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1.3.2 Child in Need Assessment and Plan


Working Together to Safeguard Children

Assessment Protocol

Locally agreed practice standards

Flow chart 3: Action taken for an assessment of a child under the Children Act 1989


This chapter was most recently reviewed in July 2018.


  1. Child in Need Assessment? 
  2. Timescale 
  3. The Process of the Assessment 
  4. Involving Parents
  5. Possible Outcomes of the Assessment 
  6. Feedback from Assessment 
  7. Recording the Assessment 
  8. Child in Need Plan

    Appendix 1: Flowchart: Action taken for an assessment of a child under the Children Act 1989

1. Child in Need Assessment?

If, as a result of a Referral, there are indications that the child is In Need, a social worker will undertake an assessment to determine the needs of the child. The assessment should be undertaken in accordance with the Assessment Protocol and any locally agreed practice standards. The parents' consent should be sought before starting the assessment.

The Assessment for a Child in Need will address the following questions:

  • What are the developmental needs of the child?
  • Are the parents - including separated father’s able to respond appropriately to the child’s identified needs?
  • What impact are the family functioning and history, the wider family and environmental factors having on the parent’s capacity to respond to their child’s needs and the child’s developmental progress?
  • Are there any other children in the household or elsewhere who should be included in the  Assessment?
An analysis of all relevant information (including information about the history and functioning of the family both currently and in the past, and adult problems such as domestic abuse, substance misuse, mental illness and criminal behaviour/convictions) should be taken into account.

2. Timescale

This assessment must be completed within the timeframe of the child and their family. A review date and completion date should be agreed between the social worker and their manager when the assessment starts. The timescale will be agreed to respond to the child’s needs but no later than 45 working days from the point of the referral. 

Any delay in completing the assessment must be authorised by a Children’s Social Care manager and the reasons recorded. Any such decision must be consistent with the safety and welfare of the child.

3. The Process of the Assessment

The multi-agency assessment should be led and coordinated by a qualified social worker and must provide a rigorous analysis of the child's needs and the capacity of the child's parents to meet these needs within their family and environment. The Assessment process will be in line with any locally agreed practice standards and reflect any local models of practice that are in place.

The multi-agency assessment should be supervised by a highly experienced and qualified social work manager. It should be carefully planned, with clarity about who is doing what, and what information is to be shared with the parents.

The process of the Assessment should involve seeing and speaking to the child or children involved usually alone and must be in their preferred language. The child’s age and level of understanding, will determine how their participation in the assessment is ensured and may include observation and direct work. Parents carers and wider friend and family within the child’s network will be included and their views taken into account as part of the assessment work as appropriate (see Section 4, Involving Parents). 

The social worker carrying out the assessment will consult with:

  • All agencies involved with the child and family;
  • The person/agency who made the referral.

The assessment will involve drawing together and analysing available information from a range of sources, including existing records, and involving and obtaining relevant information from professionals in relevant agencies and others in contact with the child and family. Where an Early Help assessment or previous assessments or specialist assessment have already been completed this information should be used to inform this Assessment. 

Each agency should be informed of the reason for the assessment, with confirmation that parental consent has been obtained and asked for their assessment of the child in the light of information presented. All agencies consulted are responsible for engaging in the assessment process and should make immediate checks of their records for previous history and information that is relevant and helpful in deciding the level of enquiry that is required. The response should be made verbally and if requested provide this information in writing.

The child should be seen by the Social Worker, without his or her caregivers, when appropriate within a timescale that is appropriate to the nature of the assessment and according to the agreed plan. Local practice standards should be applied in agreeing the timescale for seeing the child.

When seeing the child this will include observing and communicating with the child in a manner appropriate to his or her age and understanding. Children's Social Care Services are required by the Children Act 1989 (as amended by Section 53 of the Children Act 2004) to ascertain the child's wishes and feelings about the provision of services and give them due consideration before determining what (if any) services to provide. Interviews with the child should be undertaken in the preferred language of the child. For some disabled children, interviews may require the use of non-verbal communication methods.

The assessment should include seeking information from relevant services if the child and family have lived in another LA or out of the UK.

