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  • Sonja Parker

Using the Safety and Wellbeing Scale


One of my favourite PFS tools is the safety and wellbeing scale (a type of solution-focused scaling question). Using the safety and wellbeing scale can really open up conversations and help people to share their views on what is happening within the family and what needs to happen to work toward future safety and wellbeing. And it's no coincidence that the safety and wellbeing scale is right in the centre of the CAP framework; it's a key element in the CAP framework and really helpful in eliciting information across all the other elements.

 

The safety and wellbeing scale is designed to be used with all the significant people involved in a child or vulnerable adult’s life and it can be used in one on one conversations, in small group settings or in a formal meeting such as a family group meeting or conference. Whatever the setting, the safety and wellbeing scale is a powerful way to elicit and explore someone’s view and can be particularly helpful when people are finding it difficult to share their views or to consider or understand the views of others.

 

I have written the practice guidance below in the context of child protection work, but this practice guidance is equally relevant to working with vulnerable adults and in situations of intimate partner violence.

 


Introducing the safety and wellbeing scale

 

If someone hasn’t been asked a scaling question before, the safety and wellbeing scale can seem a little strange, so it helps to introduce the scale by saying something like:

 

  • I’d like to ask you a question now that might seem a little strange ....     OR

 

  • I’d like to ask you a question that is something we call a scaling question, is that okay? So, on a scale of 0 - 10 ....

 

A general safety and wellbeing scaling question is:

 

  • On a scale of 0 – 10, where 0 means the situation for these children is so bad that it is not safe for them to be in the care of the parents at this time and 10 means that there is sufficient safety for CPS to close the case, where would you say things are right now on that scale of 0 - 10?

 

  • On a scale of 0 – 10, where 10 means you are really confident that the children (your grandchildren, use children’s names, etc) will be safe in the care of  _____ (use their names) and grow up strong and well, and none of us need to do anything extra to support them, and 0 is that you are really worried and think that the children need to stay with someone else until the parents are able to get the problems sorted. Where would you rate the situation right now?



Purpose of the safety and wellbeing scale

 

An important thing to remember about using the safety and wellbeing scale is that it doesn’t really matter where someone places themself on the scale. Whatever their scaling position, you can use follow up questions about the person’s scaling position to explore their views further and to help them to consider other people’s views.

 

Once people have scaled themselves on the safety and wellbeing scale (and remember to make sure that they can see their scaling position being visually recorded), you can then ask each person to identify:

 

  • The things that are going well in the family that has them scaling this high.

 

  • Things that they are worried about that have them scaling this low.

 

  • What they would need to see happening in the family to scale one point higher.

 

In this way, the safety and wellbeing scale can be used to elicit people’s views across all the elements of the CAP framework. For example:

 

  • Things that have people scaling as high as they have can be recorded as either strengths/resources or actions of protection.

 

  • Things that have them scaling as low as they did can be recorded as either harm, complicating factors or if they are phrased as worries about what might happen to the children in the future, they can be recorded as worry statements.

 

  • What they would need to see to move higher on the scale can be recorded as either goal statements (if their response is at the level of goal) or as next steps in working toward the goals.

 


When people scale at a 10 or a 0

 

Sometimes, parents, children and family members will scale at a 10. This usually happens if people do not trust that they can be honest and/or are anxious about the consequences of scaling lower. Rather than trying to argue or dispute someone’s stated view, you can still use their scaling position to explore their views further, by asking questions such as:

 

  • You obviously know your/the family a lot better than I do. What do you think are the most important things CPS need to know about what’s going well in your family that has you scaling as high as a 10? What else? What else?

 

  • It’s great to hear all the things that are going well in the family at the moment. What do you think are the most important things the family need to keep doing to make sure they stay at a 10?

 

  • It sounds like there are a lot of things that are going well at the moment and so it would be really helpful to talk with you about what you/the family have done that has helped to sort out any problems from the past and that has helped you to feel so confident now? So in the past, when things might not have been going so well, what would be the lowest position that you would have been on that same scale? When might that have been? And what have you/the family done that has moved you from a 6 (whatever number they listed as their lowest position) to a 10?  What else?

 

There are also times when family members or professionals might score at a 0 and you might have the sense that this is not a realistic assessment. Once again, rather than arguing with someone about their scaling position, you can use further questions to explore their views in more detail. For example:

 

  • You are obviously feeling pretty worried about the children and in a moment, I’m going to ask you what you are most worried about, but firstly, can I ask you if there have been times when you have been higher than a 0? Where were you at your highest on the scale? What was happening at that time that had you that high? 

 

 

Inviting people to reflect on the views of others

 

You can also use the scaling questions to help parents, extended family, network members and professionals to reflect on other people’s views, including the views of CPS. Once you have fully explored someone’s scaling position and views, you can then ask use a combination of a scaling question and a perspective question to explore where that person thinks someone else (eg. the child, grandparent, foster parent, CPO etc) would scale the situation (and record this view on the scale as this person's perspective (eg. Mum thinks child would scale at a 7). You can then use the same follow up questions to ask:


  • What do you think _____ (the other person) would say is going well that would have them scaling that high? Is this something you agree with? Are you okay if we add this into the CAP framework, even if you don't agree with this?


  • What do you think _____ (the other person) is worried about that would have them scaling that low? Is this something you are also worried about? Are you okay if we add this into the CAP framework?


  • What do you think _____ (the other person) would need to see happening to scale one point higher? Do you also think this would be an important next step? Are you okay if we add this into the CAP framework?

 

 

Using the Safety and Wellbeing Scale to share the views of CPS

 

Sharing CPS’s scaling position with parents/family members can be a difficult moment, as parents may feel deflated or judged if CPS are scaling at a significantly lower position than they are. Before inviting CPS to offer their scaling position, first ask the parent/family member where they think CPS might be on the scale. This question can help to create some space for exploring different scaling positions, as parents/family members will often say that they think CPS will be fairly low on the scale. You can then use follow up questions to explore what the parent/family member thinks CPS would say is going well to have them scaling that high and what they think CPS are worried about that would have them scaling that low, before you offer CPS' view.

 

For example:

 

  • What do you think CPS would say is going well in your family (or that they have noticed about who you are as parents) that would have them scaling that high (or at a 1 rather than a 0, for example)?

 

  • What do you think CPS are worried about that would have them scaling that low? What do you think is the biggest thing CPS are worried about that would have them scaling that low?

 

  • Are you okay if we now ask the CPO (or team leader) to say where they are on the scale?



Using the Safety and Wellbeing Scale over time

 

Using the safety and wellbeing scale over time is a very powerful way to open up discussion about progress (for example, progress toward the goals or progress on a case plan), as this allows everyone to express their views on progress in concrete and comparative terms.


For example, you can use the scaling question and table below to explore everyone's views on progress. This information can then be added to the CAP framework.




Thanks so much for reading this blog, and I hope these ideas about how to use the safety and wellbeing scale help to ignite your passion and confidence for using this simple but powerful tool. Feel free to get in touch if you have any comments or questions.

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