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Derby CityChildren's Social Care Procedures

3.1.1 Social Care Single Assessment Guidance


This chapter aims to help practitioners to address any queries that they may have in relation to various sections in the Social Care Single Assessment. Within each section there are 'Practice Triggers', which a useful hints / tips to have in mind when completing a Social Care Single Assessment.


Derby City Council Children's Services Assessment Protocol


This guidance was reviewed in May 2016.


  1. Introduction
  2. Planning Our Social Work - The Social Care Single Assessment
    1. Your Family / Household
    2. Reasons and Understanding about your Assessment
    3. Assessment Planning
    4. Child Protection Only
    5. Your Family, Background, History and Safety
    6. Your Profile and Story
    7. You and Your Family's Views
    8. Social Worker's Views
    9. Manager's Authorisation
    10. Next Steps Following Assessment
    11. Sharing of the Assessment
    12. Action Plan

1. Introduction

The Social Care Single assessment replaces Initial Assessment and Core Assessment and is compliant with Working Together to Safeguard Children (2015). The Derby and Derbyshire Single Assessment is based on the Framework for the assessment of children in need and their families (2000, DH). Whilst this guidance has been superseded by Working Together to Safeguard Children 2015, the assessment framework will continue to be used to support our assessment processes because it is evidence informed, child focused and well understood by our workforce.

The guidance aims to help practitioners to address any queries that they may have in relation to various sections in using the Social Care Single Assessment for children and their families. The aim is not to be so prescriptive that it narrows the Social Work assessment to a few key identifiable areas. It is important that practitioners use their professional judgment during the assessment. This will make greater demands on your evaluative and interpretive skills when assessing children's needs, strengths, risk, and whether they are suffering child abuse and neglect. The assessment will rely upon the knowledge of Social Work, research, ethical principles, your professional practice experience and Social Work theories. The assessment is supported by effective professional supervision.

If there has been a completed Early Help Assessment (formerly known as CAF) this should be used as an important source of information for the basis of the Social Care single assessment. It is only through effective dialogue with children, families and involved professionals, that you can truly understand the child's experience and journey. This is evidenced through an increase in direct work.

We aim to help families by:

  • Encouraging and promoting Social Work analysis;
  • Recognising the importance of early and outcome focussed planning in our Social Work;
  • Aiding relationship building in our practice;
  • Strengthening reflective Social Work practice and supervision;
  • Strengthening the use of research in our Social Work practice;
  • Helping us articulate why we are intervening in children's lives to children themselves, their families and to other involved professionals;
  • Promoting sustained improvements to the quality of the lives of children and their families;
  • Sharing relevant information in a timely manner which may impact on the child/young person.

We want to support Social Workers to practice as confident professionals

The Single Assessment will be supportively reinforced through our organisation in a number of ways, through practice, group and line manager supervision, quality assurance, the use of research and staff and professional development. Incorporating what we know about the importance of timeliness in our assessments and intervention work, along with a wide range of Social Work knowledge / research, practice skills and professional values. This Single Assessment encourages effective, timely and purposeful Social Work and recognises the importance of other agencies working along side Social Workers to fully support the process.

Supervision and critical reflection

The role of supervision is crucial in supporting and embedding the Single Assessment. Supervision offers time and space for Social Work practitioners to critically reflect on both practice and planning, and supports how you undertake your assessment.

2. Planning Our Social Work - The Social Care Single Assessment

2.1 Your Family / Household

In this section the basic information of the involved children and important people in their lives are detailed. Ensure that details are accurate, particularly name spellings.

This is an opportunity to ensure your records are up to date.

Parental Responsibility. Knowing who has Parental Responsibility PR for a child is of paramount importance, and should be established from the outset.

To gain a full understanding of the family it is important to speak to all of the professionals involved with them, to gain their view and gather necessary information.

Practice Triggers
  • Think of the whole family and who may be involved;
  • Voluntary agencies or adults services can be essential in forming your assessment;
  • Parents may have a drug or mental health worker, or may need referring to one.

The manager in consultation with the Social Worker should decide which children should be considered in the assessment. This can include siblings and half-siblings, any other children who live in the household or who are regular visitors to the household. The rationale for any children not to be included will be clearly recorded in case notes.

2.2 Reasons and Understanding about your Assessment

Reasons and understanding about your assessment

Evidence how you know the child and their family can understand this assessment, while considering any communication needs.

The Social Worker outlines clearly and succinctly the reason for Social Work involvement.
We need to state what we are worried about.

It's important to gain the perspective and engagement of absent fathers/parents and non-resident parents within your assessment. The assessment will not be complete without this.

