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1.2.6 Assessment Procedure

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter should be read in conjunction with London Child Protection Procedures - Recognition and Response and Working Together to Safeguard Children 2015.

RELATED GUIDANCE AND LEGISLATION

The International Child Abduction and Contact Unit

Modern Slavery Act 2015

AMENDMENT

In December 2016, the linked information regarding the International Child Abduction and Contact Unit was revised and updated.


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. The Purpose of an Assessment
  3. What an Assessment Involves
  4. Single Assessment - Recording, Authorising, Finalising and Reviewing Assessments
  5. Notifying the Outcome of an Assessment
  6. Single Assessment and Child Protection Conferences
  7. Single Assessment and Section 47
  8. Assessment, Special Guardianship and Private Fostering
  9. Complaints


1. Introduction

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Assessments should be undertaken within the structure of The National Framework for Assessment of Children in Need and their Families. The Assessment Framework (now set out in Working Together 2015) provides a systematic approach to gathering information about children who may be in need and their families and is represented by the following diagram.

Click here to view the Assessment Triangle.

Assessments need to be timely, transparent and proportionate to the needs of the individual child and their family.

Once a child has been referred to Children's Social Care (CSC) for an assessment one of the following outcomes will follow:

  • Child is identified as a child in in need - Section 17 and requires a child in need plan;
  • It is deemed that there is reasonable cause to suspect child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm and a strategy meeting needs to be held to consider if Section 47 enquiries need to be made;
  • Request for child to be looked after;
  • Provide Short Term Services;
  • Special guardianship carer assessment;
  • Private Fostering Arrangement Assessment;
  • Step down to targeted/universal services for support;
  • No further action necessary.

In determining the best outcome for the child, social workers and managers must base their judgements on sound evidence linked to the Threshold Document - Continuum of Help and Support (Islington SCB) (the four levels of need section) Working Together to Safeguard Children 2015.


2. The Purpose of an 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 including any factors that may indicate that the child is or has been trafficked or a victim of compulsory labour, servitude and slavery. Note; if there is a concern with regards to exploitation or trafficking, a referral into the National Referral Mechanism should be made See - GOV.UK Human trafficking/modern slavery victims: referral and assessment forms;
  • To decide whether the child is a Child in Need (Section 17) and/or is suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm (Section 47); and
  • To provide support to address those needs to improve the child's outcomes to make them safe.


3. What an Assessment Involves

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All assessments must ensure the following:

  • The child is the focus of the assessment, there will be an assessment of the parental factors in relation to the impact this has on their child and parenting ability;
  • Observations of the child - including observing the child alone and in her/his home, using age appropriate tools to assist with communication;
  • Assessments should include fathers and other family members as appropriate;
  • Assessments should be multi-agency in approach and include and build on any assessments undertaken by other agencies;
  • Consultation with supervisor/manager to check assessment are proportionate and there is on-going analysis of the information gathered;
  • Clear analysis of risk and protective factors are considered Record of decisions and rationale for decisions clearly recorded on ICS;
  • Records of informing other agencies and the team around the child of the decisions and the rationale;
  • Assessments and plans are shared with the family and child as appropriate.

Practice Guide

The assessment should be completed by a suitably qualified and experienced social worker who leads the multi-agency process. It must be a proportionate assessment taking into account the child’s and family’s needs. A discussion between the manager and social worker allocated to undertake the assessment should agree a target time for completion of the assessment and record this on ICS. Any change in the target date for completion can only be agreed by a manager and rationale for this must recorded on ICS. The focus of the assessment must be on the needs of the child and the maximum. time for completion of any assessment is 45 days. It is an expectation that not all assessments will need this length of time to complete and it is not in the child’s interests to have a delay in their assessment. The family should be in agreement to the assessment and understand its purpose and who should be involved and what is expected of them. Consent to the assessment and sharing of information between agencies must be obtained from the family unless the following apply.

There are some circumstances where sharing information without consent will be justified in the public interest. These are:

  1. When there is evidence or reasonable cause to believe that a child is suffering, or is at risk of suffering, significant harm; or
  2. To prevent significant harm to a child, including through the prevention, detection and prosecution of serious crime.[1]

When there is justifiable public interest, there are some circumstances where consent can be overridden, furthermore there may also be times when it is also NOT appropriate to inform the child/parent or person with parental responsibility that the information will be shared. If doing so would:

  1. Place a person at increased risk of significant harm; or
  2. Prejudice the prevention, detection or prosecution of a serious crime; or
  3. Lead to an unjustified delay in making enquiries about allegations of significant harm to a child.[2]

[1] Information Sharing: Guidance for practitioners and managers. DCSF p21.
[2] As above p22

A decision to override consent in these circumstances will be need to be agreed between the Manager and the agency who owns the information. The rationale and decision will be clearly recorded on the ICS record.

Interviews should take place in the preferred language of the child and each family member. For some disabled children and family members this may require non-verbal communication. The social worker should use her/his judgement as to whether or not to use a translator and/or interpreter.

Whilst Children's Social Care retains the responsibility to complete an assessment it is a duty of any agency that knows the child or family to contribute and be involved in planning, review and analysis. This will also include agencies that are working with a parent e.g. mental health or substance use agencies.

There will be specific groups of children such as those who are subject to special educational needs or children with a disability that require a joined up assessment process and single planning process focussed on outcomes. In these circumstances it is vital that a team around the child meets to plan and co-ordinate any assessments and draws on any previous assessments that are in place.

