Protecting adults at risk in London: Good practice resource
Risk assessment: Key principles
Assessing the risk to vulnerable people against their right to make choices about how to live their life is difficult, and in any given situation different people will have different views on striking the right balance. This means that agreement on the degree of risk in every situation may not be possible. However, professionals should have a common understanding of the principles they are working to, the legal structures in place, and the documentation that can help and that they need to complete. It can be helpful to bear in mind the following key principles:
- Risk work should be person-centred and empowering.
- The Mental Capacity Act asserts people’s right to make decisions, even unwise ones, if they have the capacity to do so. The Mental Capacity Act and the code of practice and Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards that accompany it, are all key legal considerations in evaluating risk.
- Government guidance is that 'people have the right to live their lives to the full as long as that does not stop others from doing the same’ (15).
- Risk assessments should always consider the benefits of the proposed action on the adult at risk and weigh these against any risks.
- The person’s strengths should always be considered when evaluating risk.
- Multi-agency working is important in assessing and managing risk, but should always take place within a person-centred framework that avoids blanket restrictions.
- Organisations should model a positive approach to risk-taking that supports employees to enable people to live the life they want, rather than a defensive approach that focuses too much on risk to the organisation.
- Decisions on risk should be reasonable, proportionate, accountable and defensible, and rooted in evidence-based practice and partnership working.
The case of Cardiff Council vs Peggy Ross is included in the Resources section of this guidance as a good example of the challenges in balancing risk and choice.