Practice Triggers
  • Remain curious throughout this process;
  • Who will you speak to?
  • What records do you need to access to review (e.g. back files / chronology)?
  • How long will you need to do the work?
  • Remember lessons from serious case reviews.

2.3 Assessment Plan

In this section the Social Worker, in conjunction with the family, outlines the planning needed for the case. A timeframe is agreed, and the tools and methods to be used discussed. Consider how you will approach the family, what you will say, how you'll say it, and how it might be received. Is anything needed to support communication with the child and family e.g. an interpreter? Read the Social Care file - it may give you a lot of valuable information about the family which can guide the whole of the assessment.

It is important to consider the need for children to have permanency throughout their childhoods therefore as far as possible the assessment should consider the carer's ability to meet the changing developmental needs of the child, not just in the here and now.

If problems are identified early, it is much easier to give parents help/support to address them. If that help is not sufficiently successful to enable parents to be 'good enough', action should be taken as early as possible to bring about alternative permanent solutions for children.

Think long term for the child

Where families are not known or have not had involvement in the recent past, reception service Social Workers will begin their assessment at the planning stage.

Who has seen the children? When and where?

It is important that during the assessment practitioners see the child alone, so that their wishes and feelings can be sought.

Manager's endorsement of plan and timescales

Managers are required to maintain visible oversight of the assessment and this should take place within 7 days. They should comment on the assessment plan and their views of the timescales recommended by the Social Worker and family.

Assessments completed by reception team Social Workers should usually be completed between 10 and 20 working days. However, sometimes a shorter deadline will be required in the interests of the child(ren) concerned.

For children who are considered to be at risk of significant harm, their assessments must be completed within 12 working days of the strategy discussion/ meeting in order to be available for the Initial Child Protection Case Conference at 15 working days (or before).

Practice Triggers
  • Ensure the maximum time agreed with your manager first;
  • Be aware of any health and safety risks to staff when visiting and make appropriate plans;
  • See the child alone (within 24 hours if subject to S47 enquiry and within 3 working days if assessment arising because it is considered child may be in need).

Has the child been seen? If not, when will this be done?

2.4 Child Protection Only

Is a strategy discussion / meeting required?

If there is reason to believe that a child is suffering, or likely to suffer significant harm, Children's Social Care has a duty to make enquiries to decide what action should be taken to safeguard the child, under s.47 of the Children at 1989. Guidance should be sought from the Derby and Derbyshire SCB procedures which as well as giving general guidance, offers advice for children in specific circumstances.

To access to the SCB procedures, click here.

Practice Trigger
  • Managerial direction and oversight is essential in child protection processes.

2.5 Your Family, Background, History and Safety

  • Family Tree.

The Social Worker in conjunction with the key family members will undertake an exercise to draw and understand the family tree (and / or ecomap). This will need to be as detailed as possible. Family networks that span several households will need to be articulated within the wider family tree.

  • Family Timeline / significant events and all professional involvement.

In this section the Social Worker will document pertinent components of the family chronology that will inform an understanding (and be relevant) to the nature of the referral or assessment. It is important that only pertinent information is included here.

Short and relevant facts form the chronology

Practice Triggers
  • What is this telling you?
  • Who is missing?
  • Strong / difficult relationships form part of this discussion;
  • What's not being talked about?
  • Stay curious.

It is essential as part of building our understanding that eco-maps are completed. The eco map helps us understand the family system and how it relates to their internal and external world. The eco map will describe and articulate the family's connectivity with the world. This will highlight areas of support and isolation. Further, relationships of stress and strain are illuminated together with areas of strength and support. This is crucial to informing the Social Work plan.

  • Summary of relevant information or assessments from other agencies.

It is important to identify whether there have been any other previous assessments undertaken with the family in order to gain a better understanding of the needs of the child.

Obtain and read reports, and gain feedback from any other involved agency, from current or historical involvement.

You should consider the following types of assessment, or gathering information from the agency, but this is not an exhaustive list, remain curious. Remember permission should be sought from the parent /s and where appropriate the child, before discussing and gathering information from other agencies; however the lack of consent should never compromise the safety or welfare of the child.

  • Education (School report, SEN, Education Psychologist);
  • Health (School Nurse, Health Visitor, Midwife, GP, Dietician, Paediatrician);
  • Housing (anti social behaviour, homelessness, Domestic abuse referrals);
  • Police (Police checks, MARAC, MAPPA, DV triage or reports);
  • Mental Health (Psychiatrist, CPN, counselling);
  • Learning Disability (for adult or child);
  • Substance misuse (drugs, alcohol support workers and services);
  • Offending (adults and youth);
  • Social Care (own department, or other Local Authority);
  • Court Proceedings (from your own department or in other areas);
  • ….. and more!

