1.3 Initial Assessment and Core Assessment
This chapter was amended in October 2010 to reflect the changes in Working Together to Safeguard Children 2010. The changes are shown in italics.
|3.||Hospital Discharge Planning Meetings|
|3.3||Children’s Social Care Services Lead|
The Initial Assessment is a brief assessment of each child referred to Children’s Social Care Services where it is necessary to determine whether the child is In Need, the nature of any services required, and whether a further, more detailed Core Assessment should be undertaken (paragraph 3.9 of the Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families (2000) (now archived))
The Initial Assessment using the framework set out in the Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families must be completed within a maximum of 7 working days of the date of the referral. (Working Together to Safeguard Children 2010 provides that this maximum timescale can be increased to 10 working days; however in Coventry a decision has been made that the maximum timescale of 7 working days should be retained for the time being)
The urgency of the situation may dictate that the timescale is much shorter than seven days, for example, where it is immediately clear a child is suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm.
In such circumstances, the Initial Assessment may be completed on the same day as the Referral, and a decision reached to conduct a Strategy Discussion/Meeting, leading to a Core Assessment incorporating a Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiry).
Where a Common Assessment has been completed this information should be used to inform the Initial Assessment.
Information should be gathered and analysed within the 3 domains of the Assessment Framework, namely:
- The child’s developmental needs;
- The parents’ or care givers’ capacity to respond appropriately to those needs;
- The wider family and environmental factors.
The Initial Assessment period may be very brief if the criteria for initiating a Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiry) are met.
Any extension to this time-scale should be authorised by the Children’s Social Care Services manager, with reasons recorded. For example, there may be a need to delay in order to arrange for an interpreter. Any delay must be consistent with the welfare of the child.
The Initial Assessment should be led by a qualified and experienced social worker, supervised by a highly experienced and qualified social work manager and they should carefully plan (in consultation with a manager and other agencies as appropriate) to:
- Consider if the child/ren should be seen by the social worker undertaking the assessment with or without carers as appropriate and this should be recorded in the Initial Assessment Record;
- Interview the child/ren within an appropriate timescale;
- Interview parents/carers and any other relevant family members;
- Determine what the child and parents should be told of any concerns;
- Obtain contributions of other agencies to the assessment;
- Analyse available information (including information about the history and functioning of the family both currently and in the past, and adult problems such as domestic violence, substance misuse, mental illness and criminal behaviour/convictions) from a range of sources (including existing records); and involving and obtaining relevant information from professionals and others in contact with the child and family.
The child should be seen 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 s53 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 Initial Assessment should 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?
- Is the child being adequately safeguarded from Significant Harm, and are the parents able to promote the child’s health and development?
- What impact are family functioning and history, the wider family and environmental factors having on the parents capacity to respond to their child’s needs and the child’s developmental progress?
- Is action required to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child?
“The parents’ permission, or the child’s where appropriate, should be sought before discussing a referral about them with other agencies, unless permission-seeking may itself place a child at increased risk of Significant Harm.” Working Together to Safeguard Children 5.35 (2010)
The Children's Social Care Services manager should authorise the decision to proceed with checks without parental knowledge or permission and the reasons recorded.
If the child and/or carers have moved into the authority, all practitioners from agencies should seek information from their respective agencies covering previous addresses.
This is equally important for children and carers who have spent time abroad. Professionals from agencies such as health, LA Children’s Social Care or the police should request this information from their equivalent agencies in the country(ies) in which the child has lived.
(Information about who to contact can be obtained via the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on 0207 008 1500 or the appropriate Embassy or Consulate based in London or the FCO website)
The social worker undertaking the assessment should make it clear to families (where appropriate) and other agencies, that the information provided for this assessment may be shared with other agencies and contribute to the written form completed at the end of the assessment.
If during the course of the assessment it is discovered that a school age child is not attending an educational establishment, the LEA should be contacted to establish the reason for this.
If the criteria for initiating a Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiries) are met at any stage during an Initial Assessment, the assessment should be regarded as concluded and a Strategy Discussion/Meeting held immediately to decide if a Section 47 (Child Protection Enquiry) and Core Assessment is required.
The police must be informed at the earliest opportunity if a crime may have been committed. The police must decide whether to commence a criminal investigation.
An Initial Assessment is deemed completed once the assessment has been discussed with the child and family and authorised by the manager.
The possible outcomes of the Initial Assessment are:
- No further action;
- Referral to appropriate support service;
- Immediate provision of child in need services;
- Instigation of a Core Assessment;
- Instigation of a Strategy Discussion/Meeting, Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiry) and Core Assessment;
- Emergency action to protect the child.
