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Risk Assessment and Management


What is 'Risk'?

The Criminal Justice Social Work Service has to assess various areas of risk:

- Risk of Re-offending (both in general and specific types of offending

- Risk of Harm (behaviour that is likely to prove directly harmful to another person). This includes emotional harm as well as physical harm.

- Risk to the individual. This is especially relevant if we hope to have the person carrying out a particular type of work, whether looking at their behaviour through a Probation Order or an Aftercare licence, or carrying out physical work through a Community Service Order or a Supervised Attendance Order.

How do we assess risk?

Assessment of risk is carried out by staff using both professional judgement and experience and the application of various tools, all of which have been accredited by the Risk Management Authority (new window). This is the Scottish public body which has been set up to ensure the effective assessment, management and minimisation of risk from serious violent and sexual offenders.

Risk Assessment is carried out by looking at patterns of behaviour (not just offending) and at aspects of an individual's lifestyle that may increase the risk of them re-offending. The Scottish Government and West Lothian Council share a concern to improve public safety, and accurate risk assessment allows us to focus services on the people who most need to change aspects of their behaviour. 

Some of these tools are for general use. The most recent of these, the Level of Service/Case Management Inventory (LS/CMI) measures both general risk of re-offending and risk of harmful behaviour. An earlier version, the Level of Service Inventory - Revised (LSI-R)  has been used on hundreds of thousands of people in Europe, North America and Australasia. It is considered an accurate statistical predictor of future offending, but any individual can of course reduce that risk by making changes in their behaviour.

It should also be noted that even the best risk evaluation tool may not be accurate for all types of offences. For example, we know that people who regularly commit motor-vehicle offences may show as at very low risk of general re-offending. Where we are aware of the possibility of an artificially low score, we will note this in our report.

Other specialist assessment tools consider the risk of harmful behaviour - these can be much more complicated to apply and the tools used to assess the most concerning individuals may take several hours to complete. We have therefore to only use these in situations which cause exceptional alarm to the organisations monitoring the offender.

What about sex offenders?

Sex offenders come into the group of people for whom standard risk assessment tools are not necessarily reliable. The Scottish Government has been keen to see all relevant staff trained in use of appropriate tools, and in West Lothian, almost all Criminal Justice Social Workers have been successful in becoming qualified to use the two main sex offender assessment tools.

Who else does Risk Assessment, and what training do they have?

The Scottish Government, the courts and the Parole Board all accept that use of these tools is important in managing risk, and most of the bodies that are involved in risk management use the same range of tools, so that we can be sure that we are in agreement on our assessments. Much of our training is carried out jointly with colleagues from other agencies, such as the Police.

What do we use these assessments for?

Risk Assessments are important in the work of the CJ Social Work Service with individuals, but we may also have to use them in discussion of wider concerns (for example, about child care, or about safety issues for other people visiting the individual).

Risk Management

We do not manage by ourselves individuals whose behaviour causes concern. We work alongside other organisations to do this, and will have different partners in risk management depending on the particular issues that are identified in the person's Risk Management Plan. Much of our risk management of the most concerning offenders takes place in the context of Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) and documents can be found about this at the foot of this page. MAPPA requires partner organisations to consider a shared assessment of risk in each case, and to have a clear understanding of what are the responsibilities of each organisation.



Updated: 06/03/12