1.1.3 Assessment Protocol
AMENDMENTIn March 2015, Section 8.6 Young People Aged 16 Years or 17 Years Who are Homeless was added.
This protocol has been developed and agreed by
- Leicestershire County Council;
- Rutland County Council;
- Leicester City Council;
- Leicestershire & Rutland LSCB;
- Leicester City LSCB;
- Health partners;
- Other partners.
The purpose of this protocol is to clarify arrangements for how cases will be managed when a child is referred into Children's Social Care.Each local authority is publicly accountable for this protocol and all organisations and agencies have a responsibility to understand their role in helping to implement it.
Assessments will be conducted for the following purposes:
- Early Help Assessment to determine the type and level of Early Help Assessment services to be provided. In Leicester City and Rutland this assessment will be conducted by the Early Help Assessment or TAF Team. In Leicestershire this assessment will be conducted by the Early Help Assessment Service. These assessments may be conducted by a Lead Professional or a social worker;
- Assessment to determine statutory services under:
Assessments will be conducted in a timely manner that is transparent and proportionate to the needs of individual children and their families. Primarily it is the needs of the child which should drive the assessment: delay is not in the child’s interest. At any point in the process of the assessment there is a concern that a child is likely to or is suffering Significant Harm, the child’s immediate safety must be considered and a Strategy Meeting convened.
The timeframes for statutory assessment are as follows:
- The assessment starts on the date it is received as a referral by Children’s Social Care;
- The assessment should be completed within 40 days;
- An initial review date should be agreed between the social worker and their manager which is no more than 10 days from the initial start date;
- The timescale for the assessment should be continually reviewed in supervision. If it appears the assessment will not be completed within the agreed timescale Service Manager authorisation will be required. This should be applied for in writing prior to 35 days from the start of assessment;
- The child or young person must be seen within 4 days of the start of the assessment, and within 24 hours if injuries or high risk are indicated. If the child is not seen alone, this should be recorded along with the reasons why.
In line with the relevant timescales key decision or review points will be agreed which involve the child, family, social worker and relevant professionals. The review points will be used to monitor the progress of the assessment and to ensure it is completed within the 40 working days timescale.
Review points may include, for example:
- At the point the social worker should have seen the child alone, and their views and wishes have been heard and recorded; the child's home address has been visited and the child's bedroom has been seen;
- At the point all the individual children in the household have been seen and their needs considered;
- At the point the parents have been seen and their views and wishes have been recorded and taken into account;
- At the point early findings may indicate whether no further action is required, a child is In Need, or a Section 47 Enquiry should be initiated;
- At the point the assessment analysis and evaluation has been completed.
In all assessments the views and wishes of the child should be heard and recorded.
The child or young person and their family have the most vital role to play in the process of assessment. Depending on age and ability, they must agree to the assessment, understand its purpose, who is involved and what is expected of them especially in terms of what change is required and how this is going to be measured. The involvement of wider family and friends should be noted.Consent must be obtained from the child or young person and parents in cases assessed by Early Help Assessment or Early Help Assessment. Consent is necessary for all assessments unless to do so would risk the child’s welfare, safety or further harm.
The purpose of case recording is to maintain a record of contact with children, their families and other professionals. Case recording provides the basis for an analysis of needs or risk and for decision making and planning. Recording should include information on the child's development so that progress can be monitored to ensure their outcomes are improving. Case file records will be regularly monitored through single and multi-agency audited.
It is the responsibility of the social worker/ lead professional to analyse all the information gathered from the enquiry stage of the assessment, decide the nature and level of the child's needs and the level of risk, if any, they may be facing.
In all assessments, information from previous assessments conducted by a partner agency such as an Early Help Assessment or a Common Assessment Framework should be used to inform the assessment.
The line manager of the social worker / lead professional should provide regular supervision, and challenge the worker's assumptions as part of this process.
