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1.3.2 Single Assessment Framework: Supporting the Assessment of Children and Families


Working with Foreign Authorities: Child Protection Cases and Care Orders (Non Statutory Guidance)

International Child Abduction and Contact Unit


This chapter was updated in March 2017 to reflect the outcome of a judgment following an application to remove a child at birth. The judge highlighted ‘good practice steps’ to undertaking assessments and issuing care proceedings in respect of the removal of a child at birth, including the assessment process. (See Section 9, Pre-Birth 'Good Practice Steps').


  1. Introduction
  2. The Principles of a Good Assessment
  3. Planning a Good Assessment
  4. The My World Triangle
  5. Understanding the Meaning of the Assessment Dimensions
  6. Analysing the Information
  7. Using Tools to Assist the Assessment and Analysis
  8. Management Oversight and Quality Assurance
  9. Pre-Birth 'Good Practice Steps'
  10. The Plan

1. Introduction

The Single Assessment Framework offers a systemic approach to identifying, understanding and responding to the needs of vulnerable children and their families. It aims to bring a methodical and consistent approach to assessment across services for children in Portsmouth. This guidance should assist practitioners at all levels in all agencies to approach the task of assessment with increased confidence and competence.

The Single Assessment Framework should not be used as a prescriptive tool and is intended to support professional judgement. Each element of the framework should be considered carefully so as to build a proportionate and realistic picture of the child's world.

The framework draws on research, theory and practice knowledge. It builds on legislation and statutory guidance set out in key documents, including: the Children Acts 1989 and 2002; Every Child Matters 2004; the Framework for Assessment of Children in Need and their Families 2000; the Munro Report 2011; and Working Together to Safeguard Children. Key aspects of the model are adapted from Getting it Right for Every Child 2012.

Working Together to Safeguard Children outlines the legislative requirements and expectations on individual services to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. It also provides the policy context for the Portsmouth Single Assessment Framework and the principles and priorities that this sets out are accepted as the basis of local working practices.

For the purposes of this guidance, the following are key components of the local approach to safeguarding children:

  • Effective safeguarding sits on a solid foundation of Early HelpEarly Help means providing support as soon as a problem emerges, at any point in a child's life. For Early Help services to be effective local agencies need to work together to identify those children who would benefit from early help, completing assessments to determine the need for help and providing targeted services to address the assessed needs of the child and their family so as to improve outcomes;
  • Safeguarding children - It is everyone's responsibility to take action to promote the welfare of children and protect them from harm. Everyone who comes into contact with children has a role to play.

    Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children is defined as:
    • Protecting children from maltreatment;
    • Preventing impairment of children's health or development;
    • Ensuring that children grow up in circumstances consistent with the provision of safe and effective care;
    • Taking action to enable all children to have the best outcomes irrespective of their disability.

Safeguarding children is everybody's responsibility and demands a child centred approach. Effective safeguarding of children can only be achieved by putting children at the centre of the system and by every individual and agency playing their full part.

The need to assess can also include pre-birth situations when a mother’s own circumstances would give cause for concern that the pre-birth, and then born, child would come within the definition of being a ‘child in need’. (See Section 9, Pre-Birth ‘Good Practice Steps’).

  • A conceptual model should be used to support a systemic approach to assessment work - A conceptual model is defined as one which investigates the interaction of three key aspects of a child's life:
    • The child's developmental needs and any additional needs, including whether they are suffering or likely to suffer significant harm. (How the child grows and develops);
    • Parents' or carers' ability to respond to those needs and whether they have any additional needs that may impact on their ability to respond to their child's needs. (What the child needs from people who look after them);
    • The impact and influence of wider family, community and environmental circumstances. (The child's wider world).

Within the Portsmouth Single Assessment Framework, these three important aspects of the child's world are adopted using the 'My World Triangle' (See Section 4, The My World Triangle). Where there is a child with a disability a carer's assessment should also be considered.

2. The Principles of a Good Assessment

High quality assessments:

  • Are child centred and focus on the best interests of the child;
  • Are rooted in child development and informed by evidence;
  • Are focused on actions and outcomes for children;
  • Address the needs of the child within their family and wider community;
  • Ensure equality of opportunity;
  • Involve children and families throughout the assessment process;
  • Build on strengths as well as identifying difficulties;
  • Clearly identify any disabilities or additional needs of child and carer;
  • Are integrated in approach;
  • Are a continuing process rather than an event;
  • Lead to action, including the provision of and review of services;
  • Are transparent and open to challenge.

