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LancashireChildren's Social Care Procedures Manual

Assessments

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

Assessments must be based on good analysis, timeliness and transparency and be proportionate to the needs of the child and their family.

A Child and Family (C&F) Assessment addresses the central and most important aspects of the needs of a child / young person, and the capacity of their parents or care givers to respond appropriately to these needs within the wider family and community context. The conclusion of the assessment should provide analysis of the findings leading to a clear understanding of need that will facilitate care planning and inform service provision. C&F Assessments should contain input from other professionals and make use of additional assessment tools such as scales and questionnaires.

Within the assessment, consideration must be given 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.

The C & F Assessment is the Pre-Meeting Report for any Initial or Review Child Protection Conference or Child in our Care Review.

RELEVANT GUIDANCE AND LEGISLATION

Working Together to Safeguard Children (DfE, Statutory Guidance)- Assessment

Social work post-qualifying standards: knowledge and skills statements

Children Act 1989 - Sections 17, 20 and 47

The Blackburn with Darwen, Blackpool and Lancashire Children's Safeguarding Assurance Partnership Procedures

Allocation / Child and Family Assessment Process – Guidance (February 2021)

See LCS User Guide - to follow

The Voice of the Child and Family to always seek feedback from service users - to follow

Child Development Chart Ages 0 -21 located in tools for direct work with Children and Young People - to follow

Advocacy service for Young People and NYAS - NYAS are the commissioned Advocacy Service for Lancashire. Please refer children and young people for support if required

RELATED PROCEDURES

Prevention of Homelessness and Provision of Accommodation for 16 and 17 year olds who may be Homeless and/or require Accommodation; and Duty to Refer

AMENDMENT

In November 2021, an updated version of local guidance Allocation / Child and Family Assessment Process – Guidance (February 2021) was added.

Contents

  1. Focus on the Child
  2. Assessments under the Children Act 1989
  3. Criteria and Purpose of the Child and Family Assessment
  4. Communication
  5. Planning and Process of the Child and Family Assessment
  6. Contribution of the Child and Family
  7. Contribution of Agencies Involved with the Child and Family
  8. Developing a Clear Analysis
  9. Actions and Outcomes
  10. Roles and Responsibilities for Team Managers
  11. Timescales
  12. Regular Review
  13. Recording
  14. Principles for a Good Assessment
  15. Assessing Family Abroad
  16. Contextual Safeguarding

1. Focus on the Child

The Child and Family (C&F) Assessment should be centrally focused on the child's needs and improving outcomes in partnership with their parents. The C&F Assessment should consider what the child has to say about their life and their experience of living within their family.

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. 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.

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.

  • The child should be seen alone;
    • Engage with child to discuss any concerns or positives about their care and protection;
    • Record the child's views but also their demeanour (playfulness, mood, suspiciousness, fear, blankness) and record how they looked (cleanliness/nourishment);
    • Ensure this is still recorded for pre/non-verbal children.
  • Where there are child protection concerns the child MUST be seen alone;
  • If the child is not seen alone, the Social Worker must record why this did not happen and what attempts will be made to ensure the child is seen;
  • The Manager must record why the child has not been seen when they are authorising assessments under these circumstances;
  • Social Workers should use methods and tools specific to the age and development of the child in order to ensure the voice of the child is heard throughout the work completed;
  • When working with pre-verbal children or those with communication difficulties, the Social Worker should record the child's demeanour, interaction and body language and consider using more specialist tools such as Makaton.

See Assessment Tools Procedure, The Child's Wishes and Feelings and The Child and Family Assessment Programme - to follow.

2. Assessments under the Children Act 1989

Under the Children Act 1989, local authorities undertake assessments of the needs of individual children to determine what services to provide and what action to take:

  • A Child in Need is defined under the Children Act 1989 as a child who is unlikely to achieve or maintain a satisfactory level of health or development, or their health and development will be significantly impaired, without the provision of services; or a child who is disabled. In these cases, assessments by a social worker are carried out under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989. Children in Need may be assessed under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989, in relation to their Special Educational Needs, disabilities, or as a carer, or because they have committed a crime. The process for assessment should also be used for children whose parents are in prison and for unaccompanied migrant children and child victims of modern slavery. When assessing Children in Need and providing services, specialist assessments may be required and, where possible, should be coordinated so that the child and family experience a coherent process and a single plan of action.

