SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
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 are useful hints / tips to have in mind when completing a Social Care Single Assessment.
In September 2020, this guidance was reviewed throughout and updated as required to reflect local practice and processes for carrying out Single Assessments. Detailed guidance on Information Sharing and Consent was added into Section 1, Introduction.
Derby City Council uses a Strengths Based Approach for all work with children and families.
- Planning Our Social Work - The Social Care Single Assessment
The Derby Social Care 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 Whilst this guidance has been superseded by Working Together to Safeguard Children, the assessment framework will continue to be used to support our assessment processes because it is evidence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.
This 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 your 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 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:
- Using our practice model; a strengths based approach;
- Working in partnership with them, so we can get to know them, their strengths, their needs and any risks;
- Working collaboratively with multi-agency partners;
- Use of Early Help interventions;
- Strong reflective social work practice, analysis and supervision that drives outcome focused plans;
- Strengthening the use of research in our social work practice;
- Being clear about 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 with consent in a timely manner which may impact on the child/young person.
All practitioners should aim to gain consent to share information, but should be mindful of situations where to do so would place a child at increased risk of harm.
Information Sharing and Consent
Effective information sharing underpins integrated working and is a vital element of both early intervention and safeguarding. Keeping children safe from harm requires practitioners to be proactive in sharing information as early as possible to help identify, assess and respond to risks or concerns about the safety and welfare of children. Wherever possible, practitioners should seek consent and be open and honest with the child and family from the outset as to why, what, how and with whom, their information will be shared. Practitioners should seek consent where an individual may not expect their information to be passed on. Consent to share must be explicit and freely given. Prior to making contact with any agency, practitioners should discuss needs and concerns with the family and seek the family's agreement. Consent from the parent/carer (and where appropriate the child/young person) should be obtained in writing prior to sharing information, and, in all cases a record of the discussion and who gave consent must be made in LCS.
There may be some circumstances where it is not appropriate to seek consent, either because the individual cannot give consent, it is not reasonable to obtain consent, or because to gain consent would put an unborn baby, child or young person's safety or wellbeing at risk. Where a decision to share information without consent is being considered, a discussion should take place with the team manager and a record of the discussion, decision making and a record of what has been shared, or not shared, should be kept. Where the parent/carer or young person is consulted and refuses to give permission for information to be shared and contact with another agency made, further advice and approval should be sought from the team manager, unless to do so would cause undue delay. The outcome of the consultation and any further advice should be fully recorded. If, having taken full account of the parent/carers young person's wishes, it is still considered that there is a need to share information with other agencies, the reason for proceeding without agreement must be recorded; and agencies should be told that the parent/carer/young person has withheld permission; the parent should be contacted by the worker to inform that after considering their wishes, it is still felt necessary to share the information.
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. For more information see the Supervision Policy.
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 that LCS is up to date; in particular Ethnicity and Nationality, Disability, Professional Involvements and Relationships.
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 get the consent of those with PR for the child to speak to all of the professionals involved with them, to gain their views and gather necessary information. At this stage the social worker will agree the Assessment Plan with parents in writing.Practice Triggers (not an exclusive list)
- Think of the whole family and who may be involved, particularly absent fathers, and male roles within the household e.g. 'father figures';
- Ensure LCS is fully utilised and all involved are added to LCS with the correct relationship;
- 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. For all initial single assessments, every child that resides in the home, should be included. 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 in subsequent assessments 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 case reviews and learning reviews; including consideration of disguised compliance, stereotyping, the particular needs of large families, and reflection on impact of threatening behaviours towards workers/professionals.
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. The worker should focus on the family's strengths and identify support within the family network. The genogram should be completed, to assist. 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 needs are identified early, it is much easier to give parents help/support to address them; and required support should be offered at the earliest opportunity without waiting for the finalised assessment.
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 will take place in the agreed timescale for each individual assessment. They should comment on the assessment plan and their views of the timescales recommended by the social worker and family; within the worker's supervision.
Assessments should be completed within 45 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, or for those who the threshold increases during the assessment period, the Single Assessment may not be completed in time for the Initial Child Protection Conference however a conference report will be completed. The Single Assessment will still be completed within the 45 day timescale.
The single assessment should be completed each time there is a significant event, and, as a minimum, at 12 month intervals.
- Set a completion date within your electronic calendar, and be aware that your manager will need the assessment 5 working days prior to the final deadline;
- 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 5 working days if assessment arising because it is considered child may be in need);
- Has the child been seen? If not, please consider when will this be done, and case note clearly.
