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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. See Developing Local Protocols for Assessment.

Each child who has been referred into local authority children's social care should have an individual assessment to identify their needs. The assessment should seek to understand the impact on the child of any parental behaviours and factors in their environment (such as housing and income). 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

Working Together to Safeguard Children - Assessment

Social work post-qualifying standards: knowledge and skills statements

AMENDMENT

In May 2019, this chapter was revised to reflect updated guidance on Assessment in Working Together to Safeguard Children.


Contents

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


1. 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;
  • Children may also be referred for assessment if there are concerns relating to the parenting they are receiving, which could impact on the child’s health and development. For instance when parents have mental health issues, domestic violence features in the parental relationship, parents have learning disabilities, or parents are thought to misuse substances;
  • 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, such as the police, education and health, 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. These enquiries will enable the Local Authority and partner agencies to decide whether action should be taken 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. Accommodation may be provided, with parental consent, under Section 30 of the Children Act 1989, or, in some cases, the Local Authority may need to apply for a court order under Section 31 of the Children Act 1989;
  • 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. Children accommodated under Section 20 will also require assessment and Care Plans, and all children in the care of the Local Authority will be subject to regular Looked After Child Reviews, with assessment and care planning taking place to establish the needs of the child, and to determine the child’s permanency needs.


2. The Purpose of Assessment

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 and/or risks 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.


3. Process of Assessments

The assessment should be led by a qualified and experienced social worker regularly supervised by a social work manager. 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.

  • See/interview the child. In most cases this should take place without the parents being present to allow the child to speak freely particularly when child protection issues have been identified or are suspected. The majority of parents will consent to this, and the child and/or parent may want a trusted adult, e.g. a teacher, present. In some cases it will not be possible to speak with the child alone i.e. if the child is very young, or the parent does not give consent. When parents do not provide consent for the social worker to speak with children alone, or at all, this must be discussed with the line manager at the earliest opportunity;
  • All children referred for assessment to the Local Authority must be seen within 5 working days of the case being allocated to the social worker. There will be exceptions to this, for instance cases involving serious child protection concerns (when a visit may need to take place on the same day), or other cases deemed to require urgent assessment. The line manager should record their decision about the timescales for the visit, and inform the social worker when the case is allocated to them;
  • Interview the parents and any other relevant family members. Fathers must be included in assessments unless this will place the child or mother at risk (for instance serious domestic abuse cases), and agreement must be sought from a line manager before excluding fathers from the assessment, and any decision to actively exclude a father must be clearly recorded in the child’s file and assessment;
  • Consider whether to see the child with their parents. As outlined above a child should be interviewed without parents present when possible and when it is identified that children may not speak freely if their parents are present. Children should also be seen with their parents present to be able to observe the relationship and attachment between the child and its parents/carers;
  • The child should be seen by the lead social worker without their caregivers when appropriate and this should be recorded in the Assessment Record;
  • Determine what and when the parents should be told of any concerns;
  • Consult with and consider contributions from all relevant agencies, including agencies covering previous addresses in the UK and abroad;
  • The home environment should be observed and assessed, including the suitability of the child’s bedroom/sleeping arrangements.

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 usually 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.


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, and is unable to converse fluently in English, an interpreter must be provided. Any decision not to use an interpreter in such circumstances must be approved by a 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, 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.

NOTE: Where the parents have learning disabilities, it may be necessary to adapt communications to meet their needs – for further information, see the London Child Protection Procedures, Parenting Capacity and Learning Disabilities Procedure and Good Practice Guidance on Working with Parents with a Learning Disability (2007) updated 2016.


5. Focus on the Child

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.

Consideration must be given to employing tools and techniques which assist young children to communicate their wishes and feelings, as younger children particularly may be unable to express their wishes and feelings when interviewed directly.

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.


6. Planning

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. When visiting a family for the first time social workers should provide parents with an introductory pack and letter explaining the process and purpose of the assessment. A consent form should also be given to parents which they can be sign to request their permission to contact other agencies, and to share information where appropriate. A copy of the complaints procedure should also be provided.

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.

Factors 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?
  • 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?
  • 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.

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. 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.


7. 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 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:

  • The nature of the concern and the impact this has had, or may have, 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;
  • 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 wider 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, Human trafficking/modern slavery victims: referral and assessment forms.

The assessment will involve drawing together and analysing (triangulating) 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.


8. 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 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 and what needs to change in order to improve the outcomes for the child. The assessment process must be open and transparent with the parents. However, the process should also challenge parents’ statements and behaviour where it is evidenced that there are inconsistencies, questions or obstacles to progress. 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.


9. Contribution of Agencies Involved with the Child and Family

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, these should be escalated to the line manager, with consideration for a meeting to take place to resolve any difference of opinion which may arise (see Sutton Local Safeguarding Children Board Procedures, Multi-Agency Escalation Policy and Procedure).

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.


