Foundations for self-directed support in Scotland
Foundations for self-directed support in Scotland

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Foundations for self-directed support in Scotland

4.4 Risk enablement

Figure 4.4: Risks can be positive as well as negative

Professor Risk’ – or David Spiegelhalter – says that he likes to think of himself as ‘a professor of risk encouragement’. Ideas about encouraging as well as discouraging risk are becoming an important part of the discussion about risk and personalisation, and self-directed support. In 2010 Self-directed Support: A National Strategy for Scotland said:

Working to achieve outcomes that promote independent living will inevitably involve risk. Risk averse practice can lead to over protection and can unnecessarily inhibit ambitions and aspirations. Risk aversive practice can also significantly inhibit the choices and empowerment of individuals and families who are denied the opportunity for self-directed support, particularly for reasons relating to perceived legal barriers to uptake. It is important to identify and manage risk in a way that is shared among the person, family and friends, the Council and the provider(s).

(Scottish Government, 2010, p. 15)

The guidance says there needs to be a shift to co-production [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] , outcomes-based approaches and ‘ risk-enablement ‘.

Risk enablement involves supporting people to make their own decisions about the level of risk that they are comfortable with. At the same time, ‘enabling’ risk is not always simple or straightforward – especially when people are at potential risk of, for example, neglect and exploitation from others, or may harm other people. Sarah Carr suggests that risk enablement cannot be a ‘bolt-on’; it has to be integral to health and social care:

The promotion of choice and control implies the need for changes in the way risk is understood, managed and negotiated with people using services.

(Carr, 2010, p. v)

There are common themes to exploring risk in relation to children and to adults. However there are also important differences. Adults, unless they lack capacity to make decisions about the safety of themselves or others, are free to make decisions about risk. But parents (or other guardians) are responsible for keeping their children safe from harm, supporting them to take responsibility for themselves as they move from childhood into adulthood. So there are crucial differences in our approach to thinking about risk to adults and to children.

We now give you a choice of routes to explore:

Of course you can also choose to explore risk and personalisation in relation to adults and children by following both routes.

Find out more

Risk enablement


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