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3.2 Social Work Assessments

RELATED GUIDANCE

Chapter 1 of Working Together

RELATED CHAPTERS

Recording Principles

Local Protocol for Children's Assessments

AMENDMENT

In September 2016, links were added to the Modern Slavery Act 2015. Practitioners are reminded to be aware of the possibility that a child may have been trafficked and also the possibility of a young person being drawn into extremism.


Contents

  1. What is a Social Work Assessment? 
  2. Focus on the Child
  3. Planning
  4. Developing a Clear Analysis
  5. Timescale 
  6. The Process of the Social Work Assessment 
  7. Involving Parents in the Social Work Assessment
  8. Possible Outcomes of the Social Work Assessment 
  9. Emergency Protective Action 
  10. Outcome and Feedback from Social Work Assessment
  11. Regular Review
  12. Recording
  13. Principles for a Good Assessment


1. What is a Social Work Assessment?

1.1 If, as a result of a Referral, there are indications that a child may be a child in need of services to safeguard them and or promote their wellbeing then Children’s Social Work Services will conduct a Social Work Assessment.
1.2

The Social Work Assessment will initially determine whether the child is in need and if so to identify whether they are a child in need of support services to promote their welfare, or whether there is reasonable cause to suspect the child is suffering, or likely to suffer, Significant Harm and in need of protection or of accommodation or whether they are a child in need of a statutory service. Children’s Social Work and partner agencies should work together to identify the nature of any services required and a decision made as to whether a further, more detailed assessment should be undertaken.

Where there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm, a Strategy Discussion must be held to agree how enquires under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989 will be undertaken in conjunction with the Social Work Assessment.

1.3

The Social Work Assessment should be undertaken in accordance with the Assessment Framework Triangle in Working Together.

This 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, or is likely to happen to the child is clearly identified.


2. Focus on the Child

Children should to 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 in line with 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.


3. Planning

All assessments should be planned and coordinated by a 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.

Planning should identify the different elements of the assessment including who should be involved. It is good practice to hold a planning meeting to clarify roles and timescales 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.

Questions to be considered in planning assessments include:

  • Who will undertake the assessment and what resources will be needed?
  • Who in the family will be included and how will they be involved (including absent or wider family and others significant to the child)?
  • In what grouping will the child and family members be seen and in what order and where?
  • What services are to be provided during the assessment?
  • Are there communication needs? If so, what are the specific needs and how they will be met?
  • How will the assessment take into account the particular issues faced by black and minority ethnic children and their families, and disabled children and their families?
  • What methods of collecting information will be used? Are there any tools / questionnaires available?
  • What information is already available?
  • What other sources of knowledge about the child and family are available and how will other agencies and professionals who know the family be informed and involved?
  • How will the consent of family members be obtained?
  • What will be the timescales?
  • How will the information be recorded?
  • How will it be analysed and who will be involved?
  • When will the outcomes be discussed and service planning take place.

The assessment process can be summarised as follows:

  • Gathering relevant information;
  • Analysing the information and reaching professional judgments about what that information means in respect of individual children and families;
  • Making decisions and planning interventions;
  • Intervening, service delivery and/or further assessment;
  • Evaluating and reviewing 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 help 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.


4. 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; and
  • Whether there is any need for any urgent action to protect the child, or any other children in the household or community.

The Social Work Assessment will address the following questions:

  • What are the developmental needs of the child?
  • Are the parents able to respond appropriately to the child’s identified needs?
  • Do the parents/carers have the capacity to respond to the child’s needs?
  • Are the parents able to promote the child’s health and development;
  • What impact are the family functioning and history, the wider family and environmental factors having on the parent's capacity to respond to their child’s needs and the child’s developmental progress?
  • Is the child adequately safeguarded from any identified risks of Significant Harm and is there a need for emergency action or services to safeguard the child’s welfare?
  • Are any services required to promote the child’s health and development?
  • 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. GOV.UK Human trafficking/modern slavery victims: referral and assessment forms.

Are there any other children in the household or elsewhere who should be included in the Social Work Assessment? This includes unborn babies.

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 professionals 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.

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 professionals 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 professionals should be mindful of the requirement to understand the level of need and risk in a family from the child's perspective and ensure action or commission services which will have maximum positive impact on the child's life.

When new information comes to light or circumstances change the child’s needs, 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.


5. Timescale

5.1 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, and assessments that are undertaken whilst the case is open should ordinarily be completed in 30 working days.
5.2 Any extension to this timescale must be authorised by a Children’s Social Work Services manager, and the reasons recorded, for example there may be a need to delay in order to arrange for an interpreter or avoid a religious festival. Any such decision must be consistent with the welfare of the child.
5.3

The assessment plan must set out 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. When circumstances change such that delay is likely the assessment plan must be reviewed.

