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3.4 Single Assessments (including Section 47 Enquiries)


Contents

  1. Definition
  2. Timescale
  3. Starting a Single Assessment
  4. Communication
  5. Categories of Cases for Single Assessment
  6. Planning and Conducting all Single / Specialist Assessments
  7. Conclusions and Outcomes of Single Assessments
  8. Conducting Section 47 Enquiries / Single Assessments
  9. Outcomes of a Section 47 Enquiry
  10. Recording Single Assessments and Section 47 Enquiries

    Appendix 1: Protocol for Single Assessment - Assessment Process Flowchart

    Appendix 2: North West Region Social Work Planning and Assessment Model


1. Definition

1.1 A Single Assessment is an in-depth assessment which addresses the central or most important aspects of the needs of a child and the capacity of his or her parents or carers to respond appropriately to these needs within the wider family and community context.
1.2 While the Single Assessment is led by Children's Services, it will invariably involve other agencies or independent professionals, who will provide information they hold about the child or parents, contribute specialist knowledge and/or give advice / undertake specialist assessments.
1.3 Single Assessments should be undertaken with the consent of and in partnership with the child and his or her parents and carers. The only exception is where a Section 47 Enquiry is conducted as part of a Single Assessment – see Section 8, Conducting Section 47 Enquiries / Single Assessments.


2. Timescale

2.1 The decision to undertake a Single Assessment should be made by the responsible team manager or when any Strategy Discussion / Meeting concludes that a Section 47 Enquiry is required or, in certain circumstances, on an open case – see Section 5, Categories of Cases for Single Assessment.
2.2 Single Assessments should be completed within 45 working days.
2.3 Where a Section 47 Enquiry is conducted as part of a Single Assessment, the Section 47 Enquiry must be completed within working 15 days – see Section 8, Conducting Section 47 Enquiries / Single Assessments.
2.4 In some cases Single Assessments may be started but the parents or child may decide to withdraw their cooperation or move away before all the information had been gathered. In such cases, subject to paragraph 2.5, the team manager may consider the Single Assessment to be completed. In such circumstances, the team manager must record this decision, together with the reasons and ensure that the decision is shared with the parent and child (depending on his or her understanding) and other agencies involved. Services provided following the Initial Assessment may still be provided or arranged.
2.5 Where a Section 47 Enquiry is being conducted as part of the Single Assessment and the parents or child withdraw their cooperation or move away, the Single Assessment cannot be considered to have been completed unless the team manager is satisfied that arrangements are in place to safeguard the child concerned. The response may include:


3. Starting a Single Assessment

3.1 Single Assessments will be allocated to a qualified and experienced social worker.
3.2 The date of the start of the Single Assessment will be recorded on the electronic database - it will follow a new referral or the date that it was decided to undertake a Single Assessment on an open case.
  See also: Appendix 1: Protocol for Single Assessment - Assessment Process Flowchart


4. Communication

Caption: Communication
   
4.1 In planning the Single Assessment and in providing the parent and child with feedback, the social worker will need to consider and address any communication issues, for example language or impairment.
4.2 Where a child or parent speaks a language other than that spoken by the social worker, an interpreter should be provided. Any decision not to use an interpreter in such circumstances must be approved by the Team Manager and recorded.
4.3 Where a child or parent with disabilities has communication difficulties it may be necessary to use alternatives to speech. In communicating with a child with such impairment, it may be particularly useful to involve a person who knows the child well and is familiar with the child's communication methods. However, caution should be given in using family members to facilitate communication. Where the child has had a communication assessment, its conclusions and recommendations should be observed.
See also Liverpool Children's Services Procedures Manual, Guidance To Ensure The Voice of The Child Is Heard.


