Assessments

When social workers become involved with families experiencing problems, they use assessments to help them identify what the issues are and how they can work with the family to make things better.

Social care services would normally only become involved with families whose problems or needs are complex and require more support than universal services, like schools, health visitors or youth workers can provide using the Early Help Assessment, or where they’ve identified child protection concerns.

An assessment involves gathering information about a child or young person’s circumstances so that we can get a picture of their needs and whether they’re likely to be at risk.

We make two different kinds of assessments - initial assessments and core assessments.

Initial assessments

This is a brief and basic assessment of a family’s current situation. It helps us identify any support we need to provide and agree how we should do this.

Unless we have concerns for the safety of a child, we need the family’s consent to carry out an initial assessment.

We have to complete the assessment in 10 working days and involve all the relevant family members. If they’re old enough, children themselves can contribute to the assessment.

We’ll also talk to any extended family members, like grandparents, aunts, or uncles, if they have significant input, and to other services involved with the family, such as schools and health visitors.

At the end of the initial assessment, we’ll be clear that either:

  • we don’t need to provide further ongoing support to the family or
  • we need to draw up a plan of how we intend to support the family – we’ll continue to review this on a regular basis until the family no longer needs our support

A copy of our assessment will be available to families and to services already involved in the ‘team around the child’, if one exists.

We won’t share families’ personal details with other agencies if they prefer us not to.  If, however, our assessment suggests that the child is at risk from harm, we may not be able to keep details confidential.

Where children are at risk of significant harm, initial assessments can lead to a child protection investigation.

Core assessments

Core assessments follow an initial assessment, usually where situations are more complex.  They’re longer and more in depth than the initial assessment and have to be completed in 35 working days. As with initial assessments, core assessments are voluntary unless we have concerns about the child’s safety.

Core assessments usually involve several interviews with family members and extensive contact with any other services involved. They usually identify more complex needs, leading to a more detailed plan of action, which may involve input from a number of different agencies.

A copy of our assessment will be available to families and to services already involved in the ‘team around the child’.

We won’t share families’ personal details with other agencies if they prefer us not to.  If, however, our assessment suggests that the child is at risk from harm, we may not be able to keep details confidential.

We have to undertake a core assessment whenever a child protection investigation takes place.