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1.3.2 Assessment

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in February 2017 with minor changes to text.


Contents

  1. Guidance
  2. Statutory Assessment
  3. Statutory Assessments under The Children Act 1989
  4. Purpose of Assessment
  5. Local Framework for Assessment
  6. Practice Guidelines
  7. Supervising the Assessment
  8. Standards for Completing Effective Assessments

    Appendix 1: Check Points for the Statutory Assessment


1. Guidance

The Early Help Record is an assessment that takes place before statutory social care intervention takes place which aims to give children, young people and their families a proportionate, co-ordinated and timely service. (See Swindon LSCB Multi-Agency Threshold Guidance).

The following is guidance to be used when undertaking the statutory social care assessment.


2. Statutory Assessment

A consistent message from cases involving harm to children is the importance of identifying problems early and taking rapid action to address them, before they get worse. No single professional can have a full picture of a child’s needs and circumstances. If children and families are to receive the right help, everyone who comes in contact with them (such as midwives, health visitors, doctors, early years professionals, teachers, youth engagement workers, police, voluntary and social workers) has to play a role by identifying concerns, sharing information and taking prompt action.

Concerns about a child’s welfare may arise in many different contexts and the nature of these concerns will vary greatly from child to child. What is important is that action is taken quickly so that a problem does not escalate.

Understanding families and the experiences of children within them can be complex and signs of low level abuse and neglect may be misleading. Professionals working in universal services - health, education, police and early years - have a responsibility to identify the early signs of abuse and neglect, to share that information and work together to provide children with the help they need. It is important that all practitioners think about a child's needs and difficulties not only from their professional or agencies' perspective but also to see needs and risks in the context of the whole child's life. (adapted from ‘Assessing and Managing Risk' Jane Aldgate and Wendy Rose 2008.


3. Statutory Assessments under The Children Act 1989

As stated in Working Together 2015, a good assessment will analyse not only the developmental needs of the child, but also the nature and level of both the risks and protective factors in the child’s life. An assessment must be proportionate to the needs and the nature of any harm faced by the child or unborn child. The assessment will inform decisions about whether a child is a child in need or is suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm as defined in section 31 of The Children Act 1989.

A child in need is defined under The Children Act 1989 as a child who is unlikely to reach or maintain a satisfactory level of health or development, or their health and development will be significantly impaired, without the provision of services, or children who are disabled. In these cases, assessments by a social worker are carried out under section 17 of The Children Act 1989. The purpose of these assessments is to gather evidence about a child’s developmental needs and the parents’ capacity to meet these needs within the context of their wider family and community. This information must be used to inform decisions about the help needed by the child.

If a social worker believes that the child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm, then the local authority under section 47 of The Children Act 1989 is required to make enquires to decide what action must be taken, with partners, to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child. There may be a need for immediate protection whilst the assessment is carried out.

Following an application under section 31A, where a child is the subject of a care order, the local authority, as a corporate parent, must assess the child’s needs and draw up a care plan which sets out the services which will be provided to meet the child’s identified needs.

Where a child is accommodated under section 20, the local authority has a statutory responsibility to assess the child’s needs and draw up a care plan which sets out the services to be provided to meet the child’s identified needs.

Where a child becomes looked after, the assessment will be the baseline for work with the family while the child is away. Any needs which have been identified must be addressed before decisions are made about the child's return home. An assessment by a social worker is required before the child returns home under the The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (2015). This will provide evidence of whether the necessary changes and improvements have been made to ensure the child's safety when they return home.

Where a child has a disability a good assessment will support professionals to understand whether a child has needs relating to their care or a disability and/or is suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm. The specific needs of disabled children and young carers must be given sufficient recognition and priority in the assessment process. Further guidance can be accessed at Safeguarding Disabled Children - Practice Guidance (2009) and recognised, valued and supported: Next steps for the Carers Strategy (2010).

The assessment of neglect cases can be difficult. Neglect can fluctuate both in level and duration. A child's welfare can, for example, improve following input from services or a change in circumstances and review, but then deteriorate once support is removed. Professionals should be wary of being too optimistic. Timely and decisive action is critical to ensure that children are not left in neglectful homes. SBC neglect framework.

