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Good assessments are vital for a good children’s service.

Continuous assessment is a constant feature of good practice from the referral through to case closure. During this journey, a child or young person may require any number of assessments in order to be kept safe and made secure – perhaps a risk assessment – or more than one risk assessment, a sensory assessment, an age assessment and possibly a viability assessment.

No aspect of our work with children and young people is an assessment-free zone, for two reasons:

  1. We may not get it right first time so we must always be prepared for the evidence to be pointing us in a new or different direction.
  2. Children and young people’s circumstances change frequently and rapidly so an assessment is only valid at the point in time in which it was carried out. The shelf-life of assessments vary – some can be benchmarked forever, others are only accurate for weeks or months.

Social workers sit in four pods with a four-weekly turnaround (the 20-day time limit on assessments).

They facilitate family network meetings to help to bring the family’s support network together.

All assessments must show a sound knowledge base, an understanding of how to secure and organise evidence and a compelling analysis about what is in the best interests of an individual child.

Assessments are defined differently at different stages of the child’s journey but they are all assessments of need, either for a social care service or for a multi-agency service. It follows that considerable support, training, supervision, leadership and management oversight must go into carrying out good assessments.

BCP Council uses a Signs of Safety framework for assessing, based on the simple questions– ‘what are we worried about?’, ‘what’s going well’ and ‘what needs to happen’?

Assessments are professional judgements about an evidence base. Without the evidence base, an assessment of any sort is impossible. Without professional judgement, the decisions made, and actions taken will lack a clear and convincing rationale setting out the best way forward.