Sunday, 8 December 2013

Recognising (and avoiding) common mistakes in child protection

It occurs to me that we can use the categories of human factors skills to classify some of the most common types of error that occur in child protection.

Doing that might help us spot more easily a mistake while it is occurring – allowing us to mitigate it, or even avoid it, before it is too late.

We can also use the framework to review work that has involved mistakes and so address the issue of how they may be avoided in future.

I won’t pretend that this is a scientific classification. Its value is largely heuristic. Accordingly I’ve tried to give different types of errors names that are memorable.

I’m going to follow this post up with one for each of the six skill areas. If you read around the human factors literature you will see that various authors divide the skills into slightly different categories (e.g. Flin et al [1] have eight categories). That doesn’t really matter, I find the way I divide them up is convenient for me and I hope it is useful for you.

My six categories are:

·       Situation awareness - the ability to know, through attention and perception, what is happening in a given environment
·       Decision-making - how to make good judgements or good choices of options
·       Authority/challenge - understanding the risks of situations in which rules or powerful individuals or dominant groups may appear to mandate particular outcomes; and knowing how to challenge authority appropriately and constructively and how to be challenged and how to welcome challenge
·       Communication - understanding the factors which inhibit good communication, such as ambiguity, ‘noise’ or information overload; and understanding how to improve personal and organisational communication practices and to develop enhanced skills in communicating with others
·       Leadership and Teamwork - thinking more creatively about how to work in teams and being aware of some of the risks of team working; understanding how leaders are selected and how they operate effectively
·       Working in difficult conditions - recognising the impact of fatigue and stress on all the above areas and in work generally

My next post will be about Situation Awareness – so watch this space.


[1] Flin, R, O'Connor, P.  and Crichton, M. Safety at the Sharp End: a guide to non-technical skills Farnham: Ashgate 2008