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Rating risk and vulnerability: poll

We have acknowledged that the assessment of risk and vulnerability is not an exact science.

Seen through different cultural or contextual lenses, the same set of circumstances will be viewed to hold greater or lesser degrees of risk and potential vulnerability for children and young people. The task of social work and social care staff working with this population of children is to try to make accurate assessments as to likely future harm and act accordingly.

Voting in the poll has now closed. Read further for Graham’s analysis of the poll results.

From the scenarios listed below, we asked you pick three that you thought presented the most risk.

  • A tiny baby who has been given a violent shaking by their carer who has learning difficulties and is upset because the baby won’t stop crying.
  • A 7-year old girl who has her father regularly sleeping in bed with her.
  • A 15-year old girl who has recently been befriended by a man who has persuaded her to do sexual things to him in exchange for money and affection.
  • A six-month old baby boy who has not had any attention or anything to eat for 10 hours.
  • A 4-year old girl who has a mother who is suffering from depression and who has not bothered to feed her for 24 hours.
  • A 15-year old child being teased at school for wearing shoes which have both got holes in the soles and trousers which are stained and threadbare.
  • A 3-year old child who has learning difficulties and whose mother continually criticises and shouts at her all the time.
  • An 8-year old girl of Afro Caribbean origin who has just had her hair cut short because her white foster carer finds it difficult to manage.
  • An 11-year old who has just mastered the internet and is delighted to have made a friend who claims to be of similar age through a “chat room” who they have arranged to meet.
  • A 4-year old child who is regularly locked in their bedroom for wetting their pants.

Poll Results

Scenario Percentage
A tiny baby who has been given a violent shaking by their carer who has learning difficulties and is upset because the baby won’t stop crying. 77%
A 7-year old girl who has her father regularly sleeping in bed with her. 11%
A 15-year old girl who has recently been befriended by a man who has persuaded her to do sexual things to him in exchange for money and affection. 50%
A six-month old baby boy who has not had any attention or anything to eat for 10 hours. 63%
A 4-year old girl who has a mother who is suffering from depression and who has not bothered to feed her for 24 hours. 51%
A 15-year old child being teased at school for wearing shoes which have both got holes in the soles and trousers which are stained and threadbare. 2%
A 3-year old child who has learning difficulties and whose mother continually criticises and shouts at her all the time. 9%
An 8-year old girl of Afro Caribbean origin who has just had her hair cut short because her white foster carer finds it difficult to manage. 1%
An 11-year old who has just mastered the internet and is delighted to have made a friend who claims to be of similar age through a ‘chat room’ who they have arranged to meet. 24%
A 4-year old child who is regularly locked in their bedroom for wetting their pants. 11%

Graham’s analysis from the poll.

The results from the poll reveal some interesting patterns. Four of the ten scenarios gathered the bulk of the total votes overall. A common theme in the three scenarios voted for most frequently was the young age of the children involved - a tiny baby, a six-month old baby and a four-year old girl respectively. The immediate sense of risk associated with children of such a young age coupled with their lack of agency would appear to have been a predominate factor in the voting.

By contrast, the scenario which gathered fourth most votes by contrast involved a fifteen-year old girl. Again we can assume that voting was affected by an immediate sense of risk. However all the scenarios, and indeed the exercise as a whole, were designed to encourage participants to explore attitudes to risk and vulnerability and the factors which we may deem to be significant.

To make full assessments more information in all situations would be required. Additionally, a small change in the information presented may have made a significant change in the voting. If scenario three involved ‘a sixteen-year old boy’ as opposed to a ‘man’ we could perhaps anticipate that it would gather less votes.

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This article is from the free online course:

Caring for Vulnerable Children

University of Strathclyde