The need to assess can also include pre-birth situations when a mother's own circumstances would give cause for concern that the pre-birth, and then born, child would come within the definition of being a 'Child in Need'. (See Section 11.1, Pre-birth 'Good Practice Steps').

  • Concerns about maltreatment may be the reason for a Referral to local authority children's social care or concerns may arise during the course of providing services to the child and family. In these circumstances, local authority children's social care must initiate enquiries to find out what is happening to the child and whether protective action is required. Local authorities, with the help of other organisations as appropriate, also have a duty to make enquiries under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989 if they have reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, Significant Harm, to enable them to decide whether they should take any action to safeguard and promote the child's welfare. Such enquiries, supported by other organisations and agencies as appropriate, should be initiated where there are concerns about all forms of abuse and neglect. This includes female genital mutilation and other honour-based violence, and extra-familial threats including radicalisation and sexual or criminal exploitation.
  • There may be a need for immediate protection whilst the assessment is carried out;
  • Some Children in Need may require accommodation because there is no one who has Parental Responsibility for them, or because they are alone or abandoned. Under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989, the local authority has a duty to accommodate such Children in Need in their area. 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.

3. Criteria and Purpose of the Child and Family Assessment

A C&F Assessment will always be completed in the following circumstances:

  • Where significant safeguarding concerns are raised;
  • Where a Section 47 Enquiry is undertaken;
  • Where a child becomes or is at risk of becoming Accommodated;
  • Where the child is subject of Care Proceedings or under Public Law Outline. The C&F Assessment will form the central part of the evidence supporting any application for a Care Order or Supervision Order;
  • Where a Strategy Meeting/Discussion concludes that Section 47 Enquiry is not required but a C&F Assessment is;
  • Updating a previous assessment will be required at specific stages in the life of a child who is 'Looked After'; a child subject to a Child Protection Plan or a child subject to a Child in Need Plan to inform planning and ensure all needs are identified and being met.

Whatever legislation the child is assessed under, the purpose of the assessment is always:

  • To gather important information about a child and family;
  • To analyse their needs and/or the nature and level of any risk and harm being suffered by the child;
  • To decide whether the child is a Child in Need (Section 17) and/or is suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm (Section 47); and
  • To provide support to address those needs to improve the child's outcomes and welfare and, where necessary, to make them safe;
  • Assessments for some children will require particular care. This is especially so for young carers; children with special educational needs (including to inform and be informed by Education, Health and Care Plans); unborn children where there are concerns regarding the parent(s); children in hospital; children with specific communication needs; unaccompanied migrant children; children considered at risk of gang activity and association with organised crime groups; children at risk of female genital mutilation; children who are in the youth justice system and children returning home following a period of Accommodation;
  • Every assessment must be informed by the views of the child as well as the family, and a child's wishes and feelings must be sought regarding the provision of services to be delivered.

4. Communication

In planning the assessment and in providing the parent and child with feedback, the social worker will need to consider and address any communication issues, for example language or impairment.

Where a child or parent speaks a language other than that spoken by the social worker, such as those who are unaccompanied children, and those children who are victims of modern slavery and/or trafficking, an interpreter should be provided. Any decision not to use an interpreter in such circumstances must be approved by the Team Manager and recorded.

Interpretation services are available. For more information please see the intranet

Where a child or parent with disabilities has communication difficulties it may be necessary to use alternatives to speech. In communicating with a child with such an impairment, it may be particularly useful to involve a person who knows the child well and is familiar with the child's communication methods. However, caution should be given in using family members to facilitate communication. Where the child has had a communication assessment, its conclusions and recommendations should be observed.

5. Planning and Process of Assessments

See also: A Guide for Parents Involved in the Assessment Process, A Guide to the Assessment Process for Children and Young People and Parental Consent Form.

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. Agreement should be sought from parents for information sharing and gathering from other agencies (unless to do so may place the child at risk of Significant Harm, in which case the manager should authorise the discussion of the Referral with other agencies without parental knowledge or consent). The authorisation should be recorded with reasons.

The date of the commencement of the assessment will be recorded in the electronic database.

Referrals may include brothers and sisters or a single child within a family. Where the initial focus for a referral is on one child, other children in the household or family should be equally considered, and the individual circumstances of each assessed and evaluated separately.