See Children from Abroad, including Victims of Modern Slavery, Trafficking and Exploitation Procedure and Foreign and Commonwealth Office contact details for information about who to contact.

The worker carrying out the Assessment should make it clear to the agencies consulted that the information provided for the assessment may be shared with the family and other agencies and will contribute to the assessment unless to do so would put the child at risk of suffering significant harm.

4. Involving Parents

Parents and family members are consulted, the social worker carrying out the Assessment should make it clear to them that the information provided for the assessment may be shared with other agencies and will contribute to the assessment. This will include information about how the assessment will be stored.

This should include parents or carers who do not live in the same household as the child.

5. Possible Outcomes of the Assessment

An Assessment is deemed completed once the assessment has been discussed with the child and family and authorised by the manager.

As a result of the Assessment, the Children’s Social Care Services will decide one of the following:

  • That the child is not In Need. In which case the Children’s Social Care Services will take no further action other than, where appropriate, to provide information and advice or sign posting to another agency in accordance with the local Early Help Assessment criteria;
  • That the child is In Need but there are no concerns about actual or likely Significant Harm. In which case the Children’s Social Care Services, in consultation with other agencies, will determine what services they should provide and draw up a Child in Need Plan to respond;
  • That the child is In Need and that there are concerns that the child is suffering or is at risk of suffering Significant Harm. In which case Children’s Social Care Services will initiate a Strategy Discussion/Meeting to determine whether a Section 47 Enquiry and further Assessment are required; and consider whether any immediate protective action is also required - see Strategy Discussions Procedure.

The Children’s Social Care Services manager must approve the assessment and ensure that:

  • There has been direct communication with the child alone and their views and wishes have been recorded and taken into account when providing services;
  • All the children in the household have been seen and their needs considered;
  • The child's home address has been visited and the child's bedroom has been seen;
  • The parent/carer has been seen and their views and wishes have been recorded and taken into account;
  • Background history of both mother and father, or other adult carer, and their parenting skills and capacity has been considered;
  • The analysis has been completed;
  • The assessment provides clear evidence for decisions on what types of services are needed to provide good outcomes for the child and family;
  • The records and the child’s chronology within the records are up-to-date;
  • The assessment and plan will be reviewed regularly;
  • The action points have been distributed to all participants.

6. Feedback from Assessment

Parents will usually be informed in writing of the outcome of the Assessment unless to do so would:

  • Be prejudicial to the child’s welfare and/or safety;
  • Cause concern that the child would be suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm.

See also Information Sharing and Confidentiality Procedure.

Any decision not to share the outcome with the parents must be endorsed by a Children’s Social Care Services manager and recorded, with reasons for the decisions.

At the earliest possible opportunity, the social worker carrying out the assessment will also advise the following people/agencies of the outcome in writing, consistent with respecting the confidentiality of the child and not jeopardising future action:

  • All agencies involved with the child and family;
  • The person/agency who made the referral.

7. Recording the Assessment

A clear account of the Assessment must be made using the Assessment Record, setting out who has been contacted, the information received, the assessment of the child’s needs and their circumstances with a full analysis, the outcomes and decisions. 

A Children’s Social Care Services manager must agree in writing with all decisions taken. The decisions and follow up actions must be monitored and reviewed by the manger to ensure that they are followed through.

8. Child in Need Plan

A child's plan will be drawn up at a Child in Need Planning Meeting in conjunction with the child (if appropriate) and their parents/carers.

The Child in Need Plan will clearly specify:

  • The strengths, risks and needs that have been identified during assessment and the desired outcomes for the child as negotiated;
  • The resources needed to meet identified needs and to address risks, and which agencies will provide the resources;
  • Who will be responsible for implementing each part of the plan and within what timescales;
  • Contingency plans, if required;
  • The method of monitoring and evaluating the work being undertaken, i.e. measuring the effectiveness of interventions and support for the family. This must always include asking the family if they are finding the interventions helpful.

Appendix 1: Flowchart: Action taken for an assessment of a child under the Children Act 1989

Click here to view Appendix 1: Flowchart: Action taken for an assessment of a child under the Children Act 1989.