How We Developed a Tool to Support Decision Making in Safeguarding Adults and Children

Di Galpin
6th April 2023

We are a team of researchers from the National Centre for Cross-Disciplinary Social Work (NCCDSW) at Bournemouth University (BU), and we have been working on a project to develop a tool that can help professionals make better decisions in safeguarding adults and children from harm. This tool is called the Safeguarding Integrated Framework Tool (SIFT), and it is based on our research and experience in safeguarding education and practice.

The Challenge of Managing Uncertainty in Safeguarding

Safeguarding adults and children from harm is a complex and challenging task that requires professionals to deal with uncertainty and ambiguity. Professionals need to balance autonomy and protection, time and resource, and legislation and policy, while working with diverse and vulnerable people in different situations.

However, creating certainty out of uncertainty is a fundamental tendency of the human mind, and there are high expectations from wider society, government, and employers to minimise harm. This can create pressure and stress for frontline practitioners, who may not have the confidence or competence to make effective decisions in safeguarding.

Therefore, there is a need to support professionals in developing their decision making skills and abilities in safeguarding, and to provide them with practical tools and resources that can help them in their practice.

The Aim of Our Project

The aim of our project was to develop a tool that can support decision making in safeguarding adults and children. This tool is called the Safeguarding Integrated Framework Tool (SIFT), and it is designed to help professionals:

  • Reflect on their own knowledge, experience, values, and beliefs, and how they shape their understanding of the information they receive
  • Recognise the different perspectives and lenses that they and others use to make sense of the world
  • Explore alternative frames of reference that can make visible the unseen or taken for granted aspects of everyday practice
  • Connect with their inner self and others, and make deeper and wider connections that can lead to new ways of thinking
  • Bridge the gap between linear, procedural practice and truly reflective practice, situated in a real world context

SIFT is based on our research and experience in safeguarding education and practice. We have been commissioned by the NHS in the South West to develop CPD units designed to support decision making in safeguarding adults and children. We have delivered seven units to a range of professionals, such as GPs, nurses, consultants, midwives, and social workers. All were leads within the practice of safeguarding.

Following the successful delivery and evaluation of these units, we sought to build on the learning gained from the pilot, and to develop SIFT as a tool that can be used by any professional who works in safeguarding.

The Content of SIFT

SIFT is a card-based tool, consisting of four modules that cover different aspects of decision making in safeguarding:

  • Module 1: Introduction to SIFT
  • Module 2: Understanding your own lens
  • Module 3: Understanding other lenses
  • Module 4: Applying SIFT in practice

SIFT is designed to be flexible and adaptable to different contexts and situations. Users can choose which modules they want to complete, depending on their needs and interests. They can also revisit the modules as often as they want, as their practice evolves.

The Impact of SIFT

We hope that SIFT will have a positive impact on safeguarding education and practice, as well as on the well-being of adults and children who are at risk of harm. We expect that SIFT will:

  • Enhance the confidence and competence of professionals in making decisions in safeguarding
  • Improve the communication and collaboration between professionals from different disciplines and sectors
  • Promote person-centred care that respects the rights, dignity, autonomy, and preferences of adults and children
  • Reduce the risk of abuse, neglect, or discrimination against adults and children who lack or may lack mental capacity or are otherwise vulnerable

How to Stay Updated

We are planning to launch SIFT at a national event in November 2023, where we will showcase our tool to professionals from various organisations who work in safeguarding. We will also submit our research outcomes for publication in academic journals. You can keep up to date with these activities on our website at where we share regular blog posts, or follow us on X @NCCDSW.

Meet the author(s)

Di Galpin

Lecturer in Social Work (Safeguarding)
Di was Senior Lecturer and programme lead in Post Qualifying Social Work/Safeguarding Adults at Bournemouth University for 9 years, and Academic Lead for Social Work at the University of Plymouth until July 2020. Previously, Di practiced for 14 years in mental health, disability and older people services.
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