identify as acceptable creates a culture where:-

  • Adults feel more in control;
  • Adults are empowered and have ownership of the risk; 
  • There is improved effectiveness and resilience in dealing with a situation; 
  • There are better relationships with professionals; 
  • Good information sharing to manage risk, involving all the key stakeholders (see Information Sharing part one); 
  • Key elements of the person’s quality of life and well-being can be safeguarded.

3.3.2 Identifying Risk

Not every situation or activity will entail a risk that needs to be assessed or managed. The risk may be minimal and no greater for the adult, than it would be for any other person.

  • Risks can be real or potential;
  • Risks can be positive or negative;
  • Risks should take into account all aspects of an individual’s wellbeing and personal circumstances.

Sources of risk might fall into one of the four categories below:

  • Private and family life: The source of risk might be someone like an intimate partner or a family member;
  • Community based risks: This includes issues like ‘mate crime’, anti-social behaviour, and gang-related issues; 
  • Risks associated with service provision: This might be concerns about poor care which could be neglect or organisational abuse, or where a person in a position of trust because of the job they do exploits or abuses someone; 
  • Self-neglect: Where the source of risk is the person themselves.

3.3.3 Risk Assessment

Risk assessment involves collecting and sharing information through observation, communication and investigation. It is an on-going process that involves persistence and skill to assemble and manage relevant information in ways that are meaningful to all concerned. Risk assessment that includes the assessment of risks of abuse, neglect and exploitation of people should be integral in all assessment and planning processes, including assessments for self-directed support and the setting up of personal budget arrangements. Assessment of risk is dynamic and on-going and a flexible approach to changing circumstances is needed. The primary aim of a safeguarding adults risk assessment is to assess current risks that people face and potential risks that they and other adults may face. Specific to safeguarding, risk assessments should encompass:

  • The views and wishes of the adult; 
  • The person’s ability to protect themselves; 
  • Factors that contribute to the risk, for example, personal, environmental; 
  • The risk of future harm from the same source; 
  • Identification of the person causing the harm and establishing if the person causing the harm is also someone who needs care and support;
  • Deciding if domestic abuse is indicated and the need for a referral to a MARAC; 
  • Deciding if a community multi-agency risk assessment (high risk panel) is needed; 
  • Identify people causing harm who should be referred to MAPPA; 
  • It may increase risk where information is not shared.

3.3.4 Risk Management

The focus must be on the management of risks not just a description of risks. Employers need to take responsibility for the management of risk within their own organisation and share information responsibly where others may be at risk from the same source. The Local Authority is ultimately accountable for the quality of Section 42 enquiries, but all organisations are responsible for supporting holistic risk management, with the adult and in partnership with other agencies.

It is the collective responsibility of all organisations to share relevant information, make decisions and plan intervention with the adult. A plan to manage the identified risk and put in place safeguarding measures includes:

  • What immediate action must be taken to safeguard the adult and/others; 
  • Who else needs to contribute and support decisions and actions; 
  • What the adult sees as proportionate and acceptable; 
  • What options there are to address risks; 
  • When action needs to be taken and by whom; 
  • What the strengths, resilience and resources of the adult are; 
  • What needs to be put in place to meet the on-going support needs of the adult;
  • What the contingency arrangements are; 
  • How will the plan be monitored?

Positive risk management needs to be underpinned by widely shared and updated contingency planning for any anticipated adverse eventualities. This includes warning signs that indicate risks are increasing and the point at which they become unacceptable and therefore trigger a review.

Effective risk management requires exploration with the adult using a person-centred approach, asking the right questions to build up a full picture. Not all risks will be immediately apparent; therefore risk assessments need to be regularly updated as part of the safeguarding process and possibly beyond.

3.3.5 Reviewing Risk

Individual need will determine how frequently risk assessments are reviewed and wherever possible there should be multi-agency input. These should always be in consultation with the adult at risk.

3.3.6 Risk disputes

Throughout these policies and procedures risk assessment and risk management is carried out in partnership with the adult, wider support network and others. The decision to involve others or not is in itself a decision which may give rise to risk, and the individual may need support to make this decision.

The professional views of risk may differ from the views of the adult. Perceived risks have implications for the safety and the independence of the individual, but they also have implications for the accountability of professionals. This highlights the importance of training and/or regular practice in making independent decisions by adults. Accessible knowledge through information and advice, assertiveness through the right kind of advocacy and support may be appropriate.

Professionals need to embrace and support positive risk taking by finding out why the person wishes to make a particular choice, what this will bring to their life, and how their life may be adversely affected if they are not supported in their choice. The promotion of choice and control, of more creative and positive risk-taking, implies greater responsibility on the part of the adult and greater emphasis on keeping them at the centre of decision making.

It may not be possible to reach agreement, but professionals need to evidence that all attempts to reach agreement were taken. Where there are concerns about people making unwise decisions, or there is high risk that requires wider collaboration, MultiAgency Risk Panel (sometimes referred to as High Risk Panels or Risk Enablement Panels) is one model used to support safeguarding adults’ processes.