Any assessment of need must be able to identify when unmet needs may indicate potential risk for the child. Given the complex nature of assessment, practitioners should also take into account:

  • Work with children and families needs to be both supportive in character and investigative in approach. We have to acknowledge that intrusion into peoples' lives is sometimes necessary to achieve improvements and change in their life circumstances;
  • Assessments should methodically and analytically consider past and present events in order to explore and identify future risks to the child or young person;
  • When conducting an assessment it is important to consider the child's whole world so as to better understand any risk the child may be exposed to in context. It may also help to identify the strengths and resources a family has that can be drawn upon when intervention may be necessary to protect a child;
  • Research provides evidence that parents who abuse / neglect their children are frequently struggling with a range of problems, such as poor mental health, learning difficulties, substance / alcohol misuse and domestic violence. Such difficulties may increase the potential for abuse when they occur in combination or are compounded by other stressors, such as material deprivation, housing problems and unsupportive or inadequate social and familial networks. A good assessment should take account of the strength / resilience factors, support networks and resources that a family has to draw upon to better identify the nature of the intervention necessary to protect the child.

3. Planning a Good Assessment

When undertaking the single assessment the practitioner completing this piece of work should consider:

  • Involving children and families - Involving children and parents / carers in the assessment process will improve assessments, provide more relevance to the intervention required and improve outcomes. How children and carers are involved and their views incorporated must be a key part of the assessment process. Building effective relationships with children and their parents or carers is key; engaging families through open and honest discussions and shared decision making;
  • Working together with other agencies - Information sharing and collaboration are integral parts of assessment process. It is important that consent is obtained from parents and young people, where appropriate, to share information OR if parental consent is being disposed of that this is clearly recorded including the reasoning underpinning this decision. The Single Assessment Framework requires that the skills, knowledge and abilities of all practitioners working with children and families are properly used. This means that a whole family approach should be adopted recognising the important contribution of all agencies, including those who may not consider children as the focus of their core work;
  • Applying evidence based practices based on research, theory and practice experience - Evidence based principles must underpin all practice interventions. This involves the application of structured professional thinking when analysing information gathered in relation to the child. Application of knowledge from research, theory and practice experiences will provide the basis for such structure. Portsmouth Safeguarding Children Board has developed a number of tools that practitioners can use to consider the impact of specific issues;
  • Being timely - A good assessment will be completed in a timely way so as to promote timely decision making and timely intervention. A single assessment framework should always be completed within 45 working days; however, depending on the individual circumstances it may be possible to complete it sooner. A decision should be made at the outset of the assessment process, with the family, as to how long it will take to complete the assessment. Children's age and stage of development should have a bearing on the assessment, planning and action.

4. The My World Triangle

The My World Triangle introduces a mental map that can assist practitioners explore a child's experience and identify needs and risks associated with a child's wellbeing.

My World Triangle

Many factors shape children's development throughout childhood, adolescence and beyond. Some factors are within the child, like those influenced by genetics such as the colour of eyes and hair and temperament. Others are external such as psychological and family influences or social, economic and environmental factors. Race and culture will be important in shaping children's views about the world they live in. Good attachments to significant adults can be a protective factor throughout life. Traumatic events and experiences, such as illness, separation from parents or carers, or abuse and neglect can lead to disruption or delay in a child's growth or development, or affect a child's wellbeing. Later experiences can either reduce or increase the effect of early damaging experiences.

We know that children are capable of recovering from traumatic events, providing they are given the right circumstances.

The My World Triangle examines key areas of the child's circumstances under the headings:

  • How the child grows and develops;
  • What the child needs from the people who look after him / her;
  • The wider world.

These headings should help practitioners to think about what is happening in a child's whole world.

How the child grows and develops - In order to understand and reach sound judgements about how well a child or young person is growing and developing, practitioners must think about how different aspects of their life including physical growth and health, their progress in learning new skills and their attainment in school, their emotional wellbeing, confidence and increasing independence, developing social skills and relationships with young people. Confidence in who they are will include a sense of identity that includes race and culture.

Being healthy

'This includes full information about all aspects of a child's health and development, relevant to age and stage. Developmental milestones, major illnesses, hospital admissions, any impairments, disabilities, conditions affecting development and health. Health care, including nutrition, exercise, physical and mental health issues, sexual health, substance misuse. Information routinely collected by health services will connect with this.'

It is important to ensure that each child's/young person's health needs are/have been met. To do this you must be satisfied that any indicators of concern are noted and action required identified. It may be that in many instances the immediately available information on health is sufficient. However, you should consider the following.

