Assessing the risk
How do you assess the level of risk to the client and others directly involved?
When a client presents with a major issue, you must necessarily make an initial assessment of the level of risk that the client may be facing. The age and situation of the client will influence the assessment of risk.
If the client is a young person, they could be at risk through, what the Child Protection Act 1999 (Qld) refers to as ‘harm’. An adult could be at risk within a domestic violence situation and an older client may be at risk of elder abuse from someone who cares for them.
Risk as it relates to harm can be any of the following:
- harm caused by someone known to the young person
- harm caused by someone the young person doesn’t know
Indicators of risk could include any of the following:
- serious risk-taking behaviour
- trauma of grief and loss
- stress caused by relationships and social processes
- mental/psychological conditions
- separation from family and social support
- shame and guilt
- cultural conflict and alienation
- anti-social behaviour and attitudes.
Before you can identify the most appropriate options for a client, it is important that you have a clear understanding of the client’s needs and the likelihood that they will suffer harm in the future.
When you are conducting risk assessment, the following is very important:
- Establish an honest and open working relationship with your client/s.
- Maintain trust between you, your client and significant others.
- Maintain confidentiality.
- Be empathetic to sensitive situations and the needs of your client.
Asking the following questions will help you determine how you could identify the level of risk to a client:
- What have I learned in my interviews or my discussions with the notifier/client?
- What have I observed? (For example, how did the client present?)
- What are the issues?
- Has the level of risk to the client changed?
- Why do I think that?
- Who should I discuss this with further to ensure that I am reading the signs correctly?
- What action do I need to take to meet my duty of care responsibilities?
The following criteria could be used to prioritise risk:
- Injury requiring medical attention has occurred.
- Serious injury is likely to occur.
- The child or young person has disclosed that they are being abused.
- The child or young person does not have a parent/carer who is able or willing to care for them.
Decisions about the course of action to be taken as a result of a risk assessment will lie with your supervisor or someone else who has the authority to make these decisions.
If you have concluded that abuse or neglect has occurred, further assessment helps you to make decisions about:
- whether the client or any others in the household are at risk of future harm
- what the client’s specific needs are, i.e. what is required to avoid or minimise future harm to the child/young person
- what level of intervention is required to meet the client’s specific needs.