5. Categories of Cases for Single Assessment

5.1 Single Assessments will always be completed in the following circumstances:
5.2

A Single Assessment and or other specialist models of assessment should be completed in the following circumstances. The nature of the most appropriate assessment to be undertaken will be decided by the team manager (See Bruce Thornton Risk Models):

  • Where a child becomes or is at risk of becoming Accommodated;
  • Where the child is the subject of Care Proceedings;
  • Where the child has complex needs and family support services are likely to be required for longer than 3 months.
5.3 These are minimum thresholds. Single / specialist Assessments should be completed in all cases where the team manager concludes that a Single / specialist Assessment is needed or where professional judgment is that one would be helpful. This will include some cases where a Strategy Discussion / Meeting concludes that a Section 47 Enquiry is not required.
5.4 A separate Single / specialist Assessment must be recorded in respect of each child.
5.5 Single / specialist Assessments, or a review and up-dating of a previous Single / specialist Assessment, will also be required at specific stages in the life of a Looked After child to inform planning and to ensure all needs have been identified and are being met. Such stages include:


6. Planning and Conducting all Single / Specialist Assessments

6.1 The social worker should consider convening a Single Assessment Planning Meeting at the start of the Single / specialist Assessment.
6.2 The Assessment Framework provides detailed advice about key questions to be considered in the planning process.
6.3 Where part of the assessment or evaluation is undertaken via a video call or online/virtual means, The PCFSW & Social Work England Best Practice Guide for Video Call/Contact and Virtual/Online Home Visit should be considered as part of ensuring the best outcome of the meeting;
6.4 The planning meeting should consider the following:
  • The timescale for the various elements of the assessment, enabling it to be completed within the required 45 working days;
  • Has the issue of consent been discussed and obtained?
  • The areas to be focused upon within the assessment;
  • Who will undertake the assessment and what resources will be needed?
  • Who in the family will be included and how will they be involved?
  • In what groupings will the child and family members be seen and in what order?
  • Are there communication issues, if so, how will these be met?
  • What methods of collecting information will be used?
  • Where will particular assessment tasks take place?
  • How will information be recorded?
6.5 The need for any specialist assessments should be considered.
6.6 Participants at the Planning Meeting should include agencies or individuals who will contribute to the assessment, including the family and child, where appropriate.
6.7 The assessing social worker should construct a Child's Chronology as part of the Single / specialist assessment activity.
6.8 A comprehensive chronology should always be compiled where there has been a history of incidents of domestic abuse.


7. Conclusion and Outcomes of Single Assessments

7.1 Single Assessments should result in:
  • An analysis of the needs of the child and the parenting capacity to respond appropriately to those needs within the family context;
  • Identification of whether and, if so, where intervention will be required to secure the well being of the child;
  • A realistic plan of action (including services to be provided) detailing who has responsibility for action, a timetable and a process for review.
7.2 The outcomes of Single Assessments may include:
7.3 Note that Section 17 services may be put in place or commissioned before the Single Assessment is completed.
7.4 The responsible team manager should agree the outcome and ensure that the electronic database is updated.

7.5 Analysis

Assessment is not an end in itself but part of the ICS process of assessment, planning, intervention and review that will lead to an improvement in the well being or outcomes for a child or young person.

The conclusion of an assessment should result in:

  • An analysis of the needs of a child and the parenting capacity to respond appropriately to those needs within the family context;
  • Identifying whether, and if so, where intervention will be required to meet the needs of the child / young person;
  • A realistic plan of action (including services to be provided) detailing who will be responsible for action, a timetable and a process for review.

The analysis should highlight the most important areas of the information gathered and relate logically to underpin the decisions and actions recommending services. The allocated social worker should identify whether the child is a Child in Need as defined by the Children Act 1989.

The allocated social worker, in undertaking the analysis, will sift and systematically evaluate the information gathered from all sources and include, the family, the perception of other professionals, and recognise and understand what is relevant. The analysis should describe and address: risks, concerns, and any changes during the assessment as well as strengths identified and summarise: the child's development and needs based on knowledge about what could reasonably be expected for this child's development and include:

  • Parenting capacity, drawn on knowledge about what would be reasonable to expect of parental care given to a similar child;
  • Family and environmental factors drawn on knowledge about the impact these will have on both parenting capacity and directly on the child's development;
  • Concerns of the referral presenting or implied.

The allocated social worker should be aware of differing perspectives from other professionals, the parent and child, about the information gathered and should attempt to reconcile or explain these.