Current significant health problems:

  • Use of health services;
  • Attendance at medical screenings, or failure to attend;
  • Medical treatment regimes;
  • Compliance with medical advice and treatment;
  • Any particular needs of the child that affect the parents' ability to care for them e.g. disability, ADHD, prematurity etc.
  • Any significant past medical history;
  • Past physical injury including fractures/unusual injuries, e.g. burns;
  • Any known attendance at Accident and Emergency, Out of Hours Service, NHS 24;
  • Hospital admissions;
  • Suspected or diagnosed non-accidental injuries;
  • Any diagnosed mental illness or psychiatric treatment - ongoing problems/current symptoms.


  • The child's growth and nutrition;
  • Immunisation record;
  • Attendance at medical surveillance checks;
  • Any known vision or hearing problems;
  • Any use of alcohol or substance use by the child;
  • Any developmental concerns, gross motor, manipulative skills, communication, social skills, behaviour, height and weight;
  • Dental registration and treatment;
  • Whether the family themselves have any concerns about health issues;
  • Family guidance and advice to the child on health issues, including sex education;
  • Has the child had a comprehensive health assessment since being accommodated?

Learning and achieving

'Thus includes cognitive development from birth, learning achievements and the skills and interests which can be nurtured. Additional support needs. Achievements in leisure, hobbies, sport. Who takes account of the unique abilities and need of the child? Learning plans and other educational records will connect here'.

You should consider:

  • Is the child in a stable school placement or have there been frequent changes of school?
  • Are there problems with attendance/absence from school? Reasons given;
  • Has the child/young person been temporarily/persistently excluded from school? If so, reasons;
  • Is the child/young person achieving their potential?
  • Is the child/young person engaged in learning (are there any identifiable reasons that are affecting their ability to learn);
  • At what level is the child/young person performing e.g. 3-5 Curriculum Framework, 5-14 Assessment, Standard grade, National Qualifications? Assessment (National Test etc);
  • Date of last educational assessment (National Test etc.);
  • Has the child been referred to/received support from learning;
  • Does the child have an Individualised Educational Programme?
  • Are educational targets being met?
  • What, if any, external teaching support services have been accessed on behalf of the child? E.g. Sensory support service, ILT, LAAC;
  • What, if any, supports services have been accessed on behalf of the child e.g. SEN auxiliary?
  • Has a referral been made to psychological services now or in the past? Reasons;
  • Does the child have a record of needs/co-ordinated support plan?
  • Factors giving rise to additional support needs?
  • Has the child/young person been discussed at an Integral Support Team meeting or a multi-agency case conference? Indicate level and scope of involvement;
  • Are the child's/young person's needs being met as a result of any of the above (areas of strength and difficulty);
  • Does the child/young person relate well to teachers and other staff;
  • Does the child/young person mix well with peers;
  • Is the main attraction of the child/young person attending school the social peer group;
  • Has the parent been informed of any concerns within the educational establishment? What was their response;
  • Does the child/young person participate in any extracurricular activities?
  • Are the young child's needs being met.

Being able to communicate

'This includes development of language and communication. Being in touch with others. Ability to express thoughts, feelings and needs. What is the child's/young person's preferred language or method of communication. Are there particular people with whom the child communicates? Are aids to communication required?'.

You should consider:

  • Any difficulties in caring for the child e.g. eating, sleeping, crying, demanding behaviour, illness, wetting, soiling, issues of separation and attachment;
  • Any traumatic events in the child's life e.g. bereavement/loss of parents or siblings;
  • Number and duration of breakdowns in main attachment relationship;
  • The child's general behaviour in different circumstances;
  • Any indication of anxiety or depression and the triggers for these;
  • Any steps that have been taken or interventions currently used to manage the child's behaviour;
  • Other behaviour of the child that may be of concern e.g. risk-taking, offending behaviour, personal safety, mental health, substance misuse;
  • Appropriateness of response demonstrated in feeling and actions of a child to parents/carers and when older to others beyond the family;
  • Nature and quality of early attachments;
  • Characteristics of temperament, adaptation to change, response to stress and degree of appropriate self-control.


'Child's/young person's temperament and characteristics. Nature and quality of early and current attachments. Emotional and behavioural development. Resilience, self-esteem. Ability to take pride in achievements. Confidence in managing challenges, opportunities, difficulties appropriate to the age and stage of development. Appreciation of ethnic and cultural background. Sense of identity which is comfortable with gender, sexuality, religious belief. Skills in social presentation.'

