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.

The assessment we carry out is called the Barnsley Single Assessment.

What happens during a Barnsley Single Assessment?

This is an 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 assessment. We will aim to complete some assessments in 20 working days. However more complex situations may take up to 45 days.

We will 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 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 and a child protection case conference.