In the process of analysis the social worker should address the following questions and record a concise summary of:

  • How is the child being affected? (positives, strengths and resilience, needs, harm, in the past present and potentially in the future);
  • What are the problems and difficulties? (Risks and concerns of Significant Harm, past and present, inside and outside of the home, recurring patterns and cycles); are there any factors that may indicate that the child is or has been trafficked or a victim of compulsory labour, servitude and slavery? Note: if there is a concern with regards to exploitation or trafficking, a referral into the National Referral Mechanism should be made. See GOV.UK Digital Referral System: Report Modern Slavery;
  • What needs to change, stop or start? (Immediate and future planned outcomes, prevention and protection, legal advice, further or specialist assessment);
  • How much of a change is needed? (The degree or depth, persistence, severity, range of difficulty/ies);
  • How will anyone know if the required changes have been made? (Specific measurable, achievable, related to need, time scaled, outcomes);
  • Is the need for change recognised and accepted by the parent and family?
  • What is the potential for making changes?
  • How can workers engage effectively with the child, parent and family, to support change?

There is an expectation that all staff will consider the use of the questionnaires and scales published with the Assessment Framework as tools in the process of gathering information for the assessment, but also in order to support analysis, assist in developing hypotheses, drawing conclusions and making decisions.

It is important to recognise that the child may have a different perspective from that of the parent or professional. Different family members may attach different meanings to the same information etc. These will have an impact upon the understanding of the child's needs within the family.

In reaching a shared understanding it is important to keep a focus on the needs of the child, in order to agree a plan that will improve outcomes for that child.

Parenting capacity can only be understood within the overall context in which the child is being brought up. The analysis should also identify the family and environmental factors, which have an impact on the different aspects of the child's development and on the parent's capacity, in order to explore the relationship between the three domains.

7.6 Judgements

Professionals will need to draw upon their respective knowledge bases to inform the judgements that they come to about a child's circumstances, whether the child is in need and whether their health and development is likely to be impaired without the provision of services.

For some children decisions will also have to be made about whether they are suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm. Such judgements must be made upon the basis of prior analysis based on the dimensions of the Assessment Framework.

The more complex the family's problems the more these will involve sophisticated interdisciplinary and inter-agency co-operation in reaching judgements about these issues.

Some children's lives are such that profound and sensitive judgements are required and the reflective process for professionals working with them may be stressful, particularly in difficult circumstances.

In order to arrive at balanced judgements about the needs of children and their families, agency partners and professionals in other disciplines can act as consultants and advisers in particular circumstances or offer specialist knowledge about the likely outcomes of certain actions for the assessment. This expert knowledge may be as useful as commissioning a specialist assessment and can be useful in constructing plans and deciding how to implement them.

7.7 Decision Making

In drawing up a plan of intervention, careful distinction should be made between judgements and decisions. The latter concerns how to address need at different points of time taking into account a number of factors including:

  • How existing good relationships and experiences can be nurtured and enhanced;
  • What types of interventions are known to produce the best outcomes for these circumstances?
  • What the family and child can cope with at any stage;
  • What resources can be mobilised across the range of professional agencies;
  • What alternatives are available if resources of choice cannot be secured;
  • What are the likely outcomes if the needs remain unmet;
  • What are the likely outcomes if the family fails to engage.

The decisions form the basis of the child's plan which must be the most appropriate to the child's current needs and circumstances and be managed at the lowest possible level of intervention. The Single Assessment will inform the:

At the completion of the Single Assessment, parents should be given a dated copy of the Single Assessment record and the child's Care Plan, unless to do so would place the child at risk. Decisions not to share a record must be entered on Capita. The date of giving a copy of the Single Assessment to the parents must be recorded.

The completed Single Assessment is used to inform or develop the Child's Plan whether this is a Child in Need: Support Plan, a Child Protection Plan or the child's looked after Care Plan.

The assessing social worker will seek and record on the Single Assessment Record, the parent's and the child's comments (where of appropriate age) about the Single Assessment and Child's (CIN) Plan. The assessing social worker will notify the team manager of the completed Single Assessment Record allowing sufficient time for their authorisation within the forty-five day time limit.

If the team manager is satisfied with the quality of the Single Assessment and the appropriateness of the resulting Plan, they will authorise the Single Assessment Record within the forty-five day time limit. If, at the conclusion of a Single Assessment, there is no plan to provide a further service, this will be recorded Case Closed.

A Child's (CIN) Plan arising from the Single Assessment should be reviewed no later than six months from the date of authorisation of the Plan.

7.8 Specialist Assessments

(See also Assessment Tools)

Risk Assessments

Following completion of or during a Single Assessment, a judgement may be made to utilise other models of assessment alongside a Single Assessment to fully understand a child's needs and in particular the risks of Significant Harm for that child.