10. Actions and Outcomes

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:

  • Is this a 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. If it is decided that services are necessary to promote the child’s welfare, or safeguard the child, a plan of action should be agreed, setting out the services to be delivered, in discussion with the child and family and the professionals involved.

The outcomes may be as follows:

  • No further action and case can close;
  • Additional support which can be provided through universal services and single service provision; early help services such as the Early Help Assessment Framework. Case can close to Local Authority;
  • The development of a multi-agency Child in Need plan for the provision of child in need services to promote the child's health and development;
  • Specialist assessment 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 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 investigations;
  • 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.


11. Timescales

The assessment should be no longer than 15 days (brief assessment) or 45 working days (complex assessment) from the point the referral is received by the MASH team. The manager allocating the case will make the decision, based on the concerns and issues identified in the referral, whether a brief or a complex assessment should take place.

A brief assessment should be completed within 15 working days from the point of referral, and a complex assessment should be completed within 45 working days.

If during the course of a brief assessment there is evidence that a more complex assessment is necessary, the social worker should discuss this with their line manager. A decision can then be made to extend the assessment timescale up to 45 days.

If an assessment exceeds 45 working days, the social worker (and professionals involved if appropriate) should record the reasons for exceeding the time limit. Agreement must be sought from the social worker’s line manager prior to the assessment exceeding 45 days. A decision to exceed the 45 day timescale must be clearly recorded on the child’s file by the 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 risk 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. The work with the child and family should ensure that the agreed points are achieved through case supervision and/or management oversight. 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 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;
  • Information is obtained from other agencies and professionals;
  • The analysis and evaluation has been completed, and the information obtained during the assessment has been triangulated via a range of sources relevant to the child;
  • The assessment provides clear evidence for decisions on what types of services are needed to provide good outcomes for the child and family.

‘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

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.

Recording should take place within 2 working days of information being received. It should be concise, include records of discussions with parents, children and other agencies. Recording should provide an analysis of the information obtained, and include any actions necessary.

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. When the case is allocated the social worker should update or complete a chronology during the course of the assessment, which should be saved in the document section of the child’s file.

Assessments 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.

Any documents relating to the child and the assessment should be uploaded and saved in the documents section of the child’s file. This should include all court documents, assessments provided by other agencies, correspondence (including letter and emails), referral documents, and minutes of meetings. When documents are saved in the child’s file a case note should be recorded with a brief description of the document, which will direct any other reader of the child’s file to the document.


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.”

  • Information is gathered and recorded systematically;
  • Information is checked and discussed with the child and their parents/carers where appropriate;
  • Differences in views about information are recorded; and
  • The impact of what is happening to the child is clearly identified;
  • Information is triangulated so information and evidence obtained during the assessment does not rely on only one source.

There are a number of both organisational and individual requirements that are needed to ensure assessments are consistently of a good standard and lead to a clear understanding of the child’s needs, the extent to which they have suffered or are likely to suffer harm, and to an effective plan of action.

Organisational requirements:

  • A knowledgeable, skilled and confident workforce is crucial. Knowledge of child development, the signs and symptoms of abuse and the ability to effectively communicate with families in a child protection context are essential;
  • Formal and informal supervision is reflective, challenging, imaginative and supportive. Social workers and their managers need to be comfortable in providing a critique of their work and assessments must not be signed off without a manager adding value to the piece of work;
  • The culture within the organisation needs to be reflective and should support learning. Effective inter-agency partnerships routinely input into case planning and also take responsibility for achieving improved outcomes for children and young people;
  • There is an appropriate use of audits, feedback from children, young people and their families, feedback from staff and feedback from partners to ensure the quality of assessments is good, and continual improvement takes place.

Individual requirements:

  • The social worker should focus on the experiences and journey of all the children, individually within the household. The worker needs to understand what it might be like to be that child in the context of both current and past events;
  • Knowledge of child development should be applied to explore how what is known to have happened has and is likely to impact on each child. Social work professionals will need to utilise their interpersonal skills in order to interact appropriately with family members in order to obtain key information;
  • Information from other agencies should be explored and utilised at an early stage of the assessment in order to triangulate information;
  • The analysis of the information captured during the assessment should focus upon what has taken place, the impact on the children and the prognosis for the future;
  • Where factors such as parental mental health, substance misuse, domestic violence and parental learning difficulty feature in families, assessments of parenting capacity should take place. This will assist in understanding the impact of these issues on the health, safety and development of the child;
  • Recommendations and actions that stem from assessment need to be focussed upon improving the outcomes for children and be timely, specific, realistic and measureable. Assessment needs to be seen as a continuous event and appropriate contingencies need to be articulated should a plan fail to protect or secure improved outcomes.

The principles of The Assessment Framework continues to provides a model for undertaking assessment of need:

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 Working with foreign authorities: child protection cases and care orders Departmental advice for local authorities, social workers, service managers and children’s services lawyers July 2014 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; 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 Child in Need strategy/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.

End