Social workers, their managers and other professionals should always consider the plan from the child's perspective in order to complete an assessment that is child centred with an analysis the ensures adequate protection for children when there are safeguarding concerns Social workers and managers should always reflect the latest research on the impact of neglect and abuse when analysing the level of need and risk faced by the child. This should be reflected in the case recording child’s developmental stages.

Practitioners must be rigorous in assessing and monitoring children at risk of neglect in a consistent manner and this should preferably be undertaken by the same practitioner to ensure children are adequately safeguarded over time. They should act decisively to protect the child by initiating care proceedings where existing interventions are insufficient.


4. Purpose of Assessment

Whatever legislation the child is assessed under, the purpose of the assessment is always to understand the needs, nature and level of any risk and harm being suffered by the child; and to provide help and support to address those needs and make the child safe.

Assessments are a dynamic process and require good analysis and effective timely responses to the changing nature need and/or risk faced by the child. This must effectively inform a decision as to whether the child is a child in need (s17) and or is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm (s47).

Assessments will involve drawing together and analysing available information from a range of sources, including individual professional’s records in relevant agencies, both past and present, and those in contact with the child and family. Where an Early Help Record has already been completed this information should be used to inform the assessment. The child and family must be understood within an historical context having regard to the chronology of the child and older children in the family.

Assessment continues throughout any intervention with children and families to measure whether the actions have met the identified need and/or reduced risk.

A good assessment plan will monitor and record the impact of any services delivered to the child and family and review the help being delivered. Whilst services may be delivered to a parent or carer, the assessment and plan must be focused on the needs of the child and on the impact any services are having on the child to ensure decisions are made within a child’s time frame.

Some specialist assessments are undertaken for different purposes. In undertaking an assessment it is therefore important to be clear about purpose, as that will influence content, the emphasis given to the various factors, the subsequent analysis of the information gathered and action planned. The importance of coordination with other assessment processes is vital so that the child does not become lost between the different agencies involved and their different procedures, and the family experience effective joined up assessment and provision without repetition. The actions and plans from specialist assessments will inform the overarching plan for the child and family which shares a focus on the outcomes for the child.


5. Local Framework for Assessment

The Child Centred Framework below represents one way of trying to capture the complexity of the child's world and provides an approach to collecting and analysing information about the child. This includes common values and principles which apply across all aspects of working with children and young people. (See South West Child Protection Procedures).

Swindon LSCB Multi-agency Threshold Guidance outlines the Early Help and Statutory Assessment framework across the whole Continuum of Need (windscreen) as a guide to assist practitioners at the screening stage, to identify the nature of need, type of assessment, and service response with practice examples. Practitioners must refer to this document when considering the assessment needs of a child.

Click here to view The Child Centred Framework.

  • Principles for the statutory assessment.

All systems and processes will be underpinned by high quality assessments which:

  • Are child centred. Where there is a conflict of interest, decisions should be made in the child's best interests; rooted in child development and informed by evidence;
  • Are focused on action and outcomes for children; holistic in approach, addressing the child's needs within their family and wider community; ensure equality of opportunity;
  • Involve children and families;
  • Build on strengths as well as identifying difficulties;
  • Are integrated in approach;
  • Are a continuing process not an event;
  • Lead to action, including the provision and review of services; and are transparent;
  • Are based on the three dimensions - child’s developmental needs, parenting capacity, family and community factors;
  • Are carried out in parallel with other actions and provision of services;
  • Are grounded in evidence informed knowledge;
  • Are proportionate to the complexity of need.

Click here to see the Statutory Assessment Flowchart.


6. Practice Guidelines

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.

Social workers must always be the lead for statutory assessments using the above conceptual framework for completing the assessment, with the support and participation of other relevant professionals. The following guidance should be read along with the publication, Information Sharing Advice for Practitioners Providing Safeguarding Services to Children, Young People, Parents and Carers (March 2015).

