Salford Children's Services Procedures Manual Salford City Council website
Greater Manchester SCB Procedures
Greater Manchester SCB Procedures Greater Manchester SCB Procedures

1.2.4 Universal Assessments Guidance

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This Chapter provides the context and guidance for undertaking Children and Families Assessment.

Children and Families Assessments should be led by qualified and experienced social workers.

All staff involved in undertaking Children and Families Assessments must be familiar with the contents of this Chapter.

RELATED CHAPTER

The Children and Families Assessment Procedure


Contents

  1. Recording
  2. Planning the Contact / Visit
  3. Translation and Interpreting Services
  4. Assessing / Seeing the Child
  5. Consulting Parents or Other Family Members
  6. Notifying, Consulting or Commissioning Other Agencies
  7. Education
  8. Professionals Meetings
  9. Children who Have Lived Elsewhere
  10. Separated Children or Families With no Recourse to Public Funds
  11. Outcome, Management Authorisation and Review
  12. Timescales
  13. The Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and Their Families
  14. Planning Assessments
  15. Participation of Children and Their Families and Carers
  16. Assessment of Children and Families From Black and Minority Ethnic Backgrounds
  17. Refusal to Cooperate With a Children and Families Assessment
  18. Child Protection
  19. Consent and Confidentiality


1. Recording

The following section summarises the key records that should be completed within the Integrated Children's System (ICS) as part of a Children and Families Assessment; for more guidance on the Integrated Children's System, see Integrated Children's System Guidance.

Initial Contact > Children and Families Assessment

Create a Contact Record on ICS.

A Child in Need Referral is opened and a 'Referral and Information Record' is completed.

If the Children and Families Assessment is initiated, an Children and Families Assessment Record should be started.

If it is known that a Children and Families Assessment is required, the social worker can make a judgment about whether to complete all sections of The Children and Families Assessment Record before starting the Children and Families Assessment.

The Children and Families Assessment Record includes an Initial Plan.

A Chronology may be started if appropriate

If the child is Looked After or the case is closed: see 'Other Outcomes' below

CONSENTS: Before assessments are conducted, it is necessary to obtain written consent from the parents (and the child of sufficient age and understanding) unless risks would be posed to the child/ren - see Principles of Confidentiality in Values
Strategy Discussion/Meeting

If a Strategy Discussion/Meeting is held, complete a Record of Strategy Discussion.

Complete/Update Initial Plan if necessary.

Children and Families Assessment: not incorporating a Section 47 Enquiry The following records should be started:

Children and Families Assessment Record

Chronology

Child's Plan

If the child is Looked After or the case is closed: see 'Other Outcomes' below

Children and Families Assessment: incorporating a Section 47 Enquiry The following records must be completed:

A Children and Families Assessment Record

A Chronology

Record of Outcome of Section 47 Enquiries

Child's Plan

If the child is Looked After or the case is closed: see 'Other Outcomes' below

Child Protection Conference If an Initial Child Protection Conference is convened, complete an Initial Child Protection Conference Report.
Other Outcomes If the child is disabled, enter the child's name on the Disability Register if consent is given.

If the child is Looked After, see Decision to Look After Procedure.

If the case is closed at any time after the Children and Families Assessment, complete a Closure Record.


2. Planning the Contact / Visit

Whenever it has been decided that a social worker will contact or visit a child/family, a plan for the contact/visit should be drawn up. The purpose of the contact/visit, the information to be collected and desired outcomes need to be given careful consideration.

If a social worker is unclear as to why a contact/visit is being undertaken they should discuss this with their manager. Plans should include contingencies in the event of the contact/visit not being successful. If the contact/visit is not successfully completed, then this should be discussed with the manager within one working day.

See also Section 14, Planning the Assessment


3. Translation and Interpreting Services

Consideration should be given to the child's preferred means of communication. If it is not possible to meet the child's communication needs, the reason should be recorded in the case file. Also see: Use of Interpreters, signers and Others with Communication Skills Procedure - to follow.


4. Assessing / Seeing the Child

See also Section 15, Participation of Children and Families.

The needs section of the assessment must be completed in relation to each individual child.

Each child should be seen alone at least once during an assessment*, and all rooms in the household should be seen, including children's bedrooms.

If a child's age and level of understanding is sufficient, s/he must be given a copy of assessment reports.

*If a Children and Families Assessment is started, the child must be seen on more than one occasion.


5. Consulting Parents or Other Family Members

See also Section 15, Participation of Children and Families.

Unless there are exceptional circumstances (e.g. the child may be placed at risk), the parents' consent must be sought and they should be consulted before and during the assessment process; also, they must be given a copy of the assessment report(s). If the parent(s) refuse to consent, the manager must be consulted - see Principles of Confidentiality in Values

At any point where there is a change in the named worker for a family, both family and referrer must be provided in writing with the name of the new social worker and the date the change will take effect.

Where the identity of the new social worker has yet to be established, such as if cases change teams at the completion of the Children and Families Assessment, the name of the responsible Team Manager must be provided instead.

In all assessments, we should attempt to seek the views of all people with Parental Responsibility. As part of the Children and Families Assessment process, the views of wider family members must also be obtained.

Any cancelled or postponed appointments must be re-arranged, unless the manager authorises otherwise.


6. Notifying, Consulting or Commissioning Other Agencies

If a child from another local authority is referred through the normal referral route and is not Looked After or subject to a Child Protection Plan, other relevant agencies, known to or with a potential interest in the child, must be consulted at the outset and during the assessment. If it seems appropriate, the social worker should consider calling a Professionals Meeting to assist in the gathering of information from differing agencies.

Other relevant agencies, known to or with a potential interest in the child, must be consulted at the outset and during the assessment. If it seems appropriate, the social worker should consider calling a Professionals Meeting to assist in the gathering of information from differing agencies (see Section 8, Professionals Meetings).

Where information has already been gathered by other agencies as part of their assessments e.g. under the Common Assessment Framework, there is no need to duplicate the information gathering although the social worker should check with the child and family that the information gained is accurate.

Agencies/professionals consulted as part of any assessment should be notified of the outcome.


7. Education

Where a child of school age is found not to be attending school, the Education Welfare Service should be notified in writing to trigger procedures for establishing whether the child is registered with a school. The Education Welfare Service will initiate further action or provision through the Education Service as necessary.

The notification and outcome should be recorded on the child's record.

The assessing social worker should continue to work with the Education Service to assist where appropriate in ensuring that the child's educational needs are met.


8. Professionals Meetings

Professionals Meetings may be appropriate during the assessment process, they provide an opportunity for professionals involved with a family (together with parents* and/or children if it seems appropriate) to come together to share information and to help determine the direction of a case and the plan for a child; it may be held to resolve uncertainty, controversy or inter-agency disagreement. They may be helpful where there are particularly complex family concerns, with extensive professionals/networks.

Any agency can ask for a professionals meeting to be convened. If there is disagreement about the validity of a meeting, line managers should be consulted.

There should be a record made of the decisions reached at the Professionals Meeting and this should be placed on the child's record.

*When decisions have been made without the parents and/or child present, arrangements need to be made to inform them as soon as possible afterwards.


9. Children who Have Lived Elsewhere

Where it appears that a child has lived elsewhere in the UK, Overseas or where the family may have been associated with the Forces, relevant enquiries must be made into their backgrounds.

Forces Children: When undertaking assessments of children whose family members have previously been in the forces (e.g. Army, Navy or RAF), information should be obtained in relation to that period - see contact details provided in the Contacts Index.

Overseas Children: Appropriate embassies or consulates, usually based in London, should be contacted. However, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the International Social Service of the United Kingdom may be able to assist - see contact details provided in the Contacts Index.

It is possible that the obtaining of such information may take extended periods, beyond that required by procedures. If so, the timescales should not be compromised unless the manager approves it. Under normal circumstances, the assessment should be completed within the required timescale and, if information of concern comes to light later, the manager must consider what actions to take.


10. Separated Children or Families with no Recourse to Public Funds

10.1 Families With no Recourse to Public Funds

People who have no legal entitlement to financial support or assistance from the state are people who have no recourse to public funds (e.g. people with refugee status from another European Economic Area (EEA) country other than the UK or who are in the UK unlawfully)

However, in some circumstances they may be entitled to a Children and Families Assessment and the provision of services where, for example, there are concerns about a child within the family suffering Significant Harm.

10.2 Unaccompanied or Separated Children

If the child is unaccompanied or separated, s/he will be within the definition of a Child in Need and therefore the same procedures apply as for all children.

Where there is any doubt that a young person is under the age of 18, an Age Assessment will also be required.


11. Outcome, Management Authorisation and Review

A manager must approve the outcome of all assessments and authorise any plan.

Children of sufficient understanding and parents must be informed in writing of the outcome of the Children and Families Assessment, which should clarify who will do what, and within what timescale.

All assessments and plans must be reviewed as determined by relevant procedures or within six months. All reviews must involve the service user and a systematic check to see if the plan has been carried out and whether it has been successful.

For children who are not Looked After and not subject to a Child Protection Plan, see Child in Need Plans and Reviews

For children who are the subject of a Child Protection Plan, this will be reviewed at Child Protection Review Conferences - see the Local Safeguarding Children Board's Inter Agency Procedures.

For children who are Looked After, see the Looked After Review Procedure


12. Timescales

The timescales outlined in the The Children and Families Assessment Procedure are maximum timescales, the urgency of situations may dictate that timescales are shorter.

The timescales should not be compromised unless there are exceptional circumstances and the manager approves it. Under normal circumstances, assessments should be completed within the required timescale and if new information comes to light later, the manager must consider what actions to take.


13. The Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and Their Families

The Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and Their Families (also referred to as the "Assessment Framework") provides detailed guidance for gathering and analysing information about all children and their families. The Framework refers to three dimensions for the assessment, as shown in this diagram:

assessment framework

The Assessment Framework requires practitioners to explore the interaction between or the influence of these three dimensions on each other in a child's life and allows professionals to discriminate effectively between different types, and different levels of need.

The assessment process can be summarised as follows:

  • Gathering relevant information across all dimensions of the Assessment Triangle;
  • Analysing the information and reaching professional judgments;
  • Making decisions and planning interventions;
  • Intervening, service delivery and/or further assessment;
  • Evaluating and reviewing progress.

This process is ongoing, or cyclical

cycle chart


14. Planning Assessments

All assessment should be planned, but planning is particularly important for Children and Families Assessment.

Planning should identify the focus of the assessment including those who will be involved. It will often require 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 involved and likely to play a part in the assessment, consideration should be given to the Team Manager chairing a Professionals Meeting where possible.

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? (Reference to the Practice Guidance will be particularly useful in these circumstances);
  • What method of collecting information will be used? Which questionnaires and scales will be used?
  • 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.

15. Participation of Children and Their Families and Carers

Read this guidance in conjunction with Section 4, Assessing the Child and Section 5, Consulting Parents or Other Family Members.

It is expected that families and children should be encouraged and enabled to actively participate in an assessment unless this would place the child at increased likelihood of suffering Significant Harm. This participation will include:

  • Provision of verbal information and written information leaflets;
  • Opportunities to express their views and have these recorded;
  • Being encouraged to participate in planning meetings before and at the conclusion of assessment and at subsequent reviews;
  • Identification of strengths within families as well as areas where further help may be needed;
  • Early identification of any special needs of the child or relevant family members to enable any support needs to be addressed during the assessment process such as interpreting, advocacy etc;
  • Careful selection of assessment tools, methods and approaches that will aid participation.

Assessment planning should consider how many and which workers can contribute to the assessment, and ensure the roles of each worker are clear to the family. In general, it would be best to be as un-intrusive as possible, and to minimise the numbers of people working directly with the family for the purpose of assessment.


16. Assessment of Children and Families From Black and Minority Ethnic Backgrounds

For black and minority ethnic children, assessments should address the impact that racism has on a particular child and family and ensure that the assessment process itself does not reinforce racism through racial or cultural stereotyping.

The base lines for assessing parenting capacity and the child's developmental needs should be the same irrespective of whether a black, minority ethnic or a white child is being assessed. However the following may be additional factors that are relevant in relation to a child from a black or minority ethnic background:

In relation to the specific health needs of different black/minority ethnic communities, the assessment should address:

  • The extent to which the physical health of the child may be affected by adverse social conditions;
  • The extent to which the child and family have direct access to appropriate advice, support and services in relation to their health care needs;
  • Whether the child or family members may be likely to suffer from sickle cell disorder;
  • Whether past life experiences or trauma has had any effect on the physical health of the child.

In relation to the specific educational and cognitive development of different black/minority ethnic communities, the assessment should address:

  • Whether the child has had the opportunity to realise their educational potential without the limitations imposed upon them by negative stereotyping;
  • For an excluded child, the extent to which the exclusion is appropriate in relation to the child's behaviour;
  • The extent to which the child's parents are consulted about and involved in the child's education.

In relation to the specific identity needs of different black/minority ethnic communities, the assessment should address:

  • Any difficulties which the child may be having in acquiring a positive racial identity, and what help the child requires to enable them do so;
  • The child's awareness of their own ethnicity and personal, family and community history. Where this is not available, what steps can be taken to obtain such information;
  • The child's access to a lived experience of their culture, for example, attendance at a wedding, or participation in celebrations which include music, food and traditional rituals will give a child a far more profound and effective sense of their cultural identity than any amount of visual or written material;
  • The religious and spiritual needs of black and minority ethnic children and their families - this will require professionals to discuss the family's belief systems, religion, rites and traditions;
  • The extent to which the child has the opportunity to learn about and maintain family languages. Where the child has not had this opportunity, what steps can be taken to address this deficiency;
  • The extent to which a black or minority ethnic disabled child has the opportunity to learn their first language. As some disabled children rely upon other forms of communication apart from the written or spoken work, it is vital that communication with their families is facilitated in a way that accounts for their own modes of communication as well as the family's first language. For example, the basis of British Sign Language is English. Translating BSL into English will facilitate the understanding of English speakers, but for those who speak other languages, further translation is required. Although the provision of interpreters is seen sometimes as a logistical nightmare for social welfare agencies, the ability to communicate and to be understood has to be promoted as a basic human right, without which any attempt at assessment would be impossible.

In relation to the family history and cultural heritage of different black/minority ethnic communities, the assessment should address:

  • The child's relationships within the context of their wider social networks and connections;
  • The extent of quality and quantity of information the child has about their own roots and heritage, and how deficiencies in this information can be addressed;
  • The specific family structure in which the child lives, and the patterns of attachment which operate within this particular black or minority ethnic family including any attachment figures who may not be blood relatives; for example, in a large extended family structure the whole family may participate in the parenting of the child, including providing emotional warmth for the child and in this situation, the parent-child interaction will only be one of many adult-child, child-child interactions which should be addressed in an assessment.
  • The impact of migration, separation and trauma on the child and wider family network.
  • Whether racial abuse, racial bullying or racial violence impacts on the child or on the wider family;
  • Alongside the individual impact which racial abuse and bullying has on children, it is important to consider the impact of racial violence on communities. Fear of abuse or attacks can affect whole ways of life in particular communities which are targeted for such treatment by reducing the freedom of movement of women, children and older people in both the hours of daylight and at night.


17. Refusal to Co-operate With a Children and Families Assessment

There will be occasions when an assessment is needed but a parent or child refuses to become involved. In these instances, the social worker should:

  1. Read carefully any case records, particularly noting the type and level of concerns expressed in previous referrals and including the most recent referral;
  2. Endeavour to have a face-to-face meeting with the parent and/or child to explain the potential consequences of refusal and to see whether the reasons for refusal can be overcome. Written communication should accompany attempts to open up a dialogue with the parent rather than replace it;
  3. Discuss the circumstance of this child with the team manager in order to decide whether to proceed to a Strategy Discussion/Meeting and consider the need for immediate protection of the child or what other action may be appropriate.

18. Child Protection

When information is received which raises concerns that a child may have suffered Significant Harm, the manager should be consulted as to whether there should be an immediate Strategy Discussion/Meeting to consider the need for a Section 47 Enquiry and whether any immediate protective action is required to secure the safety of the child. For further information, see the Local Safeguarding Children Board's Inter Agency Procedures.


19. Consent and Confidentiality

Also see: Values (Section 3, Confidentiality Policy, Values and Principles)

Personal information about children and families held by professionals is subject to a legal duty of confidence and should not normally be disclosed without the consent of the subject. However, the law permits the disclosure of confidential information if it is necessary to safeguard a child or children in the public interest. Disclosure without consent would be justifiable to safeguard a child (Data Protection Act 1989).

All agencies should obtain the family's prior agreement to sharing information unless this would place the child at increased likelihood of suffering Significant Harm. It is good practice to check with the family before contacting another agency.

In obtaining consent to seek information from other parties or to disclose information about the child or other individuals under the Data Protection Act 1998, it is important that explanation include:

  • Clarity about the purpose of approaching other individuals or agencies;
  • Reasons for the disclosure of any information, for example about the referral or details about the child or family members;
  • Details of the individuals or agencies being contacted;
  • What information will be sought or shared;
  • Why the information is important
  • What it is hoped to achieve.

Where there are concerns about Significant Harm, it is essential that professionals and others share information, since it is only when all of this information is compiled that it becomes clear whether the child is at such risk.

End