A piece of work was conducted to introduce a number risk assessment models to aid social work practice in 2010. The models introduced provide a framework for assessing risk and reaching decisions about significant harm. They address some of the limitations of the Integrated Children's System and are compliant with Working Together to Safeguard Children (2010)(now archived) which clarifies that local children's social care authorities will draw on evidence from risk assessments and other judgements to inform it's assessment of Significant Harm. 

The “Risk Model” contains two risk assessment tools and a range of specialist assessment tools:

Stage 1 Risk Assessment is a single page screening tool which checks for any concerns about Significant Harm, and where there are concerns triggers a stage 2 Risk Assessment. In all domestic abuse cases a stage 1 Risk Assessment should be considered during the initial Assessment.

Stage 2 Risk Assessment is a detailed risk assessment tool, which leads to greater clarity about risk of Significant Harm.

The Assessment Model

Other specialist tools are integrated into the risk model. A range of over 30 specialist assessments tools can be used to address key assessment themes, such as motivation and capacity to change, assessing neglect and the impact of mental health. For details of the model and the associated tools please see Bruce Thornton Risk Models.

7.9 Parenting Assessments

Parenting assessments are a useful tool in informing decision making in relation to future planning for children. They should ALWAYS be considered in the following circumstances:

  • Children who are subject to a Child Protection Plan;
  • Children who are Looked After section 20 for a period of more than 3 months;
  • Children who are subject to a pre-proceedings agreement under the Public Law Outline;
  • Children who are subject to ICO where the plan is to twin-track;
  • Unborn where a previous child / children are not living with the parent due to concerns about the parents' lifestyle or parenting.

Most assessments of capacity to parent can be completed by the case holding social worker in partnership with parents and other relevant agencies through the completion of the Single Assessment and / or one of the assessment tools referred to in the previous section. Parents should be advised in advance that the assessment is to be completed; the process explained to them and the consequences of refusing to engage or of a negative outcome should also be discussed.

Specialist Parenting Assessments

In certain circumstances an independent  specialist parenting assessment may be considered necessary, due to the complexities of the case, or because it is in the Court Arena / subject to the pre proceedings arrangements. Specialist assessments are completed on behalf of Children's Services by a commissioned service through Action for Children.

The process for referral is as follows:

  • Service Manager for the case holder agrees that a specialist assessment is required;
  • Service Manager forwards an up to date Single Assessment and accompanying e-mail to Service Manager in Safeguarding who will advise on timescales for completion and forward to Action for Children. Priority will be given to cases already in court proceedings and children in Section 20;
  • Social workers should not contact Action for Children directly.
In the event a place is not available within the desired  timescales the Service Manager for the case holding social worker will decide whether to spot purchase an assessment from another provider or make arrangements for it to be completed in house.


8. Conducting Section 47 Enquiries / Single Assessments

This section should be read in conjunction with Single Assessments (including Section 47 Enquiries) Procedure.

8.1 The Single Assessment is the means by which a Section 47 Enquiry is carried out. The objective of the Section 47 Enquiry is to determine whether action is required to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child. The decision to initiate a Section 47 Enquiry will be taken by the team manager after a Strategy Discussion / Meeting and where such a decision is made the Section 47 Enquiry must be completed within 15 working days.
8.2 The social worker, when conducting a Section 47 Enquiry, must assess the potential needs and safety of any other child in the household of the child in question. In addition, Section 47 Enquiries may be required concerning any children in other households with whom the alleged abuser may have contact.
8.3 In determining which professionals should be involved in a Section 47 Enquiry, consideration could include with whom the family is most likely to cooperate. In all cases where there is a known propensity to violence within the family household, consideration should be given to the strategy to be adopted, with Police advice or assistance if appropriate, about how to reduce the risks before any visits take place.
8.4 The child must always be seen and communicated with alone in the course of a Section 47 Enquiry by the Lead Social Worker, unless it is contrary to his or her interests to do so. (See also Liverpool Children's Services Procedures Manual, Guidance To Ensure The Voice of The Child Is Heard) The Strategy Discussion / Meeting will plan any interview with the child. The Record of Section 47 Enquiry and Reports to Child Protection Conferences should include the date(s) when the child was seen alone by the Lead Social Worker and, if not seen alone, who was present and the reasons for their presence.
8.5 Before a child is seen or interviewed parental permission must be gained unless there are exceptional circumstances that demonstrate that it would not be in the child's interests and to do so may jeopardise the child's safety and welfare. Relevant exceptional circumstances would include:
  • The possibility that a child would be threatened or otherwise coerced into silence;
  • A strong likelihood that important evidence would be destroyed; or
  • That the child in question did not wish the parent to be involved at that stage, and is competent to take that decision.
8.6 In such circumstances, the social worker must take legal advice about how to proceed and whether legal action may be required, for example through an application for an Emergency Protection Order or a Child Assessment Order.