They must:

  • Ensure assessments are timely, proportionate to the needs of individual children and their families and are transparent and understood by the family;
  • Ensure that each child and family understand their own responsibilities for being involved in the assessment and the help being provided or offered - so as to improve the child’s outcomes. Analyse the impact and influence of wider family, community and environmental circumstances including the impact of culture, ethnicity and class where relevant;
  • Take a systematic approach, using relevant tools, drawing on the most up to date research, to support professionals to assess whether a child is in need and if the child is suffering harm. This evidence will also inform decisions on what types of help will be offered to the child and family;
  • Analyse the gathered information systematically with a clear understanding of the child’s developmental needs, including whether they are suffering harm as a result of these needs not being met;
  • Analyse parents’ or carers’ capacity to change and respond to these needs;
  • Include contributions and the analysis of all professionals that will be involved in assessments and providing services;
  • Be informed by other specialist assessments such as the assessment for children with special educational needs and disabled children;
  • Ensure that any specialist assessments are coordinated so that the child and family experience a single assessment and planning process and the plan for the child is inclusive of these assessments;
  • Regard assessment as a continuing process which will be built upon in order to inform future plans such as the care plan for a child who is looked after and, where appropriate, a care plan prepared for the purposes of family court proceedings;
  • Be evidence informed and clearly recorded within the child’s social care record. Recording will include information on the child’s development so that progress can be monitored against baseline information to ensure their outcomes are improving. This will reduce the need for repeat assessments during care proceedings, so as to avoid delay;
  • Be borne of the principle that assessment should be followed by a plan>do>review approach to our intervention;
  • Continually review the impact of the resulting plan in terms of improving the child’s outcomes.

Guidelines to ensure there is a focus on the OUTCOME of plans, when assessing

Outcomes describe what will have changed for children as well as their parents as a result of a service intervention or activity.

In deciding on outcomes, careful consideration must be given to:

  • Baseline information i.e. what is the current situation and what need or risk exists that will be addressed by the intervention?
  • The specific aim of the intervention i.e. what change(s) are you planning with others 9 family and other professionals to make?
  • Timely long term and short term outcomes; e.g. what changes are you hoping to see made by the end of a (state time-scale) intervention (state nature of intervention) and what changes do you hope the service will make ( given time-scales). Does this fit with the child’s time-scales?
  • Focus on achieving the outcomes people aspire to, rather than service 'inputs' or concerns.

Make sure outcomes are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timed) e.g. the child has contact with family and friends which is positive, or the child is free from abuse, harassment and discrimination and then drill down as to how these can be achieved.

When thinking about the question “so what difference has the intervention made to a child’s life an impact is difficult to measure as it doesn’t lend itself to quantitative evaluation simply. However an impact provides the richest and most useful information about what is meaningful change for an individual child or young person/family and is therefore important to capture and record.

Take the goals as an end point and work back from there to set the outcomes that would need to happen at specific times, to allow the child/young person to move towards their goals. This ensures that no one loses sight of the end goal, but that these goals are broken down into step by step and achievable.

Guidelines to ensure assessment is TIMELY, TRANSPARANT AND PROPORTIONATE to need

How quickly an assessment is carried out after a child has been referred into the Family Contact Point (FCP) / MASH, will be determined by the needs of the child and the nature/level of any harm being suffered. This will require judgements to be made by the professionals in the Family Contact Point / MASH and a management decision to be made as to the nature and level of assessment response required.

The Public Law Outline (PLO) now requires that all assessments, including specialist assessments for unborn children for whom there are or may be concerns, are undertaken sooner than previously to enable timely action to meet the child’s time line and prevent court delay. This is for cases which may warrant court action if parents do not have the capacity to meet their new born child’s needs. (See South West Child Protection Procedures).

A decision will need to be made at the time of notification of the expected date for delivery to ensure that parents have the opportunity to work early in the pregnancy with professionals and to identify extended family support.

Delay in providing services, or initiating the Public Law Outline (PLO) or care proceedings when this is required, has a detrimental impact on a child’s development. It is vitally important for their development that children have their needs met at the right time throughout their lives.

Some complex cases will need longer to complete, but workers must not wait until the assessment is fully completed before putting in services to support the child and their family where this is indicated as being necessary.