You should consider:

  • The child's sense of him or herself as a separate and valued person;
  • Child's view of abilities, self-image, self-esteem;
  • Positive sense of individuality - issues of race, religion, age, gender, sexuality, disability may contribute to this;
  • The child's degree of self-confidence;
  • Any special needs that affect the child's self-esteem;
  • The child's attitude to praise and response to achievements;
  • Whether the child feels valued by family and friends;
  • The child's relationships at home and with extended family members;
  • The child's relationships at school and socially;
  • The child's attitude towards others;
  • The child's ability to socialise with others e.g. to play with children of a similar age and to initiate and respond to conversation;
  • Whether the child is aware of the impact of his/her behaviour on others;
  • Whether the child is aware of any risks to him or herself of his/her own behaviour;
  • The child's sense of pride in their appearance;
  • The child's sense of him or herself as part of a cultural group;
  • Whether there are any issues that make the child feel stigmatised;
  • What information is made available to the young person about sexuality and sexual orientation.

Learning to be responsible

'Learning appropriate social skills and behaviour. Values; sense of right and wrong. Consideration for others. Ability to understand what is expected and act on it. Key influences on the child's social development as different ages and stages. Key influences on the child's social development at different ages and stages.'

You should consider:

  • The child's ability to advocate on their own behalf;
  • The child's ability to make choices;
  • The child's role as an advocate with their peers, within their school or any organisation to which he/she belongs;
  • The child's capacity to lead or be led by others;
  • The child's ability to seek advice about their appearance/presentation;
  • The child's awareness of his/her own presentation;
  • Any issues in relation to self-care, hygiene, clothing etc including appropriateness of dress;
  • The child's understanding of his/her own and other's emotions;
  • The child's understanding of the perception of the impact of his/her behaviour on others;
  • What support is being provided;
  • Parental advise available about how the child presents in different settings.

Becoming independent / self care

'The gradual acquisition of skills and confidence needed to move from dependence to independence. Early practical skills of feeding, dressing etc. Engaging with learning and other tasks, acquiring skills and competence in social problem solving, getting on well with others, moving to independent living skills and autonomy. What are the effects of any impairment or disability or of social circumstances and how might these be compensated for?'

You should consider:

  • Is the child/young person reaching appropriate developmental milestones;
  • Is the child/young person encouraged to eat/dress/independently?
  • Does the child/young person have a disability that affects self-care? How does the young person view this? Deal with support/help?
  • Is the young person learning independent living skills? E.g. cooking/handling money (even if still at home);
  • Does the child/young person receive pocket money on a regular basis?
  • Importance of money for clothing social activities, music, hobbies, etc.
  • How well does the young person manage money? Is it an issue/area of concern?
  • Does he/she have income from part-time employment;
  • What happens when weekly funds have been spent? Are there issues?
  • Are there any issues in relation to self -care, hygiene, clothing etc?
  • Do they assist with chores/tidy their own bedroom etc?
  • Do they have opportunities to acquire self-care skills?
  • Are there opportunities for involvement in independent activities?
  • Impact of impairment, other vulnerabilities or social circumstances affecting the development of self-care skills.

Enjoying family and friends

'Relationships, which support, value. Encourage and guide the child/young person. Family and wider social networks. Opportunities to make and sustain lasting significant relationships. Encouragement to develop skills in making friends, to take account of feelings and needs of others and to behave responsibly.'

You should consider:

  • Is there a good relationship between the parents/carers and child/young person? Is the child/young person relaxed in the presence of the parent/carer?
  • Is there a strong attachment/strong positive relationship between the child/young person and the parents/carers?
  • Does the child/young person have a good relationship with siblings/other children in the household?
  • Is the young person involved in caring for siblings? Is he/she considerate and caring towards siblings?
  • Does the child/young person have friends?
  • Is the child/young person to be or thought to be involved in bullying?
  • Are there any concerns about the child/young person in relation to a lack of empathy or care for others?
  • Is there a significant adult in the child/young person's life in whom he/she can confide? Is this a family member? Appropriateness of the relationship?

What the child needs from the people who look after him / her - Clearly parents and carers will have a significant role to play here but the role of siblings, wider family, teachers, friends and community group leaders may also be important. Faith and cultural environments need to be recognised. Looking at the inputs from people surrounding the child can give clues to where there are strong supports and where those supports are weak.

It is important to build a picture of how well parents or carers are able to support a child's development, provide appropriate care and protection and wellbeing, so that the child thrives. Families' histories, circumstances and current experiences can have a big impact on whether parents and carers feel confident and able to look after their children well and encourage their progress and development.

Everyday care and help / Basic Care

'This includes day-to-day physical and emotional care, food, clothing and housing. Enabling healthcare and educational opportunities. Meeting the child's changing needs over time, encouraging growth of responsibility and independence.'

