Support individuals to make informed choices using agreed risk assessment processes

This page is designed to answer the following questions:

As part of a person-centred approach, care workers should support individuals to be as independent as possible, encourage them to make their own choices and respect the decisions that they make.

Choices can be relatively small day-to-day decisions, such as:

  • what time to go to bed
  • what clothes to wear
  • whether to stay in or go out

Or larger, more serious decisions that could even be life-changing, such as:

  • whether to get married or not
  • whether to undergo a risky surgical procedure or not
  • whether to have a sexual relationship or not

To empower an individual to make their own decisions, it is important that you ensure they have and understand all the relevant data to make an informed choice.

This could be through yourself or a third party explaining the pros and cons of a decision, educational workshops (such as sex and relationships course), printed materials such as leaflets and posters or information from research on the Internet.

When providing an individual with information, it is essential that you don’t let you’re own personal views or beliefs bias their decision.

A good way of supporting an individual’s right to choice is by using agreed risk assessment processes.

Risk assessments involve gathering up all the relevant information about a choice, assessing the likelihood and severity of the potential negative consequences and weighing that up against the positive outcomes to decide if the risk is worth taking.

By performing the risk assessment process with an individual, you can:

  • help them gather the relevant data to make an informed choice
  • help them to identify the possible risks and rewards
  • support them to critically analyse the options
  • help them to identify ways to remove or reduce the likelihood or severity of the risks

When you have laid out the information to an individual and there is nothing to suggest that they do not have the capacity to make the decision on their own, you should respect and support whatever choice the individual makes, even if you believe it to be unwise.

Example questions and answers

Explain how the responsibilities of all concerned with the care of an individual can be supported by a risk assessment.

Risk assessments can be used to support the responsibilities of everyone involved in the care of an individual. The individual has the right to make their own life choices and these must be respected by their support worker, however their support worker has a duty of care to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the individual. By working with an individual to create a risk assessment, there is a documented record that the individual has been offered choice and informed about the potential risks involved. Simply by going through the process, it may give an individual a greater understanding of the risks and may change their mind. The risk assessment also aims to reduce potential risk, ensuring that the activity is performed as safely as possible. This allows the support worker to safeguard the individual as much as can reasonably be expected.

Give three reasons why risk assessments designed to support choice and active participation need to be reviewed and updated regularly.

Risk assessments designed to support choice and active participation should be updated regularly. This is because the needs or preferences of the individual may change (e.g. they may no longer want to partake in an activity). New risks may be identified which would also require the risk assessment to be updated. Changes in legislation may also prompt a review of existing risk assessments.