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1.1.6 Assessment

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

The Local authorities with their partner agencies are developing and will publish local assessment frameworks which will promote good analysis, timeliness and transparency and which will be proportionate to the needs of the child and their family.

Each child who has been referred into Children's social care should have an individual assessment to identify their needs and to understand the impact of any parental behaviour on them as an individual. Children’s Social Care have to give due regard to a child's age and understanding when determining what (if any) services to provide under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989, and before making decisions about action to be taken to protect individual children under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989.


Contents

  1. Focus on the Child
  2. Planning
  3. Developing a Clear Analysis
  4. Contribution of the Child and Family
  5. Contribution of Agencies Involved with the Child and Family
  6. Actions and Outcomes
  7. Regular Review
  8. Recording
  9. Principles for a Good Assessment

    Further Information

    Amendments to this Chapter


1. Focus on the Child

Children should be seen and listened to and included throughout the assessment process. Their ways of communicating should be understood in the context of their family and community as well as their behaviour and developmental stage.

Assessments, service provision and decision making should regularly review the impact of the assessment process and the services provided on the child so that the best outcomes for the child can be achieved. Any services provided should be based on a clear analysis of the child’s needs, and the changes that are required to improve the outcomes for the child.

Children should be actively involved in all parts of the process based upon their age, developmental stage and identity. Direct work with the child and family should include observations of the interactions between the child and the parents/care givers.

All agencies involved with the child, the parents and the wider family have a duty to collaborate and share information to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child.


2. Planning

All assessments should be planned and coordinated by a qualified social worker and the purpose of the assessment should be transparent, understood and agreed by all participants. There should be an agreed statement setting out the aims of the assessment process. The planning should identify the different elements of the assessment including who should be involved.

The assessment process can be summarised as follows:

  • Focus on the child at the centre of the assessment process;
  • Gather relevant information from all family members and agencies involved;
  • Analyse information and reach practitioner judgments;
  • Make decisions and plan interventions;
  • Intervene; service delivery and/or further assessment;
  • Evaluate and review progress.
Assessment should be a dynamic process, which analyses and responds to the changing nature and level of need and/or risk faced by the child. A good assessment will monitor and record the impact of any services delivered to the child and family and review the support being delivered. Whilst services may be delivered to a parent or carer, the assessment should be focused on the needs of the child and on the impact any services are having on the child.


3. Developing a Clear Analysis

Research has demonstrated that taking a systematic approach to assessments using a conceptual model is the best way to deliver a comprehensive analysis. A good assessment is one which investigates the three domains; set out in the Assessment Framework Triangle. The interaction of these domains requires careful investigation during the assessment. The aim is to reach a judgement about the nature and level of needs and/or risks that the child may be facing within their family.

An assessment should establish:

  • The nature of the concern and the impact this has had on the child;
  • An analysis of their needs and/or the nature and level of any risk and harm being suffered by the child;
  • How and why the concerns have arisen;
  • What the child's and the family's needs appear to be and whether the child is a Child in Need;
  • Whether the concern involves abuse or Neglect;
  • Whether there is any need for any urgent action to protect the child, or any other children in the household or community;
  • Any factors that may indicate that the child is or has been trafficked, or is a victim of compulsory labour, servitude and slavery;
  • Any factors that may indicate that the child has been exposed to some form of radicalisation or extremism.

    Note: if there is a concern with regards to exploitation or trafficking, a referral into the National Referral Mechanism should be made. [1]

[1] GOV.UK Human trafficking/modern slavery victims: referral and assessment forms, https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/human-trafficking-victims-referral-and-assessment-forms

The assessment will involve drawing together and analysing available information from a range of sources, including existing records, and involving and obtaining relevant information from practitioners in relevant agencies and others in contact with the child and family. Where an Early Help Assessment has already been completed this information should be used to inform the assessment. The child and family’s history should be understood.

It may be appropriate to arrange a Medical Assessment to assist in the assessment process.