9. Outcomes of a Section 47 Enquiry

The outcome of a Section 47 Enquiry must be endorsed by the team manager.

A Section 47 Enquiry may conclude that concerns were unsubstantiated, concerns were substantiated but the child is not judged to be at continuing risk of Significant Harm, or the concerns are substantiated and the child is judged to be at continuing risk of Significant Harm.

9.1 Concerns not substantiated

  1. No Further Action
    Enquiries have revealed that there are no causes for concern. The child may be a Child in Need but the family do not wish for services to be provided, in which case the case will be closed;
  2. Family Support to be provided
    Enquiries have revealed that there is no evidence that the child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm but there are needs that could be met by the provision of services either under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989 or by signposting the family to another agency. The family are willing for a package of support to be provided, or continue to be provided.

    Where services are to be provided under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989, the social worker or their team manager should convene a Child in Need Planning Meeting within 7 working days to agree a Child in Need Plan – see Liverpool Children's Services Procedures Manual, Child in Need Plans and Review Procedure;

    Where need is identified, but the threshold for intervention by children services is not met consideration should be given (in agreement with the family) for support to be accessed under the Early Help Assessment, with “early support” services. E.g. the Early Intervention Team the Outreach  Family Support services based in children's centres.

9.2 Concerns substantiated but no continuing risk

  1. Enquiries have confirmed that the child suffered Significant Harm, but it has been agreed between the agencies most involved and the child and their family that a plan for safeguarding the child's future safety and welfare can be developed and implemented without having an Initial Child Protection Conference or a Child Protection Plan. This decision must be endorsed by a suitably experienced and qualified social work manager;
  2. The social worker/team manager must convene a Child in Need Planning Meeting to be held within 7 working days to agree a Child in Need Plan - see Liverpool Children's Services Procedures Manual, Child in Need Plans and Review Procedure;

9.3 Child at continuing risk of Significant Harm

  1. Enquiries have revealed that the child may continue to suffer or to be at risk of suffering Significant Harm.

    An Initial Child Protection Conference must be convened within 15 working days of the Strategy Discussion/Meeting where the decision to initiate a Section 47 Enquiry was made. The request to convene the conference must be supported by a Team Leader and Service manager. For the detailed procedure in relation to Child Protection Conferences, see the Liverpool Safeguarding Children Partnership Procedures;
  2. An initial  plan to reduce and manage the risk identified should be put in place prior to the holding of the Child Protection Conference;
  3. Where immediate protective action is required, the advice of Legal Services should be sought;
  4. The Single Assessment should be completed within 45 working days of the commencement of the Section 47 Enquiry;
  5. Consideration should be given by the date of the Initial Child Protection Conference where one is convened to whether the Single Assessment had been completed or what further work is required before it is completed.


10. Recording Single Assessments and Section 47 Enquiries

(See also Liverpool Children's Services Procedures Manual, Guidance To Ensure The Voice of The Child Is Heard).

10.1 The social worker should record the Single Assessment on a Single Assessment Record.
10.2 The completed Single Assessment must be approved by the Team Leader.
10.3 The child (depending on age and understanding) and parent should be given a copy of the record.
10.4 The Single Assessment is deemed completed once the assessment has been discussed with the child and family and authorised by the manager.
10.5

Where a Section 47 Enquiry is conducted alongside the Single Assessment (see Section 8, Conducting Section 47 Enquiries / Single Assessments), the social worker should record their actions/information gathered during the course of the enquiry and its outcomes on a Record of Section 47 Enquiries, and / or in the outcomes section of the Single Assessment record, which should be approved by the team leader.


Appendices

Click here to view Appendix 1: Protocol for Single Assessment - Assessment Process Flowchart

Click here to view Appendix 2: North West Region Social Work Planning and Assessment Model

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