You should consider:

  • Parental knowledge of child developmental needs;
  • Parent/s/carer(s) strengths / weaknesses;
  • Any health (including mental health) issues that impact on parenting ability;
  • Any learning disability that impacts on parenting ability;
  • Other factors that may affect parenting capacity e.g. drug use/excessive alcohol use, low self-esteem;
  • Relationship between child/birth parent(s);
  • Child's diet and developmental progress;
  • Child's attendance for health surveillance, immunisations and developmental checks;
  • Parental willingness/ability to co-operate with treatment;
  • Child's attendance for medical/dental treatment;
  • Provision of care including emotional;
  • The ill-health or disability of other family members that impact on the child;
  • Any caring responsibilities of the child.

Keeping the child safe

'Keeping the child safe within the home and exercising appropriate guidance and protection outside. Practical care through home safety such as fire-guards and stair gates and hygiene. Protecting from physical social and emotional dangers such as bullying, anxieties about friendships, domestic problems such as mental health needs, violence and offending behaviour. Taking a responsible interest in child's friends and associates or substance misuse may present risks, staying out late or staying away from home. Are there identifiable risks factors? Is the young person knowledgeable about risks and confident about keeping safe?'

You should consider:

  • Repeated exposure of child to danger or harm;
  • Control and discipline methods used by parents/carers;
  • The demands made of the child by the parents;
  • Family interactions;
  • Support and care offered within the family;
  • Level of interaction between family members;
  • Conflict resolution within the family (including issues of domestic abuse);
  • The general level of safety in the home.

Being there for the child/young person

'Love, emotional warmth, attentiveness and engagement. Who are the people who can be relied on to recognise and respond to the child's young person's emotional needs? Who are the people with whom the child has a particular bond? Who is of particular significance? Who does the child trust? Is there sufficient emotional security and responsiveness in the child's current caring environment?'

You should consider:

  • The child's reaction to the parent;
  • Whether the child is reliant on parental cues when asked sensitive questions by professionals;
  • The child's exposure to parental emotional distress;
  • Levels of praise and encouragement offered to the child;
  • Opportunities the child is given to learn about his/her culture/tradition and language.

Play, encouragement and fun

'Stimulation and encouragement to learn and to enjoy life. Who spends time with the child/young person, communicating, interacting, responding to the child's curiosity, providing an educationally rich environment? Is the child's/young person's progress encouraged by sensitive responses to interests and achievement, involvement in school activities? Is there someone to act as the child's/young person's mentor and champion?'

Scottish Executive 2005

You should consider:

  • The parents' interaction with the child i.e. playing with them, reading to them, spending time with them;
  • Level of encouragement that is given to the child to explore their environment, to be active, to play and share with others, to do age appropriate activities for themselves;
  • Encouragement offered to the child to make choices, be independent, to participate in conversation;
  • Encouragement offered to the child engage in academic and sporting activities;
  • Encouragement offered to the child to learn new skills;
  • Who in the family support the child in learning?
  • Support offered to the aims of the school or nursery;
  • Contribution offered by the parents to the Individualised Education Programme/homework/parents' evenings/school events.

Guidance and support to make the right choices

'Values, guidance and boundaries. Making clear to the child/young person what is expected and why. Are household roles and rules of behaviour appropriate to the age and understanding of the child/young person? Are sanctions constructive and consistent? Are responses to behaviour appropriate, modelling behaviour that represents autonomous, responsible adult expectations. Is the child/young person treated with consideration and respect, encouraged to take social responsibility within a safe and protective environment?'

You should consider:

  • The boundaries and guidance offered to the child;
  • The level of consistency in parental approach to discipline and guidance;
  • Child's ability to demonstrate an awareness of the needs of others;
  • Child's behaviour - including whether the child is aggressive or violent and if so the context, frequency and triggers for this;
  • The child's exposure to violence in the home;
  • Any occasions the child has run away from home.

Knowing what is going to happen and when

'Is the child's/young person's life stable and predictable? Are routines and expectations appropriate and helpful to age and stage of development? Are the child's/young person's needs given priority within an environment that expects mutual consideration? Who are the family members and others important to the child/young person? Can the people who look after her or him be relied on to be open and honest about family and household relationships, about wider influences, needs, decisions and to involve the child/young person in matters which affect him or her. Transition issues must be fully explored for the child or young person during times of change.'

Scottish Executive 2005

You should consider:

  • Information around where the child has lived, who was part of the household who provided primary care to the child;
  • Reasons for significant changes;
  • If the child is separated from a parent, the level of contact and any attendant issues.

Family history & functioning / The family's background and beliefs

'Family and cultural history; issues of spirituality and faith. Does the child/young person have a good understanding of their own background - their family and extended family relationships and their origins. Is their cultural heritage given due prominence? Do those around the child/young person respect and value diversity?'