Supervision should be reflective and:
- Focus on the precise assessment of developmental progress with consideration of when there is a need for expert advice;
- Emphasise the assessment of parenting capacity, with identification of difficulties to be targeted and plans established for how this will happen;
- Identify intervention designed to improve parenting and reduce risk.
All agencies and professionals involved with the child, young person and the family, have a responsibility to contribute to the assessment process. This contribution will vary depending on the circumstances of the child; it can include the provision of information and services. Agencies who contribute to the assessment should be involved in its planning, review and analysis. Contribution from the following agencies should always be considered:
- Police, especially if an offence may have been committed;
- Health, especially in relation to the child’s development and the family history;
- Education, including where relevant, pre-school and further/higher education.
Other agencies and organisations may need to be asked to contribute to the assessment process, depending on the circumstances of the child and their family. This may include agencies which work with adults, for example where parents or another adult living in the household have drug, alcohol or mental ill health problems or learning difficulties. Professionals who are primarily providing a service to the child’s parents or carers have a vital role to play in developing an understanding of the parent’s capacity and they have a duty to participate in the process of assessment.
Partner agencies who have been involved in the assessment should be informed of the outcome in writing. Where they are involved in providing services to the child, this information should clearly state action points, review dates and intended outcomes for the child, as agreed between them and the social worker or lead professional.
It is possible that professionals have different experiences of the child and family and understanding these differences will actively contribute to the understanding of the child / family.
Differences of opinion between professionals should be resolved speedily but where this is not possible, the arrangements for resolving practitioner disagreements should be implemented - see Resolving Practitioner Disagreements and Escalation of Concerns Procedure.
Where particular needs are identified at any stage of the assessment, the social worker/ lead professional should not wait until the assessment is concluded before commissioning services to support the child and their familyThe needs of disabled children, young carers and children involved in the youth justice system should be addressed specifically in the assessment process
A disabled child is defined under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 as: “A child is disabled if he is blind, deaf or dumb or suffers from mental disorder of any kind or is substantially and permanently handicapped by illness, injury or congenital deformity or such other disability as may be prescribed”.
Each LA has their definition of “Disabled Child”. The CSC manual covers many of the issues of assessment, including Disabled Children - the Principles of Services for Disabled Children. See Leicester City, Leicestershire and Rutland Children Social Care Procedures Manual.Care should be taken wherever possible to ensure that duplication of assessment is avoided. Children with specific communication needs (e.g. language, disability, asylum seeking, age or understanding) should be considered carefully to ensure their contribution to the assessment reflects their views and opinions where possible.
The specific needs of young carers should be given sufficient recognition and priority in the assessment process. The Supporting the Health and Wellbeing of Carers in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland - A Strategy and Delivery Action Plan 2012 defines a young carer as “… a child or young person under 18 who provides regular, ongoing care and emotional support to a family member who is physically or mentally ill, disabled or misuses substances. A young person becomes vulnerable when the level of care-giving and responsibility to the person in need of care becomes excessive or inappropriate for that child, risking impacting on his or her emotional or physical wellbeing or educational achievement and life chances”.
The needs of children/young people undertaking caring activities within their family environment need to be identified and support put in place to reduce the impact of inappropriate levels of caring on their lives.
An assessment may be needed to decide what type and level of support is needed. Young carers may be entitled to services in their own right, under the Children Act, and therefore it may be appropriate for a young carer to be assessed under this Act.
For the cared-for person a Community Care Assessment should identify the support that is required and for this to be supplied, so that the young carer’s role is not excessive in the light of their age and their own educational, health and social needs.
For more information see:
Leicester Young Carers (see Leicester City Council website)
The Youth Offending Service and each Local Authority have a protocol for the assessment and support to children who offend, and their families. These can be accessed here: Leicester City, Leicestershire and Rutland Children and Young People's Service Procedures Manual.