Where a child is involved in other assessment processes, it is important that these are coordinated so that the child does not become lost between the different agencies involved and their different procedures. All plans for the child developed by the various agencies and individual practitioners should be joined up so that the child and family experience a single assessment and planning process, which shares a focus on the outcomes for the child.

The social worker should analyse all the information gathered from the enquiry stage of the assessment to decide the nature and level of the child's needs and the level of risk, if any, they may be facing. The social work manager should provide regular supervision and challenge the social worker's assumptions as part of this process. An informed decision should be taken on the nature of any action required and which services should be provided. Social workers, their managers and other practitioners should be mindful of the requirement to understand the level of need and risk in a family from the child's perspective. They should take action or commission services, which will have a positive impact on the child's life.

When new information comes to light or circumstances change the child’s needs must be reassessed and any previous conclusions should be updated and critically reviewed to ensure that the child is not overlooked as noted in many lessons from Serious Case Reviews.


4. Contribution of the Child and Family

The Child

The child should participate and contribute directly to the assessment process based upon their age, understanding and capacity. They should be seen alone and if this is not possible or in their best interest, the reason should be recorded. The social worker should work directly with the child in order to understand their views and wishes, including the way in which they behave both with their care givers and in other settings. There are a range of age appropriate tools available to practitioners to assist them in this work.

The pace of the assessment needs to acknowledge the pace at which the child can contribute. However, this should not be a reason for delay in taking protective action. It is important to understand the resilience of the individual child in their family and community context when planning appropriate services.

Every assessment should be child centred. Where there is a conflict between the needs of the child and their parents/carers, decisions should be made in the child's best interests. The parents should be involved at the earliest opportunity unless to do so would prejudice the safety of the child.

The Parents’

The parents’ involvement in the assessment will be central to its success. At the outset they need to understand how they can contribute to the process and what is expected of them to change in order to improve the outcomes for the child. The assessment process must be open and transparent with the parents. However, the process should also challenge parents’ statements and behaviour where it is evidenced that there are inconsistencies, questions or obstacles to progress. All parents or care givers should be involved equally in the assessment and should be supported to participate whilst the welfare of the child must not be overshadowed by parental needs. There may be exceptions to the involvement of parents or care givers in cases of Sexual Abuse or domestic violence for example, where the plan for the assessment must consider the safety of an adult as well as that of the child.


5. Contribution of Agencies Involved with the Child and Family

All agencies and practitioners involved with the child, and the family, have a responsibility to contribute to the assessment process. This might take the form of providing information in a timely manner and direct or joint work. Differences of opinion between practitioners should be resolved speedily but where this is not possible, the local arrangements for resolving practitioner disagreements should be implemented.

It is possible that practitioners have different experiences of the child and family and assessments will reflect these differences in order to offer a balanced account.

The practitioners should be involved from the outset and through the agreed, regular process of review.

The social worker’s supervisor will have a key role in supporting the practitioner to ensure all relevant agencies are involved.

Agencies providing services to adults, who are parents, carers or who have regular contact with children must consider the impact on the child of the particular needs of the adult in question.


6. Actions and Outcomes

Every assessment should be focused on outcomes, deciding which services and support to provide to deliver improved welfare for the child and reflect the child’s best interests. In the course of the assessment the social worker and their line manager should determine:

  • Is this a Child in Need? (Section 17 Children Act 1989);
  • Is there reasonable cause to suspect that this child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, Significant Harm? (Section 47 Children Act 1989);
  • Is this a child in need of accommodation? (Section 20 or Section 31A Children Act 1989).

The possible outcomes of the assessment should be decided on by the social worker and their line manager, who should agree a plan of action setting out the services to be delivered how and by whom in discussion with the child and family and the practitioners involved.

