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1.2.2 Single Assessment

RELATED NATIONAL GUIDANCE

Chapter 1: Assessing Need and Providing Help, Working Together to Safeguard Children 2015

Flowchart 1: Action Taken When a Child is Referred to Local Authority Children's Social Care Services

Flowchart 2: Immediate Protection, Working Together to Safeguard Children 2015

Flowchart 3: Action Taken for an Assessment of a Child under the Children Act 1989, Working Together to Safeguard Children 2015

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter provides an overview of the Single Assessment process which was introduced by Working Together to Safeguard Children 2013. The Single Assessment replaced Initial and Core Assessments as the means by which Children’s Social Care Services will, following acceptance of a referral, determine whether the child is in need and the nature of any services required.

This chapter should be read alongside the relevant local guidance, which provides more detailed information on the arrangements for conducting Single Assessments in each local authority area:

AMENDMENT

In November 2015, a link to the Single Assessment Guidance and Process for practitioners in Kirklees was added (see above).


Contents

  1. What is a Single Assessment?
  2. Timescales
  3. The Process of the Single Assessment
  4. Involving Parents
  5. Possible Outcomes of the Single Assessment
  6. Emergency Protective Action
  7. Feedback from the Single Assessment


1. What is a Single Assessment? 

If, as a result of a Referral, there are indications that the threshold for Children’s Social Care Services have been met, which may include concerns of Significant Harm, Children's Social Care Services will conduct a Single Assessment.

The Single Assessment is a detailed assessment to determine whether the child is In Need, requires a protection plan or requires immediate protection and the nature of any services required. As part of the assessment process a decision can be made whether a Strategy Discussion and a Section 47 Enquiry should be undertaken.

Consideration will be given about whether further assessment is appropriate in the case of a child currently active to Children's Social Care Services. The nature of the involvement will determine what is required. The Single Assessment should be undertaken in accordance with the guidance in Working Together to Safeguard Children (2015).

The Single Assessment will address the following questions:

  • What are the developmental needs of the child?
  • Are the parents able to respond appropriately to the child's identified needs?
  • Do the parents have the capacity to respond to the child's needs?
  • Are the parents able to promote the child's health and development?
  • 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?
  • Is there any evidence of Domestic Violence and Abuse?
  • Is the child adequately safeguarded from Significant Harm and/or are any services required to promote the child's health and development?
  • Is emergency action required to safeguard the child's welfare?
  • Are there any other children in the household or elsewhere who should be subject to a Single Assessment?

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 Violence and Abuse, substance misuse, mental illness and criminal behaviour/convictions) should be taken into account.

The assessment of risk will:

  • Identify the cause for concern;
  • Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the family;
  • Evaluate the risks to the child or children;
  • Consider the child's needs for protection;
  • Consider the ability of the parents and wider family and social networks to safeguard and promote the child's welfare;
  • Determine the level of intervention required both in the immediate and longer term.


2. Timescales

Working Together to Safeguard Children sets out an expectation that the Single Assessment will be completed within a maximum of 45 working days of receipt of the referral. If an assessment exceeds this timescale, case notes should clearly record the reasons and the appropriate management permissions / oversight.

Any extension to this timescale must be authorised by a Children's Social Care Services manager and the reasons recorded, for example there may be a need to delay in order to arrange for an interpreter or avoid a religious festival. Any such decision must be consistent with the safety and welfare of the child.

The assessment process will include a number of local checkpoints and decision points to keep the assessment on track. These points should be used to review that the help being provided is timely and that the services are making an impact on child(ren) to improve outcomes and welfare.


3. The Process of the Single Assessment

The Single Assessment should be led by a qualified social worker supervised by a highly experienced and qualified social work manager. It should be carefully planned, with clarity about who is doing what, the time-scales and what information is to be shared with the parents.

The process of the Single Assessment should involve seeing and speaking to the child or children involved in their preferred language and according to their age and understanding, and involving family members as appropriate (see 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 a CAF or Early Help Assessment has already been completed this information should be used to inform the Single Assessment.

The child should be seen by the Lead Social Worker without his or her caregivers when appropriate within a timescale that is appropriate to the nature of concerns expressed at the time of the referral, according to the agreed plan (which may include seeing the child without his or her care givers present). This includes 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 children with disabilities, interviews may require the use of non-verbal communication methods.

