What is Professional Curiosity?
Professional curiosity is where a practitioner explores and proactively tries to understand what is happening within a family or for an individual, rather than making assumptions or taking a single source of information and accepting it at face value.
Safeguarding Adults Reviews, Serious Case Reviews and Domestic Homicide Reviews have shown that a lack of professional curiosity and poor coordination of support can lead to poor assessments and intervention measures that can fail to support those at risk of harm and abuse. There are a number of barriers to professionals practicing with curiosity. Working in partnership enhances the likelihood that professional curiosity will flourish.
Rochdale Safeguarding Children's Partnership and Adults Board:
Take a look at the Kent and Medway Safeguarding Adults Reviews 'Gordon Fields' and 'Elizabeth Eastley', which highlights key learning around the importance of professional curiosity when working with adults.
Noticing is not nosiness - be respectfully curious
- Is there anything about what you see when you meet with the adult / their family that makes you feel uneasy or prompts questions?
- Do you see behaviours which indicate abuse, including coercion and control or neglect, including self-neglect?
- Does what you see contradict or support what you are being told?
- How are family members interacting with each other and with you?
- Are you being told anything that needs further clarification?
- Is someone trying to tell you something?
- Are you concerned about what you hear family members say to each other?
- Is someone in the family trying to tell you something, but finding it difficult to express themselves or speak openly?
- Make time and space to have a private conversation with an adult who may be at risk of abuse or neglect, or subject to coercion and control.
Research indicates those who experience abuse, including coercion and control want practitioners to ask direct questions and that it is easier to respond to a direct question than offer information independently.
- I’ve noticed you have this injury. Is there anything going on for you which may have caused this
- Is there anyone who would be annoyed or upset if you did X, or if Y happened?
- Do you feel frightened of anyone?
- Do you feel safe living here?
- Who makes decisions about what you can and cannot do?
- Some of the things you have told me today concern me. Is somebody hurting you or are you afraid someone might hurt you in the future?
- Are other professionals involved? What information do they have?
- Have other professional seen the same as you?
- Are professionals being told the same or different things?
- Are others concerned? If so, what action has been taken and is there anything else which should or could be done by you or someone else?
Managing difficult conversations
Raise the issue as soon as possible, deal with it, don't put it off. Difficult conversations have the potential to become increasingly difficult if not dealt with promptly. If an individual has trusted you enough to raise an issue, then use that rapport to be professionally curious.
Tackling disagreements or hostility, raising concerns and giving information that may not be well received are incredibly challenging and difficult things to do. The following tips can support practitioners in holding difficult conversations:
- Plan in advance to ensure there will be time to cover essential elements of the conversation.
- Keep the agenda focused on the topics you need to discuss.
- Be clear and unambiguous.
- Have courage and focus on the needs of the individual.
- Be non-confrontational and non-blaming.
- Stick to the facts and have evidence to back up what you say.
- Ensure decision making is justifiable and transparent.
- Show empathy, consideration and compassion.
- Demonstrate congruence i.e. make sure tone, body language and content of speech are consistent.
- Consider the adult's needs for advocacy support.
- Find out what the individual wants to happen (Making Safeguarding Personal)
For access to further resources, visit the Professional Curiosity Resources page.