5 ways to manage risk in social work

Risk management is a significant part of your day-to-day life as a social worker and making sure both you and your client are in a safe environment is a top priority. Here are the steps you can take to ensure you, your colleagues and your service-users are at the least risk of harm. 


1.Identify potential risks 


Firstly, social workers must weigh up the pros and cons of each decision they make in order to determine if it will lead to the most positive outcome for everyone involved. Consequences may include legal action, physical or psychological harm, financial damage and so on. Hence, strategic decision making is at the heart of risk management. In most cases, there will be some risk involved regardless of the path chosen so it is up to the social worker/agency to decide which risks are worth taking and which to avoid at all costs. 


2. Reduce environmental hazards


Nasty falls or slips can be more detrimental to vulnerable people. One easy way to mitigate physical risk is to make sure your surrounding environment is clean and tidy with no tripping hazards in sight. Lighting may also come into consideration in some instances. 


3.Do your research


Is the service user on any medications? Do they have a history of violence? Do they need assistance completing specific tasks (e.g. making a cup of tea)? Gathering information on the service user and how they could be at risk as an individual will help you control the situation and mitigate harm. 


4. Attend training 

Risk assessment training is a great way for staff to improve their ability to spot hazards from the get-go. If you’re a manager, let your employees know how to report potential risks and make them aware that specific training can be implemented where needed. 


5. Shared decision-making 


Talk to the service user and/or carer about the potential risks they face or could cause others. It is essential that the individual gets their say and gives them a chance to express their goals. Together, the social worker, service user and/or carer can explore potential risks and make decisions based on achieving the best outcome for the individual. 


If you feel overwhelmed as a social worker, make sure to talk to your managers who can help you manage risks effectively without causing risk to yourself and mental wellbeing. 

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carlette Isaac

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