All relevant information (including historical information) should be taken into account. All agencies consulted 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.

Information should be gathered and analysed within the three domains of the Assessment Framework Diagram:

  • The child's developmental needs;
  • The parents' or caregivers' capacity to respond appropriately to those needs; and
  • The wider family and environmental factors.

This includes seeking information from relevant services if the child and family have spent time abroad. Professionals should request this information from their equivalent agencies in the country or countries in which the child has lived.

See Children from Abroad (including Migrant Children and Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children) and National Contact Details for information about who to contact.

The social worker carrying out the Single 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 increase the likelihood of the child suffering Significant Harm.

The focus of the Single Assessment should be the welfare of the child.


4. Involving Parents

Parents should be informed of the referral and their permission sought to share information with other agencies unless to do so would:

  • Be prejudicial to the child's welfare; and/or safety;
  • Increase the likelihood of the child suffering Significant Harm.

See also Information Sharing and Confidentiality Procedure.

In these circumstances, a Children's Social Care Services manager may decide to consult other relevant agencies without seeking parental consent or where parental consent is sought but not given. Any such decision must be recorded with reasons on the Single Assessment Record.

Where parents and family members are consulted, the social worker carrying out the Single 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.


5. Possible Outcomes of the Single Assessment

A Single 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 Single 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 CAF/ Early Help 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;
  • That there are concerns that the child is suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm. In which case Children's Social Care Services will initiate a Strategy Discussion/Meeting to determine whether a Section 47 Enquiry is required; and consider whether any immediate protective action is also required - see Emergency Protective Action.

The checkpoints and decision points should be used to analyse if a threshold for a particular route (Early Help / CAF, Child in Need, Child Protection) of the assessment process is still appropriate, or if the information gathered as part of the assessment supports either escalating or de-escalating concerns. Where the route of the assessment changes, the original timescale for completing the assessment will continue to apply.

It is important to remember that even if the reason for a referral was a concern about abuse or neglect that is not subsequently substantiated, a family may still benefit from support and practical help to promote a child's health and development.

The decisions must be endorsed by a Children's Social Care Services manager.


6. Emergency Protective Action

Also see Flowchart 2: Immediate Protection, Working Together to Safeguard Children 2015.

Where there is a risk to the life of a child or the possibility of serious immediate harm, the Police officer and/or social worker must act with urgency to secure the safety of the child.

The agency taking protective action must also always consider whether action is required to safeguard other children in the same household, the household of an alleged perpetrator or elsewhere (for example the place of work).

Immediate protection may be achieved by:

An alleged abuser agreeing to leave the home;

  • The removal of the alleged abuser;
  • A voluntary agreement for the child to remain in or move to a safer place;
  • Application for an Emergency Protection Order;
  • Removal of the child under powers of Police Protection;
  • Gaining entry to the household under Police powers.

Planned immediate protection will normally take place following a Strategy Discussion. Where a single agency has to act immediately to protect a child, a Strategy Discussion should take place as soon as possible to plan further action.

Legal advice should be sought in every case where emergency action may be required to safeguard the child. If legal advice is not sought, the reason must be recorded on the child's record. Legal advice must always be confirmed in writing.

Children's Social Care Services should only seek the assistance of the Police to use their powers of Police Protection in exceptional circumstances where there is insufficient time to seek an Emergency Protection Order or other reasons relating to the child's immediate safety. Where in exceptional circumstances it is necessary to use the powers of Police Protection the child must be accommodated as agreed by the local authority.

The local authority where the child is found is responsible for taking emergency action. If the child is Looked After by another local authority or the subject of a Child Protection Plan in another local authority, the local authority responsible for the child should wherever possible be involved. Only if that authority accepts responsibility for taking action is the first authority relieved of the responsibility to take emergency action.

Where an Emergency Protection Order is applied for, Children's Social Care Services should consider whether to initiate Care Proceedings in relation to the child or whether to allow the Order to lapse.


7. Feedback from the Single Assessment

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

  • Be prejudicial to the child's welfare; and/or safety;
  • Increase the likelihood of the child suffering Significant Harm.

See 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.


8. Recording the Single Assessment

A clear account of the Single Assessment must be made using the Single 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.

The Single Assessment Record should include when the child was seen by the Lead Social Worker and whether anyone was present.

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.

End