Assessment advice for professionals
It is vital that children and young people receive the right service at the right time and this is supported by Working Together 2018. In order for this to happen, all professionals who have contact with children, young people and families have a responsibility to recognise issues as early as possible and assess whether intervention is required.
A good assessment will identify, analyse and respond to the changing nature and level of need and/or risk faced by a child, allowing practitioners to offer the right support at the right time, evaluate change and monitor and record the impact of any services delivered to the child and family. Holistic assessments will include strengths as well as areas for development within the family and will consider the child’s wishes for the future.
Using the assessments early in intervention should support positive outcomes for children allowing appropriate interventions to be planned. The assessments also provide evidence of continued or significant concern despite appropriate intervention.
Working Together Guidance 2018 states: ‘Whenever there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm there should be a strategy discussion involving Local Authority Children’s Social Care (including the residential or fostering service, if the child is looked-after), the Police, Health and other bodies such as the referring agency. This might take the form of a multi-agency meeting or phone calls and more than one discussion may be necessary. A strategy discussion can take place following a referral or at any other time, including during the assessment process and when new information is received on an already open case’. If that applies to a situation you are working with please follow the advice in the One Minute Guide to Strategy Meetings/S47 Enquiries.
Wishes and feelings of the child
It is important when completing any assessments that the wishes and feelings of the child are listened to throughout. Professionals need to ensure the voice of the child runs through everything we do. Where possible and appropriate to the age/understanding of the child the tools should be used with the children as well as the adults in the family. There are tools that can assist practitioners to ensure the child's voice is represented where they have learning difficulties or limited communication.
SMART planning enables workers to develop detailed, relevant, family friendly plans and to develop measurable plans (enabling a measurement of success)
All workers should be able to create outcome focused plans.
To find out more about SMART planning see the Cheshire East one minute guide.
What is a good assessment?
Good assessment matters and is key to effective intervention and to improving outcomes for children. Significant decisions are made on the basis of social work and other professional assessments that affect outcomes for children in both the short and long term. However, we know from research studies, inquiries into child deaths and overviews of serious case reviews, that assessment is complex and challenging. A good assessment tool supports suitably comprehensive gathering of information and helps to order and analyse the information gathered. On-going assessment is essential in making sure that interventions are achieving the necessary outcomes and that interventions are responding to the changing nature and level of need and/or risk faced by a child.
There are a range of assessment tools that practitioners can use to enable them to intervene at the right time and with the right level of support. The Multi Agency Assessment Tool Kit has been developed to support practitioners to undertake effective assessments and provide a sound evidence base upon which to form robust analysis, decision making and actions. The tool kit includes information and guidance in relation to Early Help Assessments, Neglect, Graded Care Profile 2 (GCP2), Child Sexual Exploitation, Brooks Traffic Light, Domestic Abuse and Toxic Trio.
The 2018 Working Together guidance for England lists some of the following as features of a high quality assessment:
- they are child-centred and informed by the views of the child decisions are made in the best interests of the child
- they are rooted in child development and informed by evidence
- they build on strengths as well as identifying difficulties
- they ensure equality of opportunity and a respect for diversity including family structures, culture, religion and ethnic origin
These principles should be applied when completing any assessment.
Who should use the tools?
These tools are available for any services, schools or organisations who work with children and families in Cheshire East. All professionals need to be familiar with the tools provided and know when and how to use them. Managers should facilitate practitioner’s attendance at relevant training events to support the use of these tools and seek assurance in supervision that they are completed where appropriate.
Which tools are included?