Safety assessment and planning

Safety planning is a way to help reduce harm for the individuals with whom you work. It's a survivor-led process in which the survivor determines the plan, and service providers offer guidance to help survivors identify risks and their needs.

Safety planning is not a static process but is fluid and ongoing, and changes in safety considerations and needs can shift at any time. For example, if the person you are supporting is required to attend court, the progress made in the court case may trigger a change in needs. For this reason, assessments and discussions should be conducted throughout the survivor's journey.

Assessments can be conducted in several ways. Two examples are:

  • Formally, with the active participation of the person you’re working with to identify factors together (at intake where a form can be completed or a brief interview can be conducted).
  • Informally, through personal, quick observations/scans of the individual when you interact with them (during consultations), which you can raise for discussion. Of note, most assessments begin informally.

What is most important is to conduct assessments consistently, and to be flexible with the ever-changing behaviours and needs of the person you are supporting.

Guide for general assessments

The following section offers questions and areas for consideration when conducting risk and needs assessments. This is not an exhaustive list, but rather a guide, and should not be treated as a checklist. Use your intuition and professional skills to assess the survivor’s readiness and capacity to have conversations around any of the points below that may be relevant to their situation.

It's important to emphasize to the person you're working with that they can give themselves permission to not do or answer anything. If they simply feel like crying, allow them to cry. As service providers, we are here to hold space in whatever way is needed.

Assessing risks

Questions to help assess danger, safety and support networks

Assessing needs

Areas to consider when assessing needs

Challenges in assessment

Considerations when conducting risks and needs assessments

Motivational interviewing

Motivational interviewing is a strengths-based communication strategy that can support you in your conversations with survivors.

Responses can vary significantly and can often be unanticipated. Motivational interviewing techniques can help steer your actions for any given scenario.

For more information on this technique, click here.