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1.3.2 Child and Family Assessment

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

The decision to gather more information following a referral constitutes a Child and Family Assessment (CFA). Agency checks will be required to gather information.

Waltham Forest Assessment Framework is based on The Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families and will be used by Children’s Social Care practitioners in assessing the needs of children and their families. If a CAF/Multi-Agency Referral Form has been received the assessment process will take this into account.

RELATED GUIDANCE

What To Do If You’re Worried A Child Is Being Abused – Advice For Practitioners

Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families

Children Act 1989

Working Together to Safeguard Children

AMENDMENT

This chapter was updated in March 2017 when additional guidance was added to Section 4, Key Points of Process and Management Oversight During the Child and Family Assessment.


Contents

  1. Child and Family Assessments
  2. Background to and the Purpose of the Single Social Care Assessment
  3. Timescales, Assessment Checkpoints and Managerial Oversight
  4. Key Points of Process and Management Oversight During the Child and Family Assessment
  5. Purpose of Reviews and Expectations
  6. Management of the Child and Family Assessment - Key Points
  7. Seeing and Speaking to / Observing the Child
  8. Keeping the Family Informed
  9. Recording and Access to Assessments


1. Child and Family Assessments

The Child and Family Assessments will determine:

  • If a child is in need and what the specific needs are;
  • If a child is at risk and what levels of risk are found with services and actions identified to reduce these;
  • Their level of vulnerability;
  • How needs can be met;
  • Which of their needs should be met as a priority;
  • Outcomes sought;
  • Which resources or professionals can best meet the identified needs.

Assessment Framework Triangle


Assessment Triangle

The Assessment Framework is an established systematic approach to the process of gathering information about children who may be in need and their families.


2. Background to and the Purpose of the Single Social Care Assessment

The Child and Family Assessment was introduced at the London Borough of Waltham Forest in response to the recommendations of Eileen Munro being adopted by Working Together in Safeguarding Children and is entitled the Child and Family Assessment. The Child and Family Assessment replaces the previous Initial Assessment and Core Assessment within the children and young person’s assessment framework.

The Child and Family Assessment provides an opportunity for social workers to focus on the specific needs of and allow appropriate time within the assessment for reflection and direct work with the child/young person to ensure a robust and analytical assessment.

The Munro Review of Child Protection recommended reducing statutory guidance on safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children in order to promote local autonomy and increase the scope for practitioners to exercise their professional judgement. The focus of the Child and Family Assessment is for social workers to draw on their professional judgement to analyse and reflect on information gathered regarding that child or young person, and focus the assessment on the specific needs identified leading to a high quality assessment that is child focussed. An assessment is a fluid process that considers emerging needs and sustainability of any change for the family.

The assessment is intended to be used proportionately to gather the most significant and relevant information according to the circumstances of particular children and will determine the range and type of detail of the assessment. The focus of the Child and Family Assessment follows the domains of the Framework for Assessment triangle. The assessment helps to inform the analysis about the needs of that child and the nature or level of any identifiable risks; it helps inform judgment as to whether the child is in need or is at risk of significant harm; it also describes how those needs or risks will be addressed - whether child in need or looking at child protection processes. Any case leading to closure following an assessment will include a recorded rationale and consideration as to whether the child and family would benefit from input from Team Around the Family support.


3. Timescales, Assessment Checkpoints and Managerial Oversight

On receipt of a referral to the Waltham Forest Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub, the team has 24 hours in which to make a decision about any actions to be taken in respect of the identified child.

If a decision is made that a referral requires a Child and Family Assessment by a social worker, the referral will be allocated to the relevant Children in Need or Children with Disabilities Team. Management decisions at this point will need to be made in the referral which will then copy across to the Child and Family Assessment.

The completion of the Child and Family Assessment should take no longer than 45 working days from the trigger date (Referral, Strategy discussion, etc).

If safeguarding concerns are identified at the point of referral, the outcome of the referral will be a Child and Family Assessment episode as well as strategy discussion episode with subsequent Section 47 initiation if deemed necessary.

If safeguarding concerns are identified at the Child and Family Assessment stage a Strategy Discussion should be held and an episode open to determine if a Section 47 enquiry should be progressed. The Waltham Forest LSCB Child Protection Strategy Meeting Protocol should be followed. A review Child and Family Assessment can be initiated/ opened at any point by a team manager.

Dependent on the outcome of the Section 47 investigation the Child and Family Assessment will either form the basis of the social worker’s evidence to a Child Protection Case Conference or will provide the assessment framework which underpins and informs a Child in Need intervention.

In either case the need for robust multi agency planning and review is critical to the effectiveness of the process.


4. Key Points of Process and Management Oversight During the Child and Family Assessment

  • The initial plan will be developed by the allocated social worker in discussion with the manager based on the available information and the presenting concerns. This plan will be specific, needs led and outcome focussed and will be recorded in the Child and Family Assessment episode;
  • The social worker and team manager must ensure that the child(ren) are visited no later than 10 working days from receiving the request for support and protection and within 24 hours if there is section 47 concern. Good practice would suggest that the initial visit should be completed within 3-5 working days for the majority of s17 assessments;
  • A management review of the initial plan should take place after the initial visit and within a maximum of 10 working days. The social worker should task the assessment to the manager on integrated children system. This review will determine the need for further visits etc and the approximate timeframe for the completion of the assessment;
  • A further management review of the Child and Family Assessment should occur at approximately 25 working days to determine the need and focus of on-going work;
  • Assessments should be completed in a timely manner. Some will be completed within 10 working days with others taking longer to a maximum of 45 working days. While the assessment remains open it is important that the social worker continues to visit the family on a regular basis (good practice would be no less than every 10 working days). When the social worker is confident that they have a good understanding of the family’s needs they will record the relevant information in the Child and Family Assessment. Good practice suggests that the assessment will be recorded within 10 working days of the final visit;
  • Child and Family Assessment is to be tasked to a team manager five days before the end date to ensure management oversight, sufficient time to quality assure the work and address any management suggestions by the social worker;
  • It is important that the family are kept informed of the progress of the assessment and the purpose of each visit. When the assessment is completed the family should be given a copy of the assessment and supported to understand the analysis and recommendations;
  • All Child and Family Assessments are recorded confidentially on  Framework / Mosaic.