The outcomes may be as follows:

  • Emergency action to protect a child may be needed at any point in the process.
  • Undertaking a Strategy Discussion/Meeting, to decide whether the threshold for a Section 47 child protection enquiry is reached;
  • Specialist assessment for a more in-depth understanding of the child's needs and circumstances;
  • The development of a multi-agency child in need plan for the provision of child in need services to promote the child's health and development;
  • Additional support which can be provided through universal services and single service provision; early help services such as the CAF / Early Help Assessment process;
  • No further action.

The outcome of the assessment should be:

  • Discussed with the child and family and provided to them in written form. Exceptions to this are where this might place a child at risk of harm or jeopardise an enquiry;
  • Taking account of confidentiality, provided to practitioners, who had made referrals;
  • Given in writing to agencies involved in providing services to the child with the action points, review dates and intended outcomes for the child stated.

The maximum time frame for the assessment to conclude, such that it is possible to reach a decision on next steps, should be no longer than 45 working days from the point of referral.

If, in discussion with a child and their family and other practitioners, an assessment exceeds 45 working days the social worker, their line manager and practitioners involved should record the reasons for exceeding the time limit and the protective action to be taken until such time that the assessment is concluded.


7. Regular Review

The planning for the assessment must include timescales for the actions to be met and stages of the assessment to progress, which should include regular points to review the assessment. The work with the child and family should ensure that the agreed points are achieved through regular reviews. Where delays or obstacles occur these must be acted on and the assessment must be reviewed if any circumstances change for the child.

The social worker’s line manager must review the assessment regularly with the social worker and ensure that actions such as those below have been met:

  • There has been direct communication with the child alone and their views and wishes have been recorded and taken into account when providing services;
  • All the children in the household have been seen and their needs considered;
  • The child's home address has been visited and the child's bedroom has been seen;
  • The parents have been seen and their views and wishes have been recorded and taken into account, including absent parents;
  • The analysis and evaluation has been completed;
  • The assessment provides clear evidence for decisions on what types of services are needed to provide good outcomes for the child and family.

A useful comment from ‘Working Together to Safeguard Children 2015’ to bear in mind for all practitioners when reviewing progress:

“A high quality assessment is one in which evidence is built and revised throughout the process. A social worker may arrive at a judgement early in the case but this may need to be revised as the case progresses and further information comes to light. It is a characteristic of skilled practice that social workers revisit their assumptions in the light of new evidence and take action to revise their decisions in the best interests of the individual child.”


8. Recording

Recording by all practitioners should include information on the child's development so that progress can be monitored to ensure their outcomes are improving. This is particularly significant in circumstances where neglect is an issue.

Records should be kept of the progress of the assessment on the individual child’s record and in their Chronology to monitor any patterns of concerns.

Action points arising from the assessment and meetings should be circulated to the participants including the child, if appropriate, and the parents.

The recording should be such that a child, requesting to access their records, could easily understand the process taking place and the reasons for decisions and actions taken.

Supervision records should reflect the reasoning for decisions and actions taken and each entry should be signed and dated.


9. Principles for a Good Assessment

The assessment triangle in Working Together to Safeguard Children 2015 provides a model, which should be used to examine how the different aspects of the child’s life and context interact and impact on the child. It notes that it is important that:

  • Information is gathered and recorded systematically;
  • Information is checked and discussed with the child and their parents/carers where appropriate;
  • Differences in views about information are recorded; and
  • The impact of what is happening to the child is clearly identified.


Assessment Framework Triangle

Assessment Triangle


Assessment Cycle

Assessment Cycle

Further Information

The International Child Abduction and Contact Unit

Modern Slavery Act 2015

Working with foreign authorities: child protection cases and care orders Departmental advice for local authorities, social workers, service managers and children’s services lawyers (July 2014).

Amendments to this Chapter

This chapter was reviewed and updated in August 2016 when links to the International Child Abduction and Contact Unit and the Modern Slavery Act 2015 were added and Section3, Developing a Clear Analysis was amended to reflect these additions.

GOV.UK Human trafficking/modern slavery victims: referral and assessment forms

End.