Young carers are entitled to request a separate carer’s assessment under the Carers (recognition and services) Act 1995.

Disabled children are deemed as those who have a permanent and substantial condition assessed by multi-disciplinary diagnostic assessment by health. Disabled children by virtue of their disability will always be a child in need. However it may be the case that although they are a child in need they do not require a child in need plan as their needs maybe met by targeted Services, use of a personal budget and/or short breaks provision. They will need a support plan held by a lead professional that is reviewed at least annually by a qualified SW.

If at any stage of the assessment it becomes apparent that the child or family would benefit from some services these should be put in place and not wait until the assessment is completed. Managers would be updated on these recommendations & actions in supervision.

If, at any stage during an assessment, there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child is at risk of significant harm, the social worker should immediately inform her/his manager. The manager must convene a Strategy Meeting (Discussion). This informs whether Section 47 CP enquiries are required. Timescales for convening strategy meetings/discussions are outlined in the London Child Protection Procedures, Strategy Meeting / Discussion.


4. Single Assessment - Recording, Authorising, Finalising and Reviewing Assessments

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All notes from assessments must be recorded on ICS and must be written contemporaneously. When an assessment is completed, the social worker must record the outcome and if a child in need plan is required, complete this plan and forward to her or his Team Manager. (Following the first CIN meeting, which much take place within 15 days, further details will be added to the CIN plan.)

On receipt of the assessment and plan, the Team Manager will check and agree any amendments with the social worker and, once satisfied with the quality of the assessment and that the plan is SMART enough will proceed to authorisation.

An Assessment is deemed completed once the assessment and plan has been discussed with the child and family and authorised by the manager (as set out in Section 5,120 Working Together 2010 (now archived)).

A review assessment will not be automatically activated after 6 months. Decisions on whether to review an assessment will only be made if there has been a significant development in the child's life, except where there is a Section 47 enquiry where an assessment is required.


5. Notifying the Outcome of an Assessment

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All outcomes of single assessments must be recorded on the Further Action section of the Assessment and plan.

During the assessment, the family should be given the opportunity to record their feelings and wishes in respect of the assessment and these should be recorded as part of the assessment process.

The parent(s) or carer(s) and child should be informed in writing or other appropriate medium of the decisions made within seven working days of the closure of assessment. The parent(s) or carer(s) and the child should be offered the opportunity to record their views, disagreements and to ask for corrections to recorded information.

Agencies involved in the assessment should also be informed, in writing, of the decisions and of the rational for the decisions within seven working days of the closure of the assessment.


6. Single Assessment and Child Protection Conferences

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When preparing a report for a review child protection conference, the decision to undertake a single assessment will not be an automatic one. Single assessments should be undertaken when there is a particular need to re-assess the circumstances of a child. This decision should be a considered one, taken by the social worker in consultation with the manager and based on the individual needs of the child(ren).

Records of Section 47 Enquiry and any Reports to Child Protection Conferences should include the date(s) when the child was seen alone by the Lead Social Worker and, if not seen alone, who was present and the reasons for their presence.


7. Single Assessment and Section 47

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If, at any stage during a single assessment, there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child has experienced or is at risk of significant harm, the social worker should immediately inform her/his manager. The manager must convene a strategy meeting (discussion) which informs whether Section 47 CP enquiries are required. Timescales for convening strategy meetings/discussions are outlined in London Child Protection Procedures.

Under Section 47 enquiries the child must be seen within 24 hours unless the manager has good reasons for agreeing a different timescale. Any decisions not to see a child within 24 hours must be based on sound evidence.

Assessment of a child in these circumstances is not a separate activity although the pace and scope of the assessment may have changed. A key aspect of Section 47 CP enquiries is to establish whether the child is suffering or likely to suffer significant harm and whether any emergency action is required to secure the safety of the child.

As soon as a child is subject to Section 47 CP enquiries, a single assessment should be started. Although there are 45 working days to complete an assessment, Section 47 CP enquiries will need to progress within a timescale that is commensurate with the identified safeguarding needs of the child. London Child Protection Procedures details the timescales that apply in these circumstances.

In all cases assessment undertaken alongside Child Protection enquiries must be consistent with the London Child Protection Procedures which require that a Child Protection Conference is held within 15 days of the date of the Strategy Meeting which initiated the Section 47 Enquiry.

If a paediatric medical is required as part of the Section 47 Child Protection enquiries parental consent must be obtained. If a parent refuses to give permission, this can only be overridden by a Court Order and therefore, legal advice must be sought. Full details are in the London Child Protection Procedures, Paediatric Assessment.

Multi-agency checks as part of Section 47 Child Protection can be undertaken without parental consent or where consent is denied so long as managers clearly record their reason on ICS, in accordance with circumstances outlined in London Child Protection Procedures, Initiating a Section 47 Enquiry.


8. Assessment, Special Guardianship and Private Fostering

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It is not necessary to undertake a single assessment alongside a Special Guardianship assessment.

It is not necessary to undertake a single assessment alongside a Private Fostering Assessment.

9. Complaints

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At the start of the process parents/carers and children should be provided with information on LB Islington's complaints procedures and should be reminded of these at different stages of assessment.

The fact that a complaint has been made should be recorded as a Case Note on ICS.

End