Guidelines to ensure assessment is CHILD CENTRED and CO-ORDINATED

Every assessment must be child centred. Children must be seen and included throughout the assessment process. And the pace of the assessment needs to be based in part on the pace at which a child or young person can contribute; however this should never delay taking protective action. Children and young people can actively participate and contribute directly to all parts of the process, based upon their age, developmental stage and identity. Wherever possible they must be spoken to alone and listened to and their views sought to enable the worker to understand the way in which they behave, both with their care givers and in other settings. It is important to remember that it is important to include pre verbal or non verbal children as part of the assessment by making observations of their interactions with their parent/carer and considering what that tell the assessor.

Tools that are age and ability appropriate can be used to help children and young people communicate their feelings and wishes, and to assist professionals in this work and to understand the context of their identity, family and community as well as their behaviour and developmental stage.

Direct work with the child and family must include observations of the interactions between the child and the parents/care givers and the time-scale for the assessment may need to be extended when it is clear that several visits to and observations of the child and family warrant this to inform a thorough assessment/analysis.

Children and young people must be seen alone and if this is not possible or in their best interest, the reason must be recorded clearly. Wherever possible it is important that the child or young person’s words are recorded, as spoken by the child. The social worker should work directly with the child in order to understand their views and wishes, and include observations of the way in which they behave both with their care givers and in other settings.

The social worker must ensure all the children in the household have been seen and their needs considered and that the home address or address the child is living in has been visited and the child's bedroom has been seen.

Children have said that they need

  • Vigilance: to have adults notice when things are troubling them;
  • Understanding and action: to understand what is happening; to be heard and understood; and to have that understanding acted upon;
  • Stability: to be able to develop an on-going stable relationship of trust with those helping them;
  • Respect: to be treated with the expectation that they are competent rather than not;
  • Information and engagement: to be informed about and involved in procedures, decisions concerns and plans;
  • Explanation: to be informed of the outcome of assessments and decisions and reasons when their views have not met with a positive response;
  • Support: to be provided with support in their own right as well as a member of their family;
  • Advocacy: to be provided with advocacy to assist them in putting forward their views.

Guidelines to ensure assessments are including parents’ and family members

The parents’ and extended family members involvement in an assessment is central to the process of change and successfully achieving good outcomes for children.

Parents need to understand the reasons for an assessment, how they can contribute to the process what is expected of them and what need to change in order to improve the outcomes for a child. The assessment process must be open and transparent with the parents.

The process will often require the social worker to ask challenging questions, where there are inconsistencies and to challenge parents’ statements and behaviour where it is evidenced that there are different perceptions about what is in the child’s best interests. Fathers who have parental responsibility and care givers should be involved in the assessment and should be supported to participate. However the welfare of the child must not be overshadowed by parental needs. Exceptions to a parent’s involvement may be in cases of sexual abuse or domestic violence where the plan for the assessment must consider the safety of an adult, as well as that of the child and ways to ensure participation of a parent who is absent, must be considered with this in mind. If it is decided not to involve a parent the reasons must be recorded clearly.

Many services provided, will be for parents or carers. The plan should reflect this and set clear measurable outcomes for the child and expectations for the parents, with measurable, reviewable actions for them. The involvement of relevant adult care services to assess and support parents, must be considered as part of every assessment for the child.

Guidelines to ensure the REVIEW and SUPERVISION of assessment progress and planning

“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.” (Working Together 2015)

At the start of all assessments the allocated social worker must, with their manager, draw up a plan to identify the different elements of the assessment, including who should be involved. In some instances it will be necessary to hold a planning meeting to clarify roles and time-scales as well as services to be provided during the assessment where there are a number of family members and agencies likely to play a part in the process.

The social worker’s line manager must review the assessment progress and plan regularly with the social worker to ensure that the 'checkpoint' actions have been met and that the assessment time-scales are being reviewed. Managers and social workers must meet to review progress 5 working days before the assessment is due to ensure that there is sufficient information and understanding for the analysis and evaluation to be completed and the assessment provides clear evidence for decisions on what types of services are needed to provide good outcomes for the child and family.