Note: if there is a concern with regards to trafficking, a referral into the National Referral Mechanism should be made. See - GOV.UK, Digital Referral System: Report Modern Slavery.


5. Purpose of Reviews and Expectations

Within 7 working days of the referral recommending that a Child and Family Assessment is undertaken, the social worker will ensure that the child(ren) and family are seen and make a start to the Child and Family Assessment with regard to the issues raised within the referral and the time it will take to undertake the assessment and send initial copy of assessment to team manager within timescale set. NB where immediate child protection concerns are identified the child(ren) must be seen within 1 working day of the referral being received.

The social worker will then discuss the findings of the initial inquiries within 10 working days from the Child and Family Assessment being recommended - that including the conclusions following the first visit, seeing/ speaking to the child(ren) and the plan of progress of the Child and Family Assessment. The responsible manager will then set a target date for completion based on the recommendation of the allocated social worker with consideration for further review.

There should be a second review with the responsible manager should the assessment expect to extend beyond 25 working days.

NB: At initial review point, some assessments should be at completion. In setting the manager’s further review date, consideration should be given to the issues raised within the referral, information collated by the social worker in the initial visit, any other information collated within the previous 10 days and any commitments the allocated social worker may have over the forthcoming period. The Manager’s Target Date would be set between 10 and 25 working days.

Target dates should be set at an appropriate and proportionate period to enable a holistic and quality assessment is undertaken, including opportunity for direct work and reflection. The second review point should ensure that the social worker has sufficient time to record their involvement and complete the Single Social Care Assessment document without allowing for drift for the child/young person and their family.

There may be occasions where the target date set needs to be reviewed and possibly changed to accommodate significant changes in circumstances. This should be the exception rather than the rule, however a second review should always be held for assessments going beyond the 25 working day point.

By 10 working days, an initial child in need plan should be in place to identify actions to improve the situation for the child/young person and specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely outcomes to be recorded.

By 25 working days, an initial child in need meeting should be held and the plan be updated to demonstrate a child centred and SMART outcome focussed plan for the child.

At each review point, the manager should re-set the priority setting within the CIN plan for the child.


6. Management of the Child and Family Assessment - Key Points

Referral decision within 24 hours. Allocation within 2 working days to include manager setting priority, planned date for review and set tasks within timescales.

Initial tasks will be set by manager upon referral allocation and copied through into opened Child and Family Assessment, including priority setting of review 10 working days and planned review date set.

Visit child within 7 working days from allocation as a maximum, within 24 hours if section 47 concern. Best practice would suggest visit to child and family home within 3-5 working days.

Management review to take place at a maximum of 10 working days, good practice would be to review earlier and it needs to be specific and relating to the child in question.

After the first review (max 10 working days) need a second review if assessment is going to extend beyond 25 working days - to be clear of why and what impact upon the child.

Maximum timescale is 45 working days (although this will not stand for specified documents, i.e. Court reports within Single Social Care Assessment framework or the Report for Initial Child Protection Conference, etc.)

Initial Child Protection Conference will be held within 15 working days of a strategy discussion and the Child and Family Assessment needs to be completed 2 working days prior to conference at latest in order to share with parents and child.

Initial Child in Need plan needs to be completed within 10 working days (by the first review with the relevant team manager) with initial child in need meeting and updated plan in place by 25 working days.


7. Seeing and Speaking to / Observing the Child

Visiting the child

The purpose of the Child and Family Assessment is to determine if there is identifiable evidence of risk or identifiable significant harm to the child or whether they are unlikely to achieve or maintain a reasonable standard of health or development or they have a disability.

There is no statutory requirement or clear guideline as to how many times should a child be seen/ spoken to/ observed during the single social care assessment process.

Following the initial visit within seven working days (if child in need) or within 1 day (if child protection concerns), the social worker will make a plan of visiting the child throughout the course of the Child and Family Assessment and will discuss the visiting plan at the first review (within 10 working days from the referral/SSCA starting) to the relevant team manager.

There is an explicit expectation that the assessment includes and reflects the wishes and feelings of the child or young person in question.

With non-verbal children (whether due to age or disability/ learning difficulty), the social worker must observe and record the child’s presentation, reactions to parental and external stimuli, developmental/ age appropriate reactions and behaviours, etc.

Following each visit to the child, the social worker must compare, reflect on and make a professional judgement on whether the circumstances for the child are changing and in what direction. The child needs to be the focus of the assessment and the analysis needs to consider what positive outcomes would benefit the child and ensure they are appropriately safeguarded.


8. Keeping the Family Informed

Throughout the completion of the Child and Family Assessment there is an expectation that the social worker is clear with both the child and their family about the timing of key decisions throughout the assessment, how these will be reviewed and that their input is incredibly valuable throughout involvement. Families should be informed of dates of planned reviews and be part of outcome focussed planning.

The Child and Family Assessment is an opportunity for social workers to demonstrate evidenced based practice balanced with sound professional judgement.


9. Recording and Access to Assessments

All Child and Family Assessments are recorded confidentially on Waltham Forest Integrated Children System.

End