The child should be seen by the social worker without their caregivers when appropriate and this should be recorded in the Assessment Record. If not seen without their caregivers the reasons why should be recorded. If it is determined that a child should not be seen as part of the assessment, this should be recorded by the manager with reasons.

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.

If during the course of the assessment, it is discovered that a school age child is not attending an educational establishment, the social worker should contact the local education service to establish a reason for this.

If there is suspicion that a crime may have been committed including sexual or physical assault or neglect of the child, the Police must be notified immediately.

Questions to be considered in planning assessments include:

  • How can I engage this family so that they will participate meaningfully within the assessment? Consider talking to the family about what they feel is going well. Discussing positives can help to generate conversation and build relationships and trust before discussing risk/negative issues. Always try to be authentic and empathetic when engaging with families;
  • How can I make this conversation motivational so that change is effective, productive and sustainable? Where is the family up to? Consider using tools and methods such as cycle of change, scaling tool, cost benefit analysis, positive reframing, reflection of feelings, devil's advocate, Colombo technique etc;
  • 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 method 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? (see Parental Consent Form);
  • 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;
  • Making decisions and planning interventions;
  • Intervening, service delivery and/or further assessment;
  • Evaluating and reviewing progress.

An 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 should consider strengths and protective factors. 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.

6. 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 identity. They should be seen alone and if this is not possible or in their best interests, 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. The agreed local assessment framework should make a range of age appropriate tools available to professionals 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. Using motivational interviewing / conversation, parents should be supported to identify what needs to change in order to improve the outcomes for the child. The assessment process must be open and transparent with the parents. If there are inconsistencies or obstacles to progress, these should be discussed and worked through with parents using motivational skills and tools. The adult's behaviour is generally what is placing the child / young person at risk of harm and needs to change to ensure that children can safely remain at home. 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 in cases of Sexual Abuse or Domestic Violence and Abuse for example, where the plan for the assessment must consider the safety of an adult as well as that of the child.

7. Contribution of Agencies Involved with the Child and Family

An assessment pack is available for both parents and children and young people and these should be shared at the earliest opportunity. See also: Parental Consent Form.

Information from all agencies, including Children Services, that are, or have been, involved with the child and any relevant person in the child's network will be obtained. Appropriate consents for obtaining this information must be sought, unless particular circumstances apply see Consent to Information Sharing Procedure - to follow. If consent is not forthcoming and the decision is that consent may not be over-ridden, then information should be included in the C&F Assessment with reasons.

All agencies and professionals 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 professionals should be resolved speedily but where this is not possible, the local arrangements for resolving professional disagreements should be implemented (see Blackburn with Darwen, Blackpool and Lancashire Children's Safeguarding Assurance Partnership (CSAP) Procedures, Resolving Professional Disagreements (Escalation and Conflict Resolution)).

It is possible that professionals have different experiences of the child and family and understanding these differences will actively contribute to the understanding of the child / family.

The professionals 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.

It should be noted that if parents are living in separate homes they may have different GP's, be under different police forces etc. Parent's partners whether living in the same home or in a separate home should be considered as part of the assessment and information gathered from partner agencies.

In all cases, absent parents and other significant family members/ contacts should also be considered and spoken to as part of the assessment.

8. 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.

Environmental Factors

Children may be vulnerable to neglect and abuse or exploitation from within their family but increasingly also from individuals they come across in their day-to-day lives. These threats can take a variety of different forms, including: sexual, physical and emotional abuse; neglect; exploitation by criminal gangs and organised crime groups; trafficking; online abuse; sexual exploitation and the influences of extremism leading to radicalisation.

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, if any that the child may be facing within their family and/or community. Importantly the assessment, in looking at the domains, should also consider where the strengths and protective factors are in a child's circumstances and in what way they may assist in reducing the risk.

An assessment should establish:

  • The parent/carers understanding of the concerns/risk and their desire to work with services/professionals to implement change;
  • 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 of support or can be supported through early help or universal services;
  • Any strengths/protective factors;
  • Whether the concern involves abuse or neglect; and what extent the impact and influence of wider family and any other adults living in the household has on this, as well as community and environmental circumstances;
  • Whether there is any need for any urgent action to protect the child, or any other children in the household or community;
  • Whether there are any factors that may indicate that the child is being or has been criminally or sexually exploited or trafficked;
  • Note: If there is a concern with regards to trafficking, a referral into the National Referral Mechanism should be made. See - GOV.UK, Digital Referral System: Report Modern Slavery.