The plan should be reviewed regularly to analyse whether sufficient progress has been made to meet the child’s needs and on the level of risk faced by the child. This will be important for neglect cases where parents and carers can make small improvements. The test should be whether any improvements in adult behaviour are sufficient and sustained. Social workers and their managers should consider the need for further action and record their decisions. The review points should be agreed by the social worker, with other professionals and with the child and family to continue evaluating the impact of any change on the welfare of the child.

From the outset, supervision of the assessment process must be recorded according to procedures. (refer to the Social work/Social Care Staff Supervision Policy on the intranet).


7. Supervising the Assessment

Effective professional supervision can play a critical role in ensuring a clear focus on a child’s welfare. Supervision should support professionals to reflect critically on the impact of their decisions on the child and their family. The social worker and their manager should review the plan for the child. Together they should ask whether the help given is leading to a significant positive change for the child and whether the pace of that change is appropriate for the child. Any professional working with vulnerable children should always have access to a manager to talk through their concerns and judgements affecting the welfare of the child. Assessment should remain an ongoing process, with the impact of services informing future decisions around action.
(Working Together 2015)

Click here to view the Supervision Outcome Chain.

The following checklist, taken from MacDonald (2001), provides a measure for judging the quality of an assessment and may also be useful as a guide for recording. All answers to the questions should be positive and a ‘no’ will indicate a gap in information.

Does the assessment:

  • Begin with a clear statement of the purpose of /or reasons for the assessment?
  • Say what was done in order to complete the assessment (and some indication of why)?
  • Confirm that the purpose of the assessment was explained to all family members concerned and record their responses?
  • Confirm that the nature of the assessment and the expectations if placed on family members was made clear at the outset and records the responses of family members?
  • Contain a summary of who is who in the family, possibly in the form of a genogram?
  • Contain a social history?
  • Provide evidence that the reason why certain information is being sought is understood by family members, possibly as a statement to that effect?
  • Contain the expressed views of all key parties, including children?
  • Provide evidence that the views of the children have been sought/obtained in ways that are age-appropriate?
  • Provide evidence that when indirect methods are used to obtain children’s views (e.g. play) the theoretical or empirical basis used to organise the session(s) is made clear and appropriate caution is used in interpreting the findings?
  • Use a number of sources of evidence (from different people, and including other professionals)?
  • Use a number of different types of evidence (including standardised measures, direct observation, official records/growth charts, as well as interview data)?
  • Take a critical approach to the evaluation of evidence e.g. consider alternative explanations include attempts to measure problems, i.e. frequency, duration, intensity?
  • Provide evidence of a broad based approach to data collection, covering all levels of influence relevant to child development and wellbeing?
  • Provide evidence that the questions asked and topics covered reflect an up-to-date and sound knowledge base relevant to the main presenting problem(s)?
  • Make it transparent to the reader why certain areas have been probed and others left?
  • Make explicit any theoretical assumptions made when recording and interpreting information, e.g. regarding the nature of attachment and its implications for development, the reasons for neglect etc. and - if known - the empirical support for such an assumption/theory?
  • Consider alternative explanations or interpretations when drawing conclusions about the significance of particular aspects of a family’s history or present circumstances?
  • Include a problem formulation? That is, a summary statement of the assessor’s understanding of how a set of affairs has come about, what is maintaining the problem or problems and what is preventing their resolution?
  • Provide a rationale for the choice of problem formulation, when alternative explanations or conclusions are possible?
  • Phrase the problem formulation in a way that it can easily be shown to be wrong?
  • Provide evidence that information has been shared with family members and differences of opinion have been either resolved or noted if irresolvable?
  • Make suggestions for interventions which are logically related to the problem formulation?
  • Say what level of help is necessary?
  • Say from whom this assistance should be sought?
  • Indicate likely frequency, duration and intensity of assistance required?
  • State clearly how progress/improvements will be monitored, including both qualitative and quantitative indicators?
  • State clearly how one will be able to tell if the intervention were to prove successful?