The social worker’s line manager will ensure that:

  • There has been direct communication with the child alone (where appropriate) and their views and wishes have been recorded and taken into account;
  • 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/carers have been seen and their views and wishes have been recorded and taken into account;
  • Parent/ carer and child interactions have been observed and considered;
  • 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’ to bear in mind for all professionals when reviewing progress.


6. The Process of the Social Work Assessment

6.1

The Social Work Assessment should be led by a qualified and experienced social worker supervised by a highly experienced and qualified social work manager. It should be carefully planned, with clarity about who is doing what, as well as when and what information is to be shared with the parents. The planning process and decisions about the timing of the different assessment activities should be undertaken in collaboration with all those involved with the child and family. Where an assessment has previously been completed, it will be built upon during the Social Work Assessment.

The process of Social Work Assessment should involve:

  • Seeing and speaking to the child, including alone when appropriate;
  • Where it is not appropriate to see the child alone then observations of the child’s behaviour and interaction with parents and relevant others should be used to inform the assessment;
  • Seeing and meeting with parents, the family and wider family members as appropriate;
  • Involving and obtaining relevant information from professionals and others in contact with the child and family; and
  • Drawing together and analysing available information (focussing on the strengths and positive factors as well as vulnerabilities and risk factors) from a range of sources (including existing records).

All relevant information (including information about the history and functioning of the family both currently and in the past and adult problems such as domestic violence, substance misuse, mental illness and criminal behaviour/convictions) should be taken into account.

6.2

Where a Social Work Assessment is being undertaken on a child who is new to the area or there is believed to be a possible history concern in the family, professionals from agencies such as health, Children’s Social Work Services and the police should request known background information from their equivalent agencies in the town, city, country or countries in which the child has lived. Information about who to contact can be obtained via the Foreign and Commonwealth Office or the appropriate Embassy or Consulate based in London (see the London Diplomatic List (The Stationery Office), ISBN 0 11 591772 1 or the FCO website).

6.3

The child should be seen by the Lead Social Worker without his or her caregivers present when appropriate, within a timescale that is appropriate to the nature of concerns expressed at the time of the referral, according to the agreed plan. Seeing the child includes observing and communicating with the child in a manner appropriate to his or her age and understanding. Children’s Social Work Services are required by the Children Act 1989 (as amended by s53 of the Children Act 2004) to ascertain the child’s wishes and feelings and to give due consideration to the child’s wishes and feelings, having regard to his or her age and understanding, when making decisions about what (if any) services to provide. It is important not only to understand the child’s wishes and feelings in relation to any issue raised in the referral but also to get and understanding from the child about their general life and relationships. What do they perceive the problems or their needs to be and what do they think might help?. Interviews with the child should be undertaken in the preferred language of the child. For some disabled children interviews may require the use of non-verbal communication methods. The date when the Lead Social Worker sees the child should be recorded on the Social Work Assessment Record.

6.4 It will not necessarily be clear whether a criminal offence has been committed, which means that even initial discussions with the child should be undertaken in a way that minimises distress to them and maximises the likelihood that she or he will provide accurate and complete information, avoiding leading or suggestive questions.
6.5 Interviews with family members (which may include the child) should also be undertaken in their preferred language and where appropriate for some people by using non-verbal communication as well as observation techniques.


7. Regular Review

The assessment plan must set out 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. When circumstances change such that delay is likely the assessment plan must be reviewed.

The social worker’s line manager will ensure that:

  • There has been direct communication with the child alone (where appropriate) and their views and wishes have been recorded and taken into account;
  • 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/carers have been seen and their views and wishes have been recorded and taken into account;
  • Parent/ carer and child interactions have been observed and considered;
  • 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’ to bear in mind for all professionals when reviewing progress.


8. Involving Parents in the Social Work Assessment

8.1

Parents should be informed of the referral and their permission sought to share and request information with and from other agencies unless to do so would:

  • Be prejudicial to the child’s welfare;
  • Cause concern about the behaviour of the adult concerned with the child;
  • Cause concern that the child would be likely to suffer Significant Harm.
8.2 In these circumstances, a Children’s Social Work Services manager may decide to consult other relevant agencies without seeking parental consent or where parental consent is sought but not given. Any such decision must be recorded with reasons.

See also Information Sharing and Confidentiality Procedure.

8.3 Where parents and family members are consulted, the worker carrying out the Social Work Assessment should make it clear to them that the information provided for the assessment may be shared with other agencies and will contribute to the assessment.


