1.2 Assessment Procedure
- Principles of a good assessment
- Focusing on the needs and views of the child
- Developing a clear analysis
- Immediate protection
- Focusing on outcomes
- Further information
Principles of a good assessment
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 from within and outside their family. It is important that the impact of what is happening to a child is clearly identified and that information is gathered, recorded and checked systematically, and discussed with the child and their parents/carers where appropriate.
Any provision identified as being necessary through the assessment process should, if the local authority decides to provide such services, be provided without delay. 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.
Good assessments support practitioners 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 local authority should act decisively to protect the child from abuse and neglect including initiating care proceedings where existing interventions are insufficient. Where an assessment in these circumstances identifies concerns but care proceedings are not initiated, the assessment should provide a valuable platform for ongoing engagement with the child and their family.
High quality assessments:
- are child-centred. Where there is a conflict of interest, decisions should be made in the child’s best interests: be rooted in child development: be age-appropriate; and be informed by evidence
- are focused on action and outcomes for children
- are holistic in approach, addressing the child’s needs within their family and any risks the child faces from within the wider community
- ensure equality of opportunity
- involve children, ensuring that their voice is heard and provide appropriate support to enable this where the child has specific communication needs
- involve families
- identify risks to the safety and welfare of children
- build on strengths as well as identifying difficulties
- are integrated in approach
- are multi-agency and multi-disciplinary
- are a continuing process, not an event
- lead to action, including the provision of services
- review services provided on an ongoing basis
- are transparent and open to challenge.
Focusing on the needs and views of the child
Every assessment should reflect the unique characteristics of the child within their family and community context. Each child whose referral has been accepted by children’s social care should have their individual needs assessed, including an analysis of the parental capacity to meet those needs whether they arise from issues within the family or the wider community. Frequently, more than one child from the same family is referred and siblings within the family should always be considered. Family assessments that include all members of the family should always ensure that the needs of individual children are distinct considerations.
Every assessment, including young carer, parent carer and non-parent carer assessments, should draw together relevant information gathered from the child and their family and from relevant practitioners including teachers and school staff, early years workers, health practitioners, the police and adult social care. Where a child has been looked after and has returned home, information from previous assessments and case records should also be reviewed.
See the Assessment Framework in Working Together 2018.
Developing a clear analysis
The social worker should analyse all the information gathered from the assessment, including from a young carer’s, parent carer’s or non-parent carer’s 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 worker should receive insight and challenge to their emerging hypothesis from their practice supervisors and other relevant practitioners who should 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, or faced by, a family from the child’s perspective and plan accordingly, understanding both protective and risk factors the child is facing. The analysis should inform the action to be taken which will have maximum impact on the child’s welfare and outcomes.
Assessment is a dynamic and continuous process that should build upon the history of every individual case, responding to the impact of any previous services and analysing what further action might be needed. Social workers should build on this with help from other practitioners from the moment that a need is identified. A high quality assessment is one in which evidence is built and revised throughout the process and takes account of family history and the child’s experience of cumulative abuse.
Where there is a risk to the life of a child or a likelihood of serious immediate harm, local authority social workers, the police or NSPCC should use their statutory child protection powers to act immediately to secure the safety of the child.
If it is necessary to remove a child from their home, a local authority must, wherever possible and unless a child’s safety is otherwise at immediate risk, apply for an Emergency Protection Order (EPO). Police powers to remove a child in an emergency should be used only in exceptional circumstances where there is insufficient time to seek an EPO or for reasons relating to the immediate safety of the child.
An EPO, made by the court, gives authority to remove a child and places them under the protection of the applicant.
When considering whether emergency action is necessary, an agency should always consider the needs of other children in the same household or in the household of an alleged perpetrator.
The local authority in whose area a child is found in circumstances that require emergency action (the first authority) is responsible for taking emergency action.
If the child is looked-after by, or the subject of a child protection plan in another authority, the first authority must consult the authority responsible for the child. Only when the second local authority explicitly accepts responsibility (to be followed up in writing) is the first authority relieved of its responsibility to take emergency action.
Planned emergency action will normally take place following an immediate strategy discussion. Social workers, the police or NSPCC should:
- initiate a strategy discussion to discuss planned emergency action. Where a single agency has to act immediately, a strategy discussion should take place as soon as possible after action has been taken
- see the child (this should be done by a practitioner from the agency taking the emergency action) to decide how best to protect them and whether to seek an EPO
- wherever possible, obtain legal advice before initiating legal action, in particular when an EPO is being sought
Focusing on outcomes
Every assessment should be focused on outcomes, deciding which services and support to provide to deliver improved welfare for the child.
Where the outcome of the assessment is continued local authority children’s social care involvement, the social worker should agree a plan of action with other practitioners and discuss this with the child and their family. The plan should set out what services are to be delivered, and what actions are to be undertaken, by whom and for what purpose.
Many services provided will be for parents or carers (and may include services identified in a parent carer’s or non-parent carer’s needs assessment). 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 plan should be reviewed regularly to analyse whether sufficient progress has been made to meet the child’s needs and 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 should consider the need for further action and record their decisions. The review points should be agreed by the social worker with other practitioners and with the child and family to continue evaluating the impact of any change on the welfare of the child.
Known transition points for the child should be planned for in advance. This includes where children are likely to transition between child and adult services.
- The International Child Abduction and Contact Unit
- Modern Slavery Act 2015
- Child Protection: Working with foreign authorities (Gov.UK)