Scottish Executive 2005

You should consider:

  • Child's awareness of the family history;
  • The way secrets are dealt with in the family;
  • Child's relationship with siblings;
  • Levels of affection and hostility;
  • Child's status in relation to other siblings (i.e. scapegoat, favoured, bullied);
  • Strengths of the family;
  • Physical or intellectual disability;
  • History of mental health;
  • History of alcohol substance misuse;
  • History of parental abuse/neglect as a child;
  • How the family copes under stress;
  • Conflicts within relationships/stability;
  • Communication within the family;
  • History of separations.

The wider world - The communities where children grow up can have a significant impact on the wellbeing of both children and families. Communities can be supportive and protective or can add pressures and increase children and families' vulnerabilities. The level of support available from their wider family, social networks and within their communities can have a positive or negative effect. A child's wider world includes the environment where the family lives, the school children go to and other resources, as well as families' level of income. School can be a major source of support or stress. The wider world also includes the extent to which children and families feel included within their communities. Social exclusion can emanate from factors including racial and cultural discrimination. One of the protective factors likely to encourage resilience in children who are growing up in adversity is the continuing presence of a caring adult outside the child's family.

Support from family, friends and other people

'Networks from friends and social support. Relationships with grandparents, aunts and uncles, extended family and friends. What supports can they provide? Are there tensions involved in or negative aspects of the family's social networks? Are there problems of lost contact or isolation? Are there reliable, long term networks of support which the child or family can reliably draw on. Who are the significant people in the child's / young person's wider environment?'

Scottish Executive 2005

You should consider:

  • Who in the family provides support and the level and frequency of this support;
  • Whether there are any significant deficits in the wider support network - e.g. no grandparents;
  • The quality of the social network that exists for the parents/carers;
  • Any conflictual/burdensome relationships;
  • The involvement of wider family in decision making about children;
  • Positive relationships for the child/young person;
  • If the child is looked after the contact arrangements with the wider family and the equality of them.


'Being accepted in the community, feeling included and valued. What are the opportunities for taking part in activities which support social contact and inclusion e.g. playgroups, after school clubs, youth clubs, environmental improvements, parents' and residents' groups, faith groups. Are there local prejudices and tensions affecting the child's or young person's ability to fit in?'

Scottish Executive 2005


'From pre-school and nursery onwards, the school environment plays a key role. What are the experiences of school and peer networks and relationships? What aspects of the learning environment and opportunities for learning are important to the child/young person? Availability of study support, out of school learning and special interests.'

Scottish Executive 2005

You should consider:

  • Potential support, including nature and quality, available from outwith the family and ability to access the support;
  • Informal caring networks e.g. the role of neighbours in 'watching out' for other people's children;
  • Any frequent changes of accommodation and the impact this has had on the family's ability to maintain good social supports;
  • Sources of support and advice that are available locally;
  • The importance given to continuity of school and relationships with teachers;
  • The importance given to friendships at school and in the community;
  • The extent of bullying and harassment at school;
  • The child's sense of belonging in the community and of feeling safe.

Comfortable and safe housing

'Is the accommodation suitable for the needs of the child and family - including adaptions needed to meet special needs. Is it in a safe, well maintained and resourced and child friendly neighbourhood? Have there been frequent moves?'

Scottish Executive 2005

You should consider:

  • The level of maintenance of the house and how safe and secure the environment is for the child (consideration should be given to the responsibilities of the housing provider of the property is rented/leased);
  • Factual description of the internal conditions of the home should be provided;
  • Whether the appropriate council tax and housing forms have been completed;
  • The length of occupancy of the current home;
  • Impact of any periods of homelessness including effects on support network's and sources of support;
  • Any history of regular changes of address, anti-social behaviour and problems obtaining accommodation;
  • The adequacy of the housing for young children and children with a disability;
  • The child/young person's experience of location of the accommodation including issues of race and racial harassment.

Work opportunities for my family

'Are there local opportunities for training and rewarding work? Cultural and family expectations of work and employment. Supports for the young person's career aspirations and opportunities.'

Scottish Executive 2005

You should consider:

  • History of parental/carer employment/unemployment;
  • Level of training and skills;
  • Influence of employment status on availability for children;
  • Potential for enhancing education and training opportunities;
  • Effects of disability/chronic illness on employment opportunities;
  • Influence of social factors e.g. geographical location, gender, ethnicity, social class on employment;
  • How is work/absence from work viewed by the family/child;
  • What effects are there on the child/young person;
  • Child's experience of work and its impact on them.

Enough money

'Has the family or young person adequate income to meet day-to-day needs and any special needs? Have problems of poverty and disadvantage affected opportunities. Is household income managed for the benefit of all? Are there problems of debts? Do benefit entitlements need to be explored? Is income adequate to ensure the child can take part in school and leisure activities and pursue special interested and skills?'