Points to remember when undertaking an analytical assessment:

  • Show an understanding of family history and context (the issue of context is key);
  • Provide a good picture of the child, the parent, and their story;
  • Be specific about the individual child’s needs, rather than following a generic assessment template;
  • Be logical, both in terms of ‘showing your working’ (i.e. making sure your thinking process is clear to the reader, showing how you have got from point to point, how you have used the information available to reach certain conclusions, etc) and in terms of structure, so that recommendations can be seen to follow from the information obtained;
  • Provide an understanding of why the assessment is being done and what you are expecting to get out of it;
  • Make explicit the underpinning knowledge (for example, child development theory, knowledge about the effects of bereavement and loss) and evidence (observation material, research findings, etc.) that have informed your argument;
  • Be clear about your concerns, and the reasons behind these concerns;
  • Include evidence for the judgements made, whether this is research messages, or your own observations;
  • Include the family’s views, and an analysis of these views;
  • Contain information that is directly relevant to the purpose of the assessment;
  • Contain hypotheses, i.e. in your preliminary - and probably still tentative - explanations for the situation or behaviours at issue;
  • Be succinct, concise, relevant and specific at each stage;
  • Be jargon-free, both in terms of word that will mean little to the family, and of words that might have different meanings for different professionals;
  • Include an analysis of what we don’t know yet (analysis is an on-going process, and it is OK to say that we need more information about a particular issue;
  • Clearly state what is going to happen as a direct result of the assessment - the ‘so what?’ question;
  • Link the action plan back to specific parts of the assessment (the plan must clearly emerge from the analysis and an outsider should be able to work out the general story of the case from the plan);
  • Show confidence in your analysis - ‘I think…because…’ - and include clear statements with evidence to back them up (there is often a reluctance to do this, as closed statements are less open to challenge than those that specify the reasons behind decisions).


8. Standards for Completing Effective Assessments

Standard 1
Recommendations and plans from the assessment will be outcome focussed.

  • Strengths, protective factors & risks identified;

  • Impact on child and what needs to change/ to achieve defined;

  • Who will support the family to achieve the desired outcomes; identified and agreed;

  • The date and time of the review will be recorded as a decision in the plan.

Standard 2
Review - to continue to receive a service from Children’s Social Care.

Review time-scale in place and what will happen if change not achieved within child’s time frame - this to be clear to professionals and family.

Standard 3
Children and families’ communication needs will be addressed.

Communication will be facilitated in the language or format of the child and family.

Standard 4
Children and young people will participate in their assessment.

All children will be seen in their home situation, seen alone and the purpose of the assessment explained to them.

  • Social workers will communicate directly with the child or young person and where appropriate, see the child on their own;

  • Children’s views and the child experience will be recorded clearly in their own words, where possible.

Standard 5
Parents will participate in the child’s assessment.

  • Parents’ understanding and views will be recorded clearly;

  • *Participation will be promoted e.g. advocates will be involved for parents with a learning disability/ mental health need.

Standard 6
Information gathered will be relevant, proportionate and factual.

Information will include all of the following:

  1. Information and comments from professionals known to the child;

  2. Information and comments from professionals known to the parents;

  3. Family knowledge and views of the parents, child or young person and other significant people in the family’s life;

  4. Inclusive of information and comments from a non-resident parent with parental responsibility.

Standard 7
Analysis of information will be structured in the three domains and judgements will be informed by a professional knowledge base.

  • Summaries will be recorded of information gathered in the three domains - child’s developmental needs, parenting capacity, family and community factors;

  • Conclusions will be drawn from the summaries as defined above;

  • Judgements will be evidence informed from research and a professional knowledge base and referenced.

Standard 8
Feedback will be given to those involved in the process.

  • Parent(s) and child/young person will receive feedback verbally and also in writing;

  • The comments of parent(s) and child/young people will then be recorded;

  • Agencies and individuals involved in the assessment will receive the summary, subject to consent and information about the plan if one is made.