Taking account of confidentiality, written information on the outcome of the Initial Assessment should be provided to professional referrers. Exceptions to this are justified only where this might jeopardise an enquiry or place any individual at risk.
A manager must sign and approve the outcomes of an Initial Assessment and ensure:
- The child/ren has been seen or there has been a recorded management decision that this is not appropriate e.g. a Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiry) and police investigation initiated which will plan method of contact with child;
- The needs of all children in the household have been considered;
- A chronology on the front of the file has been updated.
Feedback should be provided to professional and non-professional referrers about the outcome of this stage of the referral in a manner consistent with respecting the confidentiality and welfare of the child.
A Core Assessment, using the Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families must be completed within a maximum of 35 working days.
Children's Social Care staff are responsible for the co-ordination and completion of the assessment, drawing upon information provided by partner agencies.
Any request from another agency for a Core Assessment must be given serious consideration and clear reasons recorded for a refusal.
Core Assessments commence:
- When an Initial Assessment recommends that a further complex assessment is required;
- When a Strategy Discussion/Meeting initiates a Section 47 Enquiry;
- When new information obtained on an open case indicates a core assessment should be undertaken.
A Core Assessment is deemed completed once the assessment has been discussed with the child and family and authorised by the manager.
A manager must sign and approve the outcomes of a Core Assessment and ensure that:
- There has been direct communication by the Lead Social Worker with the child - alone unless inappropriate to do so on account of the child's wishes or level of understanding and her/his views and wishes have been recorded and taken into account;
- All the children in the household have been seen and their needs considered;
- The parent / carer has been seen and her/his views and wishes have been recorded and taken into account;
- The analysis has been completed;
- The chronology at the front of the file is up-to-date.
During the course and upon completion of an Initial and Core Assessment it will be necessary to decide what services should be provided. The services will be appropriate depending on the needs of the child/ren. A Child in Need Plan should be agreed with family and other agencies.
This should be monitored and reviewed regularly at maximum intervals of 6 months.
The following procedures have been developed in response to recommendations 56 and 71 of Lord Laming report and are outlined in the Coventry Safeguarding Children Board Joint Laming Action Plan and Business Plan for 2004-2005.
The purpose of this procedure is to agree the joint arrangements between Children’s Social Care Services and Hospital staff in relation to children where concerns about the child have arisen and must be addressed prior to discharge from hospital to ensure continuity of care.
Most children receiving services from the University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire Trusts are likely to have their needs met through universal provision and do not need the involvement of Children’s Social Care Services.
Children referred to Children’s Social Care Services are likely to be defined as children in need or children in need of safeguarding. The responsibility for planning the discharge of the child will lie with either Health Services or Children’s Social Care Services depending on the category of need. In the light of this the following arrangements are considered to be appropriate.
- For children in need who are not receiving a service from Children’s Social Care Services but who are deemed by the hospital to require family support services the following arrangements should be applied:
- Consultation with the relevant Children’s Social Care Services office to consider if Children’s Social Care Services could be involved in the support for the child and their family;
- Where a referral is accepted Children’s Social Care Services will attend the discharge-planning meeting and this should be convened before the child is discharged from hospital;
- In cases where the child is already in receipt of services from Children’s Social Care Services a planning meeting involving agencies likely to be involved in the care of the child will be held before the child is discharged from hospital.
The Hospital will take the lead in organising and inviting all relevant agencies including Education where appropriate and parents /carers, chair the meeting and provide a record of the meeting identifying the care plan for supporting the child in the community. The record of the meeting will be circulated to all the relevant professionals and parents /carers of the child.
Where hospital staff consider there are child protection concerns the hospital staff will contact the relevant Children’s Social Care Services office to discuss the concerns with a social worker and agree the way forward.
Child Protection concerns will be investigated in accordance with the Coventry Safeguarding Children Board interagency procedures and a face-to face Strategy Discussion/Meeting must be held to plan the investigation, including any proposals for the discharge of the child from hospital.
Children’s Social Care Services will take the responsibility for notifying the Police and inviting them to the Strategy Discussion/Meeting.
Consideration will also be given to whether it would be in the child’s best interests to include the parents/carers in the Strategy Meeting. Hospital staff will take the responsibility for the inviting the relevant health staff likely to be involved in the care of the child in the community.
Children’s Social Care Services as the lead agency will take responsibility in chairing and provide a record of the meeting. This will always include discussion about whether the threshold for a Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiry) has been met and if so will plan the investigation. The record of the Strategy/Discussion/ Meeting will be noted on the agreed format and circulated to all relevant professionals.
If the threshold for a Section 47 Enquiry (Child Protection Enquiry) is not met then a package of family support should be considered.
In both circumstances there should be consideration of any plans to discharge the child from hospital and these should be recorded fully.