In relation to assessments conducted as part of a Section 47 Enquiry:
- The assessment should always be initiated by a Strategy Meeting/Discussion between the police, children’s social care, health and education and any other agencies who are involved with the child and who can provide relevant information. This meeting/discussion must consider any steps that need to be taken immediately to protect the child’s welfare;
- The conduct of the assessment and the information and analysis may be kept from a parent or carer if, in passing on the information, the child’s safety would be compromised. The principle of working in partnership with the parents and the child should, however, be upheld wherever possible;
- If one child in a household is being assessed as part of a Section 47 Enquiry, any other children living there may also be assessed if they may have had contact with the alleged perpetrator.
Careful assessment and consideration should be given when children are to be returned from care to live with their families. Assessments to inform transition and contingency plans should specifically address risk and danger statements to ensure the safety of children and sustainability of the plan.
Assessment and services to young people aged 16 years or 17 years should be provided in line with the judgment in the House of Lords, (R(G) v Southwark LBC in May 2009. This judgment clarified the responsibility of children's services for accommodating homeless young people aged 16 and 17 under the Children Act 1989. There is national guidance: Provision of Accommodation for 16 and 17 year old young people who may be homeless and/or require accommodation.
The judgment made clear that children's services should presume that any lone, homeless child should be provided with accommodation under Section 20 unless the child is not (based on an initial screening assessment) a Child in Need and that the Children Act has primacy over the Housing Act in providing for children in need. It also emphasised the continuing duty of housing and children's services to collaborate in the discharge of their duties to children and young people;
The initial point of contact for a young person presenting as homeless to Children's Social Care will be the First Response First Response Children's Duty in Leicestershire, Children’s Duty & Advice Team in Leicester City and Children’s Duty & Assessments in Rutland. For more information see Referrals to Children’s Social Care Procedure.
A Section 17 assessment must be initiated and must include their need for somewhere to live and whether this requires them to be provided with care and accommodation under Section 20(1). If a young person is assessed as having their welfare significantly prejudiced without helping her/him with housing support, Children’s Social Care can make Section 17 payments in the short-term, with the expectation that all benefits will be claimed.
It is possible for Children’s Social Care to reach a decision either:
- That a 16 or 17 year old requires help with accommodation, in other words provision of financial support for the payment of a deposit or social work support to find somewhere appropriate to live under Section 17; or
- That if care and accommodation is required for a vulnerable child in need where the Section 20 criteria are met and accommodation is provided that this must be provided under Section 20.
The criteria for accommodation are specified in Section 20 (1) as follows:
- Every local authority shall provide accommodation for any child in need within their area as a result of:
- There being no person who has Parental Responsibility for him;
- The child being lost or abandoned; or
- The person who has been caring for him being prevented from providing him with suitable accommodation or care (temporarily or permanently).
There is a further test in relation to 16 and 17 year olds, as follows:
- Every local authority shall provide accommodation for any child in need within their area who has reached the age of sixteen and whose welfare the authority consider is likely to be seriously prejudiced if they do not provide him with accommodation Section 20(3).
Section 20(6) states that before providing accommodation under this section, a local authority shall, so far as is reasonably practicable and consistent with the child's welfare ascertain the child's wishes regarding the provision of accommodation; and give due consideration (having regard to his age and understanding) to such wishes of the child as they have been able to ascertain.
Where the local authority housing department has reason to believe a young person may be homeless they must immediately assess the housing need of the applicant and provide interim housing if needed.If this identifies a need for "somewhere to live" or for "a roof over their head" then the Housing Authority must meet that need and provide housing. This will be the exception rather than the rule.
The social worker / lead professional should determine whether any specialist assessments should be undertaken to assist them in their assessment and decision making. This includes such assessments as for children with special educational needs, disabled children, and specialist health assessments such as CAMHS, consultant paediatrician or Occupational Therapy.Reference should be made to previous assessments from any of these agencies to help the social worker understand the child’s needs, and to improve assessment analysis and outcome decision making.
Complaints and representations can be made to each local authority.
Where the complaint is about a partner agency’s role in the assessment process, the social work manager or other local authority personnel receiving the complaint should refer it to the relevant manager in the partner agency, or the agency’s complaints department.