Appendix 1: Check Points for the Statutory Assessment

In Swindon the following time scales have been decided as ‘check points’ in the children’s statutory assessment process:

  • Within 24 hours of a new referral (or on a closed case) being received by the Family Contact Point (FCP) / MASH social worker, the FCP / MASH manager must make a decision about the type of response that is required. If the decision is for an assessment for a child in need /in need of protection, the Assessment and Child Protection (A&CP) Team or long term team immediately accept responsibility for case allocation;
  • Written feedback must be given to the referrer on decisions made and action being taken. This is the responsibility of FCP / MASH. A letter to both referrer and where appropriate, families, will be written, keeping the family informed;
  • The child must be seen by a qualified social worker as soon as possible following a referral. Urgent cases will be prioritised without delay with an immediate visit to assess the child’s welfare where the child(ren) will be seen and spoken to, if age appropriate, on their own. In all urgent cases this will occur within 24 hours, except where the risk requires careful management and is agreed by a manager (also refer to the Warning Signs and Vulnerabilities Checklist);
  • In other cases professionals involved with the child and family must make a decision on the timing and initial seeing of the child and family, based on their assessment of the child’s needs. For preschool or non-school attenders (including during school holiday periods) this will not exceed 5 working days; for other children and young people this will be within 10 working days;
  • The social work team- or assistant team manager will set a timescale at the outset of the assessment process, for its completion. This will be in the majority of cases, set at 15 days. This is a date, to ensure timely assessments are undertaken and reviews. Families/children and professionals are to be informed that an assessment would not exceed 35 days and that there will be internal check points for review, around 15 or 25 days (see the Statutory Assessment Flowchart);
  • The relevant manager will review, with the social worker, whether enough information has been gathered to understand and make a good analysis, and record if there is a need for extending the initial time scale for completion, depending on the complexity of the case and the engagement with the child and family. In these cases the manager will review what else is needed and record this clearly in management- and supervision notes;
  • The outline, purpose and time scale for an assessment and date for completion which will be set at 15, 25 or 35 days to complete, except in exceptional circumstances when the maximum will be 45 days;
  • For cases where child protection concerns arise and assessments are being completed in accordance with S47 of The Children Act 1989, the assessment will always be completed within 5 days, to enable the assessment report to be shared with families and be available for an Initial Child Protection Conference, which must be held within 15 days of the strategy discussion. If a decision is made for a S47 investigation not to proceed to Conference, the manager will decide the time scale for completion of the statutory assessment, depending on the child’s needs, to be completed within 35 days;
  • If a Child is made subject to a Child Protection plan, an updated assessment is to be presented at every Child Protection Conference, to capture a child’s changing needs;
  • For child in need cases, where it is identified that assessments will take longer than 10 working days to complete, the assessment and understanding of the child’s needs, will be discussed with the social worker, by the relevant manager, prior to the final working day. There will be a review as part of that discussion of the time-scale for completion;
  • For complex child in need cases a planning meeting will be held between the 20th and 30th day and a plan drawn up with and shared with the family, with a time-scale decided for a review;
  • The child’s wishes and feelings must be taken into account when deciding what services to provide;
  • Where a case is referred that may constitute a criminal offence, the local authority must discuss it with the police at the earliest opportunity. If there are also allegations of a crime, the police have a duty to carry out a criminal investigation;
  • The social worker must discuss the child’s case with other involved professionals - teachers, health and early year’s staff and police and agree how quickly contributions to the assessment are to be obtained and any meetings to be convened, so that children are kept safe and help is provided which meets the needs of them and their family;
  • It is the responsibility of the social worker to make clear to children and families how the assessment will be carried out and when they can expect a decision to be made on next steps. Case notes must reflect the progress of the assessment on the individual child’s record and to identify any pattern of new or increasing concerns;
  • The conclusions of any assessment must be shared with the child and their family and parents must always be given a written copy of the assessment and plan, alongside a date for review meeting for Child in Need, where applicable. Children subject to a Child in Need Plan should have an updated assessment completed at the point where discontinuing the CIN plan is being considered to ensure that progress as a result of the intervention is evidenced when compared to the first assessment;
  • In the case where children are looked after by the local authority (S20, S31 and S38) assessments should be updated on a 6 monthly basis to ensure a child’s needs are understood and that their placement / carers remain able to meet their needs;
  • 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.

End