Remember to ask about where they lived before, and check all records in that area too.

  • Your family's safety advice.

These questions have been compiled from lessons learned from serious case reviews. If "no" is answered to these, please ensure the relevant information is passed onto the family.

You must always ask these safety questions, and provide information as required.

In your assessment, comment on the discussion held around the questions in the table below, and document clearly whether the family adhere to the safety recommendations given.

Your family's safety advice
Key safety issue Yes? No? N/A?
Are there working smoke alarms on each floor of the property? Yes
Recommend that smoke detectors are tested on a weekly basis


Derbyshire Fire and Rescue offer free home safety checks

Safe sleep arrangements Yes No info to be added  
Don't shake your baby advice Yes No info to be added  
Home safety Yes No info to be added  
Safe storage of harmful substances Yes No info to be added  

2.6 Your Profile and Story

  • Child's profile and story.

The child's profile may include background factors pertinent to their on-going well being and development. It would be relevant to outline any developmental and health concerns that impact on the child. Consider identity, gender, race, cultural and disability issues and if the child is a young carer. With regards to the child's profile / story it is essential that the child's story should also include child's own words or understanding of their situation and life is articulated in this section.

In the context of children suffering abuse the narrative will also explore both their experience and understanding of this. With younger children or pre-birth situations it is essential that the Social Worker considered the child's story / narrative based on presenting issues in the case. Strengths, needs, risks and protective factors should be included.

Practice Triggers

  • Make the child real;
  • What is important to the child?
  • Put your self in their shoes, how do they see their life?
  • What is it like for this child to live in this family?

  • Your parent's / carer's profile and how they look after you

This section includes the narrative of each birth parent / carer, explored both independently and together where possible.

The Social Worker is expected to keep an open and enquiring mind with the family around key events and milestones in the parents or carers lives, and events of significance for them. This will consider how the parents met, their attitudes to having children, family life and more; this process should consider an historical understanding through to the present day. Family networks / systems are complex and can involve several households. In this section, an explanation will be given of the family's particular dynamics e.g. who lives where or who is significant.

Ensure you have considered domestic abuse, parental mental health, learning needs and substance misuse / dependency, and the impact of these on the adult's ability to parent and the impact on each child.

  • Where you live, your family, your home and your safety

Consider the family's position in the local community, to maximise any opportunities for support. This is a chance to look at safeguards and risks in the wider family and any associated regular visitors to the house. Explore finances, budgeting and housing.

Practice Triggers

  • See every child's bedroom;
  • Be interested in who does what around the house;
  • Interview close relatives who may have a different perspective;
  • Include and engage the wider family for yourself;
  • Be curious, and ask questions.

2.7 You and Your Family's Views

  • Your views of what needs changing and what might help you and your family.

What would they like to change? What things does the child like? How can you be assured that the child is aware of your role and responsibility?

  • If child/young person does not want their parents to know this, their comments should be recorded confidentially in case notes, understanding the boundaries of confidentiality.
Practice Triggers
  • Does the child need or want an advocate (a requirement for children in case conferences)?
  • The child must be seen alone;
  • Consider any possible influence or duress the child may be under;
  • Consider any barriers to them telling you what they want to, and acknowledge and address them.

  • Your parents' and carers view of what needs to change and their suggestions for what might help

Sharing this report is an interactive task, as the parent or carer is a real part of your assessment. Their perspective must be valued. The act of sharing the report can lead to a better understanding and collaboration, which can have a positive impact on the outcomes. Parents /carers suggested solutions are more likely to work for them, and produced sustained improvements for their family life.

Practice Triggers

  • Each parent / carer to be seen alone;
  • Consider any possible duress the individual parent / carer may be experiencing, and if they need assistance or an advocate of their own;
  • Stay curious.

2.8 Social Worker's Views

  • Social Worker's assessment of risk and professional judgement

The Social Worker needs to draw together their work thus far, and set out how the information gathered in their work with the child, family and professional networks comes together to inform an understanding of the family's current situation and what the implications are for the child / children / young person's future welfare. This is the basis for the current understanding of that child's world.