Scottish Executive 2005

You should consider:

  • Whether the family is in receipt of all benefits to which they are entitled;
  • Current income and outgoings, including outstanding debts and pressures to repay them and penalties incurred for late/non- payment;
  • Management of finances and difficulties experienced;
  • The effects of lack of income on physical quality of the home environment;
  • Sufficiency of income to meet the needs of the family and child;
  • Whether the child is able to participate in activities similar to that of their peers;
  • Financial support available from family and friends;
  • Are the resources available to the family used effectively;
  • Are there financial difficulties which affect the child.

Local Resources

'Resources which the child/young person and family can access for leisure, faith, sport, active lifestyle. Projects offering support and guidance at times of stress or transition. Access to and local information about health, childcare, care in the community, specialist services.'

Scottish Executive 2005

You should consider:

  • Positive environmental circumstances e.g. good housing conditions and low criminality;
  • Negative environmental conditions e.g. high levels of poverty, drug abuse and poor housing;
  • Impact of environmental circumstances on family stress, coping ability;
  • Formal and informal sources of support, consider needs of child and individual parents/carers;
  • Levels of advice available on financial/practical matters;
  • Anti-poverty initiatives, e.g. food co-operatives;
  • The accessibility of affordable, quality childcare provision locally;
  • The family's perception of resources available locally and their ability to access them;
  • Access to neighbourhood play/activities provision;
  • Access to health care/schools/transport/places of worship/shops.

5. Understanding the Meaning of the Assessment Dimensions

Health, education and social care professionals routinely gather some of the information under the My World Triangle headings as part of their everyday work with children and families. While gathering information, there are some critical questions to bear in mind:

  • What kind of child or young person is this? What are their strengths, talents and vulnerabilities?
  • What aspects of parenting behaviours promote the child's development and wellbeing?
  • What aspects of parenting may not be helpful?
  • What other factors are influencing the child's wellbeing and development?
  • What other factors are influencing the parent's ability to provide the care needed?
  • What strengths and pressures are present in every part of the child's world?

Wider factors may be diverse and include the impact of low income, poor housing, breakdown in family relationships and social isolation or the impact of parental drug or alcohol misuse, mental illness or high levels of neighbourhood vandalism or crime. The information under any section of any of the three headings may indicate the reasons why the child or young person is experiencing difficulties or finding any impairment they have more disabling than it needs to be. The information may also point to strengths or helpful factors and inputs which promote their welfare and resilience.

There may be some overlap between the different dimensions. Some health issues, for example, will have an impact on a child's achievement at school. In these cases, practitioners should opt for whichever domain seems relevant from their perspective, using more than one domain for information if issues are interconnected. The important thing is that the information is recorded. It is less important where it is recorded.

As young people make the transition to adulthood their needs will change and there will be more emphasis on the supports that can be provided within families and within communities. Their needs should be seen in terms of what they require, what can be offered and who can support them. Young people themselves should lead these discussions and be fully involved in any decisions made to help them.

Practitioners should use the headings of the three dimensions to think about the following questions:

  • What information have I got?
  • Is this enough to assess the child's needs and make a plan?
  • From where might that information be gathered?

Where a lead professional is in place, it is his or her job to make sure that each member of the team around the child / family brings different knowledge that can be shared to build up a total picture and to make sense of that information and its impact on the child.

6. Analysing the Information

Analysis is the process of breaking down what is known about the complexity of a child' and family's circumstances into smaller parts, to gain a better understanding of what is, or may be happening, so that safe decisions can be made about intervention.

To help analyse and make sense of the information gathered practitioners should do the following:

  • Divide the information into strengths and pressures;
  • Take account of children's age and vulnerabilities or circumstances that might affect their future wellbeing, both positive and negative;
  • Consider the capacity of the parents to effect any changes in accordance with a timeframe appropriate to the child's age and development.

Every child has good and bad things in their lives. What counts is the balance between the strengths and pressures, what can be built upon and what can be changed. When pressures are identified in all three dimensions of the triangle it is likely that a child will have complex needs.

Practitioners should take account of factors that may enhance a family's capacity to cope with stresses or problems, such as the availability of extended family support, good relationships with friends or neighbours or factors promoting personal resilience. When adult services are working with an individual, they should consider how their help can impact on a family.

There will be times when agencies interpret information in different ways or weight information differently. When this happens the alternative interpretations can be noted, but each agency should evidence their views and seek to come to a consensus about the meaning of the information shared in terms of its impact on the child or young person.

It is important that the evidence for any concerns is clear, the strategies that have already been tried to reduce the concerns and how effective these have been. This will assist practitioners in developing an effective plan to address the current concerns that have been identified.

7. Using Tools to Assist the Assessment and Analysis

Having a Chronology of the child's life will be useful in completing a Single Assessment Framework. A chronology will include a record of:

  • The child's health history;
  • Education, training and employment history of the child and family;
  • Any offences;
  • Significant events and changes in the child's family;
  • Agencies activities.

Assessment tools can be usefully used to assist the analysis of information. The Portsmouth Safeguarding Children Board has developed a number of tools to assist practitioners consider the impact of domestic abuse, substance misuse, child sexual exploitation and neglect. Tools should not be used in isolation and must always be referenced in the assessment plan. The findings from these can be added into the assessment.

There are also available to practitioners a wide range of scales and questionnaires to assess specific aspects of a child's behaviour or demeanour and tools to help assess parenting. There are also tools to help assess risk of harm and management of risk. The findings from these can also be added into the main assessment.

To supplement the Single Assessment Framework practitioners may wish to make use of specialist reports, for example from a paediatrician or educational psychologist. Information from these assessments may be incorporated into any analysis and may inform the plan for the family.

8. Management Oversight and Quality Assurance

The timescale for completion of a Single Assessment Framework should be agreed by the practitioner undertaking this piece of work, in consultation with the family and by agreement of their line manager.

A series of check points will need to be put in place where the assessment is being undertaken to determine whether a child needs support under Section 17 Children Act 1989. Working Together to Safeguard Children outlines that a qualified social worker must complete assessments to consider the provision of services under Section 17 Children Act 1989. When the Single Assessment Framework is being used by a social worker for this purpose their line manager will agree a provision timescale for the assessment to be completed on allocation. The progress of the assessment will be checked at 10 working days from the referral. By this time it is expected that the social worker has met the child and the family, has completed preliminary enquiries with partner agencies and has put in place key interventions pending the outcome of the assessment. Some assessments will be concluded at this point. Irrespective of whether the assessment has been concluded or not a team around the child meeting should be convened to agree who will do what and by when.

Should it be agreed that the assessment will progress beyond 10 days a management check will be made at 25 days to consider how the assessment is progressing and any outstanding actions. A final check will be made at 40 days to ensure that all assessments are completed within 45 working days.

Cases should not be stepped down from social care until the Single Assessment Framework has been completed and authorised by a manager, and a plan of intervention has been developed and agreed by the family and the professionals supporting them.

Where the Single Assessment Framework is being completed by a social worker to support enquiries under Section 47 Children Act 1989 it is important that timescales are properly understood so that arrangements are made to interview the child and complete medical examination as necessary and protective steps can be taken to ensure the safety of the child / children. Where the enquiry indicates that a child is suffering, or at risk of suffering, significant harm consideration should be given to convening an Initial Child Protection Conference. Initial child protection conferences should be convened within 15 working days of the strategy discussion where the decision to initiate a Section 47 enquiry was made. This process is clearly detailed in the 4LSCB Safeguarding Children Procedures. In these cases it will be expected that the Single Assessment process is completed to inform the social work report to the Initial Child Protection Conference. It will be expected that every Single Assessment Framework completed as part of Section 47 enquiries will be regularly reviewed by the social work line manager and authorised at completion. The manager will consider and endorse any recommendations that will be made to the Initial Child Protection Conference.

A regular multi-agency audit will be scheduled by the Portsmouth Safeguarding Children Board to determine the quality of the Single Assessment Framework and to share any learning that arises.

9. Pre-Birth ‘Good Practice Steps’

In a High Court judgment (Nottingham City Council v LW & Ors [2016] EWHC 11(Fam) (19 February 2016)) Keehan J set out five points of basic and fundamental good practice steps with respect to public law proceedings regarding pre-birth and newly born children and particularly where Children’s Services are aware at a relatively early stage of the pregnancy.

In respect of Assessment, these were:

  1. A risk assessment of the parent(s) should ‘commence immediately upon the social workers being made aware of the mother’s pregnancy’;
  2. Any Assessment should be completed at least 4 weeks before the mother’s expected delivery date;
  3. The Assessment should be updated to take into account relevant events pre - and post delivery where these events could affect an initial conclusion in respect of risk and care planning of the child;
  4. The Assessment should be disclosed upon initial completion to the parents and, if instructed, to their solicitor to give them the opportunity to challenge the Care Plan and risk assessment.
(See Care and Supervision Proceedings and the Public Law Outline, Pre-Birth Planning and Proceedings).

10. The Plan

A plan is based on an understanding of the child and family, reached through the Single Assessment Framework. Parents, carers and children and young people should be