9. Possible Outcomes of the Social Work Assessment

9.1 The focus of the Social Work Assessment should be the welfare of the child. It is important to remember that even if the reason for the referral was a concern about abuse or neglect that is not subsequently substantiated, a family may still benefit from support and practical help to promote a child’s health and development.
9.2

As a result of the Social Work Assessment including discussion with the child and family, Children’s Social Work Services will decide one of the following:

  • That the child is a Child In Need, as defined by the Children Act 1989 Section 17 in which case Children’s Social Work Services will work alongside partner agencies to agree the most appropriate process for intervention to support the family and parents to meet the assessed needs. Ongoing involvement may or may not involve Children Social Work services but in all such cases the Social Work Assessment must conclude with a written plan of action and an identified lead professional. In these cases a Team Around the Child Meeting arranged as appropriate to coordinate services and identify the Lead Professional;
  • That the child is not a child in need, as defined by the Children Act 1989 S17 and no further action is required or where the child or family has been assessed to have outstanding needs, they can provide information and advice, sign posting to another agency;
  • That the child is a Child in Need but there are no concerns about actual or likely Significant Harm at this time; however further assessment is required to gain a more in-depth understanding of the family in order to identify the child’s needs and to determine what services are required;
  • That the child meets the criteria for further intervention as a child in need of a Statutory Service i.e. 16+ Services, Private Fostering. In these cases the appropriate procedures should be followed and services offered in accordance with statutory legislation;
  • That the child is a Child in Need and that there is reasonable cause to believe that the child is suffering or is likely to suffer Significant Harm. In which case Children’s Social Work Services will hold a Strategy Discussion to determine whether a Section 47 Enquiry is required and consider whether any immediate protective action is required - see Section 9, Emergency Protective Action.


10. Emergency Protective Action

10.1 Where there is a risk to the life of a child or a likelihood of immediate Significant Harm, the social worker and/or Police officer must act to secure the safety of the child.
10.2 The agency taking protective action must always consider whether action is also required to safeguard other children in the same household or in the household of an alleged perpetrator or elsewhere.
10.3

Emergency action may be necessary as soon as the referral is received or at any point during involvement with children, parents or carers, where there is evidence that the risk to the child is sufficiently acute.

10.4 Responsibility for immediate action rests with Children’s Social Work Services for the area where the child is found, but should be in consultation with the local authority where the child is ordinarily resident, if different.
10.5

Immediate protection may be achieved by:

  • An alleged abuser agreeing to leave the home and this is checked;
  • The removal of the alleged abuser;
  • Voluntary agreement for the child or children to move to a safer place with or without a protective person;
  • Application for an Emergency Protection Order (EPO);
  • Removal of the child or children under Police Protection;
  • Gaining entry to the household under police powers.
10.6 Children’s Social Work Services should only seek the assistance of the police to use their powers of Police Protection in exceptional circumstances where there is insufficient time to seek an Emergency Protection Order or other reasons relating to the child’s immediate safety.
10.7 Planned immediate protective action will normally take place following an immediate Strategy Discussion between Police, Children’s Social Work Services and other agencies as appropriate (including the NSPCC where involved). Where a single agency has to act immediately to protect a child, a Strategy Discussion should take place as soon as possible after such action to plan next steps.
10.8 Social workers must refer to the Children’s Social Work procedures for more detailed guidelines on applications for Emergency Protection Orders.
10.9 Legal advice should normally be obtained before initiating legal action, particularly when an Emergency Protection Order is to be sought. The social worker must also seek the agreement of her/his Team Manager/Assistant Team Manager before initiating legal action. 


11. Outcome and Feedback from Social Work Assessment

11.1

The parents and the child will usually be informed of the outcome of the Social Work Assessment unless to do so would:

  • Be prejudicial to the child’s welfare;
  • Cause concern about the behaviour of the adult concerned with the child;
  • Cause concern that the child would be likely to suffer further Significant Harm.
11.2 Any decision not to share the outcome with the parents must be endorsed by a Children’s Social Work Services manager and recorded, with reasons for the decisions.
11.3

The outcome decision of a Social Work Assessment will be endorsed by a Children’s Social Work Services manager and recorded using ICS exemplars. A copy of the Social Work Assessment should be provided to the parent and to other professionals as necessary where used as supporting information to their continued involvement.

11.4

The social worker carrying out the assessment will also advise the following people/agencies of the outcome, consistent with respecting the confidentiality of the child and family and not jeopardising future action:

  • All agencies involved with the child and family;
  • The person/agency who made the referral.
11.5 The Social Work Assessment is deemed complete once the assessment has been discussed with the child and family and the Team Manager has viewed and authorised the assessment.


12. Recording

Recording by all professionals 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.

Assessment plans and action points arising from plans 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.


13. Principles for a Good Assessment

The assessment triangle in Working Together to Safeguard Children 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:

  • The signs of safety model should be used;
  • 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 Triangle

End