In this section the Social Worker will make sense of the reason for the referral as part of their professional understanding. What the child and the family understand to be the worry is explored, and whether it differs from the understanding that others hold. To help make sense of any discrepancies, reflection with manager / team is encouraged. Think about and reflect on the following (this is not an exhaustive list):

  • Who and what has helped you develop your work thus far?
  • What counts as evidence for your work thus far?
  • What research have you drawn on?
  • Have you made sense of the case?
  • Have you addressed the current reasons for involvement in context of the history?
  • Who and what might be missing at this stage?
  • Are you clear on what the family understands to be the worry?
  • To what extend do the family acknowledge and understand your concerns?
  • Have you explored all perspectives - family, other agencies or professionals and yourself?
  • Are there any capacity issues or need for specialist assessment of parenting capacity?
  • Is the child safe enough?
  • Who have you not spoken to, and why?
  • Are there any factors in the family that might affect your professional judgement or your ability to carry out this assessment in a child focussed manner e.g. parental hostility, avoidance, chaotic situations, time restrictions and more?
  • Have you had a dialogue with your manager?

Practice Triggers

  • You are the professional expert;
  • Do your truly understand the child's world?
  • Show your evidence base;
  • Have you been curious enough?
What is analysis?

Analysis is the process by which we come to understand something and its meaning. In Social Work this includes understanding it's meaning to the child, to the parents and to the wider family system.

Analysis in Social Work is not an exact science, but we use a range of knowledge and skills, including a relational understanding of families alongside the capacity to think critically and reflectively. A good analysis makes clear the links between information that is gathered and the decisions made about what happens next for the child and their family.

Information + Analysis = Assessment

The analysis is making sense of the information you have gathered from a number of different sources, including observations and views from other professionals involved that have known the child / family for a long time. You will use your knowledge obtained from experience plus your knowledge through training and reading, to reflect critically on what you have seen and heard. As a minimum always consider and record: what you and the family are worried about; what is the impact of these risks / behaviours on the child and their family; what is working well to address these worries (strengths); what needs to happen next to address the risks and build on strengths.

As part of your analysis you should record how we are listening and capturing the voice of the child and how this translates into actions. We also need to record what has changed or improved as a result of listening to the wishes and feelings of children and young people.

  • Social Worker's Recommendations

Make sure you agree these with your manager:

  • No further action / close?
  • Further assessment required in certain areas?
  • Services to be provided?
  • Initial Child Protection Case Conference (ICPC)?
  • Accommodation?
  • Gateway/Care Proceedings?

2.9 Manager's Authorisation

Has the child been seen. If not, when and how will this be done? Is a strategy discussion / meeting required? Does the assessment meet stated timescales?

Management oversight of assessments is vital. Please record case discussions and agreed actions on case notes in the appropriate section.

2.10 Next Steps Following Assessment

The outcome of your assessment could involve more than one step.

2.11 Sharing of the Assessment

Pop up 20: Face to face sharing of your report is best practice.

2.12 Action Plan

Every assessment should be focused on outcomes, deciding which services and support to provide in order to deliver improved welfare for the child and to reflect the child's best interests. In the course of the assessment the Social Worker and their line manager should determine;

  • Is this a Child in Need? (Section 17, Children Act 1989);
  • Is there reasonable cause to suspect that this child is suffering, or is likely to suffer significant harm? (Section 47, Children Act 1989);
  • Is this a child in need of accommodation? (Section 20 or Section 31A Children Act 1989).

The possible outcomes of the assessment should be decided by the Social Worker and their line manager and agree a plan of action setting out the services to be delivered; how and by whom, in discussion with the child and family and the professionals involved.

The outcomes may be as follows:

  • Close / No further action;
  • Additional support which can be provided through universal services and targeted service provision via early help processes / team around the family (TAF);
  • The development of a multi-agency child in need plan for the provision of child in need services to promote the child's health and development;
  • Undertaking a strategy discussion / meeting and a possible Section 47 child protection enquiry;
  • Elevated concerns for the child's welfare and safety requiring the consideration of PLO / care proceedings;
  • Emergency action to protect a child requiring that the child is placed in care.

The outcome of the assessment should be:

  • Discussed with the child and family and provided to them in written form. Exceptions to this are where this might place a child at risk of harm or jeopardise an enquiry;
  • Taking account of confidentiality, provided to professional referrers;
  • Given in writing to the agencies involved in providing services to the child with the action points, review dates and intended outcomes for the named child.

The maximum time frame for the assessment to conclude, such that it is possible to reach a decision on Next Steps, should be no longer than 45 working days from the point of referral or from the point that it is decided an assessment is necessary. If in discussion with a child and their family and other professionals an assessment exceeds 45 working days, the Social Worker and professionals involved should record the reasons for exceeding the time limit.

Practice Triggers

  • The best outcomes for children and families will be arrived at through considered consultation and involvement with all of the relevant agencies;
  • Have the child's needs been considered over and above that of the parents or carers?
  • Is the child's welfare going to be improved by delivering on the action plan?
  • Ensure the plan has timescales that are realistic.

The child and families views about the services received should be noted in this section, including what was good, did it help or make a difference and what needs to be improved.