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2.1.4 Child & Family Assessment

The purpose of a child and family assessment is to gather sufficient information about the child and family to understand its needs and make decisions about:

  • The nature and impact of the concerns or needs described in the referral and what intervention or support is necessary;
  • Whether the child meets the criteria for ongoing services as a ‘Child in Need’.

A maximum timescale of 45 working days from the point of referral to completion allows flexibility and individualisation of response, but the speed should be determined by the needs of the particular children and presenting risk.  The assessment must include visits to the child.

If at any stage there are child protection concerns, the Kent & Medway Safeguarding Child Protection procedures must be followed. 

The Child and Family assessment will be based on:

  • The information contained in the inter-agency referral form (and common assessment if it is attached);
  • A proactive process of sharing and gathering information via discussions with key relevant professionals and networks (e.g. the child’s GP, school, Health Visitor, Children’s Centre Manager, etc). Parents / carers will be required to give consent to the information being shared in ‘Child in Need’ referrals.  Evidence of consent might be requested;
  • Any historical information held within the agency; or other local authority;
  • A home visit with the family and children to answer any outstanding questions. With the permission of the parent/carer the child should be seen alone if of sufficient age and understanding and bedroom seen.  If this permission is not forthcoming, and there are child protection concerns, the Kent and Medway Safeguarding Children procedures must be followed;
  • The “voice of the child” must be captured within the assessment.

The gathering of relevant information will:

  • Be focused on the child’s developmental needs;
  • Be focused on the parents /carers’ capacities to meet the child’s developmental needs;
  • Reflect the family strengths as well as any difficulties;
  • Consider whether the parent/carer has needs independent of the child which may call for the provision of adult community care services;
  • Consider the impact of any family or environmental factors on the well-being of the child.

The Child & Family assessment will lead to a decision about whether the child is a ‘Child in Need’ who is eligible for services and, if so, decisions about priority. The provision of services will not be delayed by the need to complete an assessment. In certain circumstances a service will be provided in parallel to the assessment process if this is considered necessary by the assessing social worker.

All decisions will be clearly recorded on the allocation record and signed by the relevant senior practitioner within 24 hours of receipt of referral into Children's Advice ad Duty Services (CADS). The child’s parents/carers and the child, if age appropriate, involved in the assessment will be given a copy of the assessment upon completion.

The professional referrer should be contacted and notified in writing of the allocated social worker within 24 hrs from allocation.  Feedback on the outcome of a referral should be provided to the referrer.

Child Safeguarding diagram

The assessment should be holistic, draw together a family history with reference to prior information and chronologies and recognise the existing strengths and skills of the child and family. Its purpose is to identify the child’s and other family members’ needs and agree on the desired outcome of any involvement. It will be conducted in a structured way with the full and active involvement of the parents/carers and child. Other family members should be involved as appropriate.

The voice of the child and their wishes and feelings must be ascertained and recorded where possible and due consideration given to them, having regard to his/her age and understanding. It is possible to gain an understanding of the child’s feelings through a range of age-appropriate techniques, or techniques to overcome communication barriers. It should be rare in an assessment for the voice of the child not to be taken into account. Practitioners should consider current research and techniques for communicating with children and young people.

Parental assessment

Where the concerns arise as a result of a parent’s (or person with parental responsibility) disability, mental health or substance misuse problems, a specialist assessment should be sought from the relevant agency.

Sharing information with parents/carers and child

The assessing social worker must provide a copy of the assessment report to the parents/carers and share appropriately with children of sufficient understanding. Any disagreements about the assessment will be recorded. The family should already have been given a copy of the leaflet If You Wish To Complain. The assessment must have clear conclusions and recommendations. It will identify the child’s and family’s needs and also what outcomes should be achieved to make improvements and bring about change.

Likely outcomes

The range of recommendations includes:

  • The child is in need of protection and Kent & Medway Safeguarding Children Procedures have been or must be invoked;
  • Legal action is required to protect the child;
  • The child meets the criteria for a specialist service such as Disabled Children’s Team;
  • The child is a ‘Child in Need’ and a ‘Team Around the Family / multi agency group should be identified to draw up and deliver a ‘Child in Need’ plan;
  • The child does not meet Children’s Social Care/Specialist Children’s Services eligibility and threshold criteria and can be signposted to an alternative specialist children’s service, or a lower level service, as appropriate. A common assessment should be considered and discussed with the family at this point. A “No Further Action” outcome should be a rare event.

The decision will be recorded in writing to ensure that the decision making process is explicit, particularly where management of risk is a significant issue.

Where the child and family are not eligible for ‘Child in Need’ services, Children’s Social Care/Specialist Children’s Services will consider what alternative arrangements may be required to meet the child’s needs, including whether a common assessment will be appropriate and, where appropriate, discuss with the family and referring professional to enable the family to be linked to the most appropriate service or support. The case will then be closed and return to the referring/lead professional who will then discuss and plan the next steps with the family.

Where a child is eligible for a ‘Child in Need’ service, the conclusion of the Child and Family assessment and subsequent updates will be made available at relevant review dates to inform planning for the child and family.