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 alongside the families strengths and protective factors. Social workers should have access to high quality supervision from a Practice Supervisor who will help challenge their hypothesis as part of this process. Critical reflection through supervision should strengthen the analysis in each assessment. 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. 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.

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 lessons from case reviews.

9. Actions and Outcomes

Every assessment should be focused on outcomes, deciding which services and support to provide to the family to support change that can be sustained to improve the welfare and best interests of the child/young person. In the course of the assessment, the social worker should work with the parents / carers, child / young person, other professionals working with the family and their line manager to determine:

  • What actions should the parents take to minimise the likelihood of concerns re-emerging?
    • A plan to support parents to make changes to improve outcomes for the child/young person and family
    • What level of support do the child and family require?
    • Support or early help from universal or targeted services?
  • 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 professionals involved.

The outcomes may be as follows:

  • No further action;
  • Additional support which can be provided through universal services and single service provision; or early help process;
  • The development of a multi-agency Child in Need plan for the provision of child in need of support services to promote the child's health and development;
  • Specialist assessment (including Children with Disabilities, Private Fostering, Relinquished Children or Special Guardianship) for a more in-depth understanding of the child's needs and circumstances;
  • Undertaking a Strategy Discussion/Meeting, a Section 47 child protection enquiry;
  • Emergency action to protect a child.

The outcome of the assessment should be:

  • Discussed with the child and family and anyone with Parental Responsibility 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 or Police investigation;
  • Taking account of confidentiality, provided to professional referrers;
  • 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.

All the above should be given the opportunity to comment, and their comments should be recorded. Any factual errors noted in the C&F assessment should be corrected.

The C&F Assessment may lead to either a Child In Need Plan, CSAP or a Child Protection Plan,

10. Roles and Responsibilities for Team Managers

The responsible Team Manager makes the decision to commence a Child & Family Assessment, and will confirm whether this should be undertaken within 10, 20, 30 or 45 working days (dependent on complexity of case or purpose of assessment). LCS User Guide re Assessment - to follow.

If a case is going to exceed 45 days, case should be reviewed by the Team Manager and a plan of how/when the assessment will be completed be agreed by Social Worker and manager.

The Team Manager will allocate C&F Assessments to a suitably qualified and experienced social worker. The Team Manager will also ensure the following guidance is provided and recorded on LCS as a casenote:

  • Whether the child requires immediate intervention, and what action should be taken.

Any specialist assessment will be undertaken or specific protocol will be followed (e.g. Blackburn with Darwen, Blackpool and Lancashire Children's Safeguarding Assurance Partnership (CSAP) Procedures).

  • How any non-resident parents views will be gathered to inform the assessment;
  • Which agencies should be contacted for information. This will include the relevant housing association and department, for all assessments including those of vulnerable young people and those who are pregnant and leaving care;
  • Whether a professionals; Child in Need or Strategy meeting should be called;
  • At what point a Risk Assessment should be completed;
  • Whether a Family Group Conference should be convened;
  • Specific guidance about the presenting concerns;
  • Ensuring the Chronology of significant events is initiated and analysed;
  • When the child should be seen;
  • Specific guidance in relation to equality and diversity needs;
  • Any health and safety or 'risk to worker' issues.

Following the completion of the C&F Assessment;

The C&F Assessment should be shared with the parents / carers and child (if appropriate) after it has been reviewed and authorised by the Team Manager.

A revision should be generated to add parent's comments and to make any factual amendments. The revision will not automatically go to a manager to approve so a manager should be alerted if the revision is making significant change that could change the outcome of the assessment.

An Assessment may be completed without full consideration of all aspects of a child's situation in some circumstances, e.g. pre-birth assessments where the pregnancy does not progress to term; family moves to another jurisdiction. The Team Manager should ensure that reasons for authorisation are recorded clearly in these cases.

11. Timescales

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 professionals, an assessment exceeds 45 working days, the social worker and professionals involved should record the reasons for exceeding the time limit and this should be reviewed by the Team Manager.

11.1 Pre-birth 'Good Practice Steps'

In a High Court judgment (Nottingham City Council v LW & Ors [2016] EWHC 11(Fam) (19 February 2016)) Keehan J set out five points of basic and fundamental good practice steps with respect to public law proceedings regarding pre-birth and newly born children and particularly where children's social care services are aware at a relatively early stage of the pregnancy.

In respect of assessment, these good practice steps were:

  • A needs assessment of the parent(s) should 'commence immediately upon the social workers being made aware of the mother's pregnancy';
  • Any assessment should be completed at least 4 weeks before the mother's expected delivery date;
  • The assessment should be updated to take into account relevant events pre - and post delivery where these events could affect an initial conclusion in respect of risk and care planning of the child;
  • The assessment should be disclosed upon initial completion to the parents and, if instructed, to their solicitor to give them the opportunity to challenge the Care Plan and risk assessment.

(See Care and Supervision Proceedings and the Public Law Outline Procedure, Pre-Birth Planning and Proceedings).

12. 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. Where delays or obstacles occur these must be acted on and the assessment plan must be reviewed if any circumstances change for the child.

The social worker's line manager must review the assessment plan 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;
  • 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' reminds all professionals of the importance of reviewing progress and that 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. 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. Decision points and review points involving the child and family and relevant practitioners should be used to keep the assessment on track. This is to ensure that help is given in a timely and appropriate way and that the impact of this help is analysed and evaluated in terms of the improved outcomes and welfare of the child.

13. Recording

The social worker will record the C&F Assessment Record on LCS. Visits, discussions and meetings undertaken as part of the C&F Assessment will be recorded in LCS case notes, from written records (where possible) as soon as possible, but within 10 working days. The case record for each child will include a separate record for each event, activity or transition which relates to that child in appropriate detail what happened, was observed and was discussed.

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. The Chronology needs to be updated regularly.

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.

14. 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:

"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."


Assessment Framework Triangle

Assessment Triangle

15. Assessing Family Abroad

An increasing number of cases involve families from abroad, necessitating assessments of family members in other countries. However, the Court of Appeal has pointed out that it might not be professional, permissible or lawful for a social worker to undertake an assessment in another jurisdiction. Children and Families Across Borders (CFAB) advise that enquiries should be made as to whether the assessment can be undertaken by the authorities in the overseas jurisdiction. UK social workers should not routinely travel overseas to undertake assessments in countries where they have no knowledge of legislative frameworks, cultural expectations or resources available to a child placed there.

See also: Cross-border child protection cases: the 1996 Hague Convention (DfE) and The International Child Abduction and Contact Unit.

16. Contextual Safeguarding

As well as threats to the welfare of children from within their families, children may be vulnerable to abuse or exploitation from outside their families. These extra-familial threats might arise at school and other educational establishments, from within peer groups, or more widely from within the wider community and/or online.

These threats can take a variety of different forms and children can be vulnerable to multiple threats, including: exploitation by criminal gangs and organised crime groups such as county lines; trafficking, online abuse; teenage relationship abuse (including controlling or coercive behaviour); sexual exploitation and the influences of extremism leading to radicalisation.

Assessments of children in such cases should consider whether wider environmental factors are undermining effective intervention being undertaken to reduce risk with the child and family. Parents and carers have little influence over the contexts in which the abuse takes place and the young person's experiences of this extra-familial abuse can undermine parent-child relationships.

Where this is the case, the social worker should:

  • Refer the child's circumstances to relevant Multi-Agency work which addresses the concerns and risks in the neighbourhood or local authority;
  • Identify the issues with their line-manager with a view to the local authority establishing a multi-agency intervention programme to meet community needs; or
  • In specific circumstances, through their line-manager, seek to convene a Multi- agency planning meeting with relevant partner agencies (e.g. school, police, relevant voluntary bodies, etc.) to explore specific interventions to address the safeguarding issues.

Within this context, children who may be alleged perpetrators should also be assessed to understand the impact of contextual issues on their safety and welfare.

Assessments of children in such cases should consider the individual needs and vulnerabilities of each child. They should look at the parental capacity to support the child, including helping the parents and carers to understand any risks and support them to keep children safe and assess potential risk to the child.

These interventions should focus on addressing both child and family and these wider environmental factors, which are likely to be a threat to the safety and welfare of a number of different children who may or may not be known to local authority Children's Social Care. Effective information sharing and intelligence gathering is crucial in developing effective coordinated multi-agency responses.