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. This guidance sets out the arrangements for how cases will be assessed once a child is referred into Children's Social Care in Lincolnshire.
Each child who has been referred into Children's Social Care should have an individual assessment to identify their needs and to understand the impact of any parental behaviour on them as an individual. This is a Social Care Assessment and it replaces the Initial and Core Assessment and Pre-birth Core Assessment.
Local authorities have to give due regard to a child's age and understanding when determining what (if any) services to provide under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989, and before making decisions about action to be taken to protect individual children under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989.RELATED GUIDANCE AND LEGISLATION
AMENDMENTIn June 2019, this chapter was revised to reflect updated guidance on Assessment in Working Together to Safeguard Children.
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:
Whatever legislation the child is assessed under, the purpose of the assessment is always:
The assessment should be led by a qualified and experienced social worker regularly supervised by social care practitioner. Or in the case of a student social worker, the Assessment should be under the supervision of a Practice Supervisor. Principal social workers should support social workers, the local authority and partners to develop their assessment practice and decision making skills, and the practice methodology that underpins this.
The date of the commencement of the assessment will be recorded in the electronic database.
The social worker should carefully plan that the following are carried out:
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.
Before a Referral is discussed with other agencies, the parent's consent should be sought, 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.
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 and a Strategy Discussion held.
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.
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.
NOTE: Where the parents have learning disabilities, it may be necessary to adapt communications to meet their needs – for further information, see the section on Good practice guidance on working with parents with a learning disability (2007) updated 2016.
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. 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, as well as utilising the Signs of Safety Tools.
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's voice should be central to the assessments and planning at all times.
All assessments should be planned and coordinated by a social worker and the purpose of the assessment should be transparent and understood. There should be a statement setting out the aims of the assessment process, using the Signs of Safety methodology tools.
Referrals may include siblings or a single child within a sibling group. 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 planning and direction of the assessment should be collated in the Allocation Record and the Allocation Briefing held by the Supervisor and Practitioner. Please refer to the Case Holding Procedures for Student Social Workers, Allocation Record Checklist for further information of what should be considered in planning an assessment.
The assessment process can be summarised as follows:
Assessment should be a continuous, 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. 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.
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.
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 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 are in a child's circumstances and in what way they may assist in reducing the risk.
An assessment should establish:
Based on the above factors the assessment should establish the level of need and intervention required as outlined in Lincolnshire Safeguarding Children Partnership Procedures, Putting Children First (Meeting the Needs of Children and Families in Lincolnshire).
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. Social workers should have access to high quality supervision from a Practice Supervisor who will help challenge their assumptions 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 many lessons from serious case and practice reviews.
The child should participate and contribute directly to the assessment process based upon their age, understanding and be central to the assessment. 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 using the Signs of Safety based tools to assist in the assessment process.
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' involvement in the assessment will be central to its success. At the outset they need to understand how they can contribute to the process and what needs to change in order to improve the outcomes for the child. The Signs of Safety based methodology tools will greatly assist in the assessment process. The assessment process must be open and transparent with the parents. The parents' views should be sought but should be verified from other sources of information. Any inconsistences should be challenged and verified, all practitioners should have a level of professional curiosity.
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.
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 Professional Resolution and Escalation Protocol.
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.
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.
Every assessment should be focused on outcomes, deciding which services and support to provide to deliver improved welfare for the child and reflect the child's best interests. In the course of the assessment, the social worker and their line manager should determine:
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:
The outcome of the assessment should be:
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. The Social Care Assessment is to be completed and sent for authorisation on day 40 (i.e. 40 working days from the point at which the assessment was initiated).
Not all cases will require a full in-depth assessment, therefore in discussion with the Line Manager the case will be reviewed and a decision made by day 15 (i.e. 15 working days from the point at which the assessment was initiated) if the case is closing, transferring to TAC or elsewhere, or if it does require a full in-depth assessment.
It is important that all practitioners working with pregnant women / women of child bearing age are aware of assessment needs and of routes of referral in order to facilitate engagement, care and intervention in accordance with the Safeguarding Policies and Procedures.
The TAC process should run through the pregnancy.
If it is agreed that the unborn child maybe a Child in Need or child at risk under the Children Act, then a referral should be made to Children's Social Care at 20 weeks. Prior to this service provision should be co-ordinated through the TAC. Families should be informed of concerns and referrals, unless it is felt that to do so would put a child, unborn child, or other person at risk of harm. All information should be shared in accordance with best practice and the LSCP Information Sharing Protocol Team Around the Child (TAC) and LSCP Procedures.
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. 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:
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.
Records should be kept of the 15 day Case Decision and 40 Day Review and if any other significant event occurs during the assessment and this will be updated on the day.
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.
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."
See also Working with Foreign Authorities: Child Protection Cases and Care Orders, Departmental Advice for Local Authorities, Social Workers, Service Managers and Children's Services Lawyers (DfE, July 2014).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.
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; 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:
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.
Only valid for 48hrs