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1.3.2 Assessment Protocol


This chapter should be read in conjunction with the Unborn Baby Protocol when necessary.


What to do if you’re worried a child is being abused: Advice for practitioners


This chapter was updated in June 2017. It has been substantially amended throughout and should be read in its entirety.


  1. Introduction
  2. Purpose of an Assessment
  3. Process for Completing a Single Assessment
  4. Assessments in Specific Circumstances
  5. Recording Process
  6. Complaints
  7. Review of Single Assessment Protocol

1. Introduction

In March 2015, the revised Working Together to Safeguard Children was published. In response to the Munro Review of Child Protection 2011, this guidance seeks to be much less prescriptive in its procedures. It removes the distinction between an Assessment, to be replaced by a Single Assessment.

Following the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 all assessments should include 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 Human trafficking/modern slavery victims: referral and assessment forms.

2. Purpose of an Assessment

  • To gather important information about a child and family;
  • To analyse their needs and/or the nature and level of any risk and harm being suffered by the child;
  • To decide whether the child is a child in need (section 17) and/or is likely to suffer significant harm (section 47);
  • To identify support to address those needs to improve the child’s outcomes to make them safe;
  • To plan how to provide this support.

3. Process for Completing a Single Assessment

(Please also see Threshold for Assessment & Guidance to Level of Service Intervention).

  • The maximum timescale for completing the single assessment is 45 days from the day of referral. This is a deadline, not a target. There is a greater focus to ensure that all Single Assessments are proportionate to the level of need/risk – some Single Assessments will be completed in 10 or 20 days;
  • The length of time the assessment takes to complete, and the depth of assessment is decided by the manager. The decision will be based on information gathered so far regarding the level of need and/or risk to the child/ren;
  • An assessment is a dynamic process which analyses and responds to the changing nature and level of need and/or risk faced by the child/ren;
  • Children and young people must be seen within the assessment process and they should be encouraged to contribute to the Single Assessment;
  • Assessments should be undertaken alongside parents/carers and children/young people where appropriate to their age and understanding. When completing an assessment as a shared process, rather than something which is done to a family, it can become a therapeutic tool which is seen as being of value to parents/carers and children/young people. The written assessment should be shared with parents and a copy given to them;
  • A S47 assessment should be shared with parents at least two working days before the ICPC if one is being held. Parents/carers should be fully involved in the assessment process;
  • Parents/carers should always receive a copy of the Single Assessment or Section 47/Single Assessment;
  • The child/young person must always be seen as soon as possible after the decision has been made to commence an assessment and in all circumstances within 10 working days. If the referral concerns abuse or neglect, the child will be seen within 24 hours and earlier if the level of perceived risk warrants immediate action.  Depending on the length and depth of assessment this should involve getting to know the child/young person to the extent that they are able to feel comfortable about conveying their wishes and feelings. No assessment should be completed without seeing the child alone. Children and young people should always be seen whilst undertaking a SA and they must be involved within the SA process;
  • It is really important to consider the child’s culture, ethnicity and any other issues of diversity, as this relates to needs, risks, strengths and protective factors within the child, family and wider environment. This should be specifically addressed in the analysis and professional judgement section of the assessment;
  • Assessments need to incorporate all available information regarding the children. All agencies and professionals who have an involvement with the children should be consulted;
  • Chronologies should be compiled or added to. Chronologies should comprise of significant life events and decisions for children and young people. See the guidance in relation to chronologies (located in the Documents Library of this manual);
  • The assessment should include information regarding the child’s stage of development. This is a helpful baseline against which to monitor progress and to consider whether and how their outcomes are improving. This is important as it should reduce the need for repeat assessments during care proceedings;
  • The assessment should be evidence based. The significance of concerns should be identified with regard to individual and family functioning, for the particular child/young person, for effecting potential change; to meet identified needs and reduce risk;
  • Where the needs/risks to the child/ren are complex and the assessment is going to take more than 10 working days, the manager and social worker should set a midway review date. This review should be informed by discussion with the parents/carers and child/young person, and with other professionals. The review should look at what other information needs to be gathered and consider the analysis which has been formulated so far. This is also a good opportunity to review how effective any services, currently working with the family, have been in achieving positive outcomes for the child/ren;
  • The child/young person's plan at the end of the assessment should be completed and a plan and review record opened up. This should remain in place for the duration of service provision, updated regularly, following reviews;
  • If any other assessment is underway at the same time as the single assessment is being completed, e.g. an assessment of Special Educational Needs / an EHC Plan, all efforts should be made to coordinate information gathering and subsequent planning with the family to avoid duplication and to reduce stress for the family;
  • Assessments should be updated on an annual basis.

Keeping the child ‘in view’ is fundamental to a good assessment. Their view should be gathered and included within assessments. Good assessments contribute to better outcomes for children. Good assessments will reflect the child’s feelings; reflect their views on parental/carers relationships, home-life, friendships and their education.

The child/young person’s view should be gained from direct work and discussions undertaken with the child/young person.

For further information see Children's Consultation and Participation Procedure.

4. Assessments in Specific Circumstances

S47 Assessments

Where an assessment is completed as the framework for undertaking S47 enquiries, a S47 assessment record should be completed, with an outline Child Protection Plan at the end of the assessment. This will be the social work report for Initial Child Protection Conferences.

Assessment Prior to a Child/Young Person Returning Home from Care

Where a child/young person is in care and the plan is for a return home, an up to date assessment, which addresses the child’s needs in the context of the parents capacity to care safely for the child/young person, and considers the impact on other children in the family, must be completed. The updated assessment should be accompanied by a clear plan of support to sustain a return home, if it is assessed that this should happen.

Assessment of a Child/Young Person with a Disability

Particular attention needs to be given to the needs of, and risks to, disabled children in view of the added vulnerability of children with a disability to abuse or neglect.

Assessment of Young Carers

Where an assessment involves assessing the needs of young carers, there should be consideration of the impact of a parent’s impairment, whether physical or mental, on the young person’s developmental needs, including emotional needs. The question of whether a young person is undertaking an excessive or inappropriate caring role should be addressed. Close liaison with adult services should take place to look at what other services could be put in to reduce the burden on the young person.

Assessment of a Young Person in the Youth Justice System

Where a young person either already has an ASSET or is in the process of one being completed, and another assessment is being undertaken within the framework of this Protocol, close communication should take place with the Youth Offending team to ensure a coordinated approach and to avoid duplication of information gathered for each assessment.

Assessment at the Point of Transition

Where an assessment is undertaken on a young person who is at, or coming up to, the point of transition to adult services, the assessment should identify any continuing risk to the young person or risk presented by the young person. On-going needs and risks should be clearly communicated to the appropriate adult service.

5. Recording Process

  • At the time of signing off a referral, where a single assessment is to be undertaken, the manager inserts the date of the initial review on the referral form. The date for initial review is 6 working days after the date of referral;
  • Where a child is of school age, the social worker records the name of school in the section listing agencies and professionals involved;
  • Following the initial review, the manager adds an observation (Observation Type: Assessment Review). This should give the expected date of completion of the assessment. If the assessment is scheduled to take more than 10 working days, the mid-way review date should be given. This can be set to coincide with a planned supervision if it is near to the mid-point of the assessment;
  • Following the mid-way review, the manager adds an observation to say this review has taken place and briefly summarising progress to date. (Observation Type: Assessment Review).

6. Complaints

  • Complaints by children/young people, parents/carers and other family members about the assessment process or outcome should be directed to the Complaints Procedure Manager at

7. Review of Single Assessment Protocol

This Protocol will be reviewed at six monthly intervals, following quality audits of a random sample of Single Assessments.