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 Safeguarding Children Partnership Procedures which as well as giving general guidance, offers advice for children in specific circumstances. If a child is not seen in this timeframe then the threshold must be considered and the matter escalated or closed.Practice Trigger
- Managerial direction and oversight is essential in child protection processes;
- Detailed and specific recording is essential in S47 enquiries; all hand written notes should be scanned into the electronic system.
2.5 Your Family, Background, History and Safety
The social worker in conjunction with the key family members will undertake an exercise to draw and understand the genogram (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.
- Chronology / significant events and all professional involvement.
In this section the social worker will document pertinent components of the family chronology on LCS 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. The LCS chronology function should be used in all cases.
- 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.
Other involved agencies
Parents must provide consent in order that social workers obtain and read reports, and gain feedback from any other involved agency, from current or historical involvement. Written consent must be provided from parents before this can be undertaken.
You should consider the following types of assessment, or gathering information from the agency, but this is not an exhaustive list, remain curious. Remember consent should be sought from the parent/s and, where appropriate the child, before discussing and gathering information from other agencies. All agencies and professionals involved with the child/ren and family have a responsibility to contribute to the assessment process with the consent of parents.
If parents do not provide consent s; consideration must be given to the level of concern for the child/ren as consent is required when working with children, young people and their families unless the concerns are that the child/ren requires safeguarding. A lack of consent may change the level of concern however if this is not the case the lack of consent must be respected.
The following professionals may be involved with a family, and it may be of importance to consider their input within the assessment:
- Education (School report, SEND, 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);
- International social care and police checks may be required;
- ….. and more!
Remember to ask about where they lived before, and check all records in that area too.
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
|Safe sleep arrangements||Yes||Derby and Derbyshire Safeguarding Children Partnership Procedures Guidance to Support Safe Sleeping Practices in Babies and Infants|
|Don't shake your baby advice||Yes||Shaking your Baby is just not the deal|
|Home safety||Yes||Derby and Derbyshire Safeguarding Children Partnership Procedures - Child and Family Safety|
|Safe storage of harmful substances||Yes||Keep Safe - Safe Storage of Methadone, Alcohol and other Medication|
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.
- Make the child real. Have you seen each child?
- 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 strengths, safeguards and risks in the wider family and any associated regular visitors to the house. Explore finances, budgeting and housing.
- 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.
- 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 parents or carers are 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.
- Each parent / carer to be seen alone;
- Does the assessment need interpreting? If so think about this – do parents or carers read the written language or is the use of an interpreter to share more effective;
- Do the parents / carers understand the content of the assessment? If not what steps need to be taken to make this accessible in order to inform change;
- 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, or ongoing support, 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?
- Evidence your knowledge and skills;
- Have you made sense of the case?
- Have you identified the family's strengths?
- 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 focused manner e.g. parental hostility, avoidance, chaotic situations, time restrictions and more?
- Have you had a dialogue with your manager?
- You are the professional expert;
- Do your truly understand the child's world?
- Show your evidence base;
- Have you been curious enough?
- Have you considered factors which may have impacted on your assessment and 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 assessment analysis is critical as this makes 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. What does all this mean for the child/ren? Using your knowledge from training and research plus your experience and supervision, 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 or behaviours on the child and their family; what is working well to address these worries, what are the family's strengths? What needs to happen next to address the risks and build on strengths.As part of your analysis you should consider and reflect the voice of each child and how this translates into actions. The different worries and analysis for each child must be evident. You also need to reflect what has changed or improved as a result of the parents or carers listening to the wishes and feelings of children and young people.
Social Worker's Recommendations
- Have you been clear about the rationale for the recommendations and considered the threshold document?
Make sure you agree these with your manager:
- No further action / close?
- Further assessment required in certain areas?
- Services to be provided?
- It is vital to consider threshold at this point.
2.9 Manager's Authorisation
Management oversight of assessments is vital, and the manager must comment on threshold in this section. Please record case discussions and agreed actions on case notes in the appropriate section.
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;
- Could this family be supported by Early Help services?
- 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 outcome 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. Remember parental consent is required for Early Help intervention or Child in Need support.
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. For families whose first language is not English then an interpreter must be used to share the assessment;
- The outcome of the assessment - not the assessment document - is to be shared with the agencies involved in providing services to the child with the action points, review dates and intended outcomes for the named child. Remember parental consent will be required for this unless Child Protection procedures have been initiaited;
- The outcome of the assessment – not the assessment document-is shared with the referrer in writing.
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.