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1.3.1 Children's Assessment Protocol

Please note: this chapter is under review to incorporate the Strengthening Families Framework.

AMENDMENT

In December 2015, this chapter was slightly amended.


Contents

  1. What is a Child's Assessment?
  2. Timescale 
  3. The Process of the Child's Assessment
  4. Involving Parents
  5. Possible Outcomes of the Child's Assessment
  6. Feedback from Child's Assessment
  7. Recording the Child's Assessment

Also see the following flowcharts taken from Working Together (2015):

Flowchart 1: Action taken when a child is referred to local authority Children's Social Care services

Flowchart 3: Action taken for an assessment of a child under the Children Act 1989


1. What is a Child's Assessment?

If, as a result of a Referral, there are indications that the child is In Need, which may include concerns of Significant Harm, Children’s Social Care Services will conduct a Child's Assessment.

This is an Assessment to determine whether the child is in need, the nature of any services required, whether a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, Significant Harm and whether a Strategy Discussion and a Section 47 Enquiry should be undertaken.

The Child's Assessment should be undertaken in accordance with the Children's Multi Agency Assessment Protocol (CMAP) and the Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families.

The Child's Assessment will address the following questions:

  • What are the developmental needs of the child?
  • Are the parents able to respond appropriately to the child’s identified needs?
  • Do the parents have the capacity to respond to the child’s needs?
  • Are the parents able to promote the child’s health and development;
  • What impact are the family functioning and history, the wider family and environmental factors having on the parent’s capacity to respond to their child’s needs and the child’s developmental progress?
  • Is there any evidence of domestic violence?
  • Is the child adequately safeguarded from Significant Harm and/or are any services required to promote the child’s health and development?
  • Is emergency action required to safeguard the child’s welfare?
  • Are there any other children in the household or elsewhere who should be included in the Child's Assessment?


2. Timescale

The assessment must provide a rigorous analysis of the child's needs and the capacity of the child's parents to meet these needs within their family and environment. To reduce the potential for delay in responding to a child's needs, the following checkpoints have established:

Within 1 day: Contact received and responded to by the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub, with an acknowledgement letter sent to professionals who have referred to share the outcome of the Contact (whether this has met the threshold to become a Social Care referral).

If a decision is made that a Section 47 Enquiries are required, then the child must be seen within 24 hours of the contact being received. An Initial Child Protection Conference must then be scheduled within 15 working days of the Strategy Discussion.

If the threshold for a Social Care referral are met but not for Section 47 enquires (significant harm), the child must be seen within 4 working days of the Contact being received.

The Social Care Team Manager and Social Worker must agree and record the planned timescale for the assessment by no later than 7 working days after the contact has been received.

If the Child's Assessment is to last longer than 10 working days, then a multi-agency Child in Need meeting must be held within 15 working days of the contact being received.

Typically, all Child's Assessments must be completed within 35 working days of the initial Contact being received.

In exceptional circumstances, an assessment may be completed within 45 working days. This must be discussed and agreed with the responsible Social Care Service Manager.

In the exceptional circumstance assessment is required to exceed the 45 working day limit; this must be discussed and agreed with the Service Director and the reasons for this recorded on the child's record.


3. The Process of the Child's Assessment

The Child's Assessment should be led by a qualified and experienced social worker. It should be carefully planned, with clarity about who is doing what, the time-scales and what information is to be shared with the parents.

The process of the Child's Assessment should involve seeing and speaking to the child or children involved in their preferred language and according to their age and understanding, and involving family members as appropriate (see Section 4, Involving Parents). 

The social worker carrying out the Child's Assessment will consult with:

  • All agencies involved with the child and family;
  • The person/agency who made the referral.

The Child's 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 a Family Common Assessment Framework (FCAF) has already been completed this information should be used to inform the Child's Assessment.

The child should be seen within a timescale that is appropriate to the nature of concerns expressed at the time of the referral, according to the agreed plan (which may include seeing the child without his or her care givers present). This includes observing and communicating with the child in a manner appropriate to his or her age and understanding. Children’s Social Care Services are required by the Children Act 1989 (as amended by Section 53 of the Children Act 2004) to ascertain the child’s wishes and feelings about the provision of services and give them due consideration before determining what (if any) services to provide. Interviews with the child should be undertaken in the preferred language of the child. For some disabled children, interviews may require the use of non-verbal communication methods.

All relevant information (including historical information) should be taken into account. All agencies consulted should make immediate checks of their records for previous history and information that is relevant and helpful in deciding the level of enquiry that is required.

This includes seeking information from relevant services if the child and family have spent time abroad. Professionals should request this information from their equivalent agencies in the country or countries in which the child has lived.

See Children from Abroad (including Migrant Children and Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children) Procedure.

The worker carrying out the Child's Assessment should make it clear to the agencies consulted that the information provided for the Child's Assessment may be shared with the family and other agencies and will contribute to the Child's Assessment unless to do so would put the child at risk of suffering significant harm.


4. Involving Parents

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

  • Be prejudicial to the child’s welfare and/or safety;
  • Cause concern that the child would be at risk of further Significant Harm.

See also Information Sharing and Confidentiality Procedure.

In these circumstances, a Children’s Social Care Services manager may decide to consult other relevant agencies without seeking parental consent or where parental consent is sought but not given. Any such decision must be recorded with reasons on the Child's Assessment and Case Record.

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


5. Possible Outcomes of the Child's Assessment

As a result of the Child's Assessment, the Children’s Social Care Services, in consultation with other agencies, will decide one of the following:

  • The child is not In Need. In which case the Children’s Social Care Services will take no further action other than, where appropriate, to provide information and advice or sign posting to another agency in accordance with the local Common Assessment Framework criteria;
  • The child is In Need but there are no concerns about actual or likely Significant Harm. In which case the Children’s Social Care Services, in consultation with other agencies, will determine what services they should provide;
  • The child is In Need and that there are concerns that the child is suffering or is at risk of suffering Significant Harm. In which case Children’s Social Care Services will initiate a Strategy Discussion/Meeting to determine whether a Section 47 Enquiry is required; and consider whether any immediate protective action is also required.

The decisions must be endorsed by a Children’s Social Care Services manager.


6. Feedback after Child's Assessment

Parents will usually be informed in writing of the outcome of the Child's Assessment unless to do so would:

  • Be prejudicial to the child’s welfare and/or safety;
  • Cause concern that the child would be at risk of further Significant Harm.

See also Information Sharing and Confidentiality Procedure.

Any decision not to share the outcome with the parents must be endorsed by a Children’s Social Care Services manager and recorded, with reasons for the decisions.

At the earliest possible opportunity, the social worker carrying out the Child's Assessment will also advise the following people/agencies of the outcome in writing, consistent with respecting the confidentiality of the child and not jeopardising future action:

  • All agencies involved with the child and family;
  • The person/agency who made the referral.


7. Recording the Child's Assessment

A clear account of the Child's Assessment must be made using the Child's Assessment Form, setting out who has been contacted, the information received, the assessment of the child’s needs and their circumstances with a full analysis, the outcomes and decisions. 

A Children’s Social Care Services manager must agree in writing with all decisions taken. The decisions and follow up actions must be monitored and reviewed by the manger to ensure that they are followed through.

End