Person centred safety planning suggested as way to manage risk


This article reflects on the protection of those deemed vulnerable reporting a research study in which the views of staff relating to vulnerability and abuse of adults with learning disabilities were explored.

Semi-structured interviews were used to explore perspectives of staff in order to construct a detailed analysis of interpretations of the terms ‘vulnerability’ and ‘abuse’ as they related to learning disability services.

The study found that most informants felt all people with learning disabilities were vulnerable, which allowed them as staff within the authority to take protective measures to ensure safety of their clients. The authors suggested such measures needed to be based on risk management approaches. The authors develop and propose an alternative approach to safety planning based on the premises of person-centred planning.

The approach suggested begins with an identification of hopes and dreams recognising the hopes, concerns and fears of family and friends, and those of the support organisation, but moves on through a series of detailed planning stages to identify risks in the context of support and enabling of the individual to realise those hopes and dreams.

They suggest that organisations providing support to people with learning disabilities should provide active help and encouragement to staff to develop ways of supporting people to enjoy their lives to the full, which will include a measured approach to risk-taking in what the authors describe as a ‘supported and yet enabling way’.

Could planning for safety be a realistic alternative to risk management for those deemed vulnerable?, Parley, F, in The Journal of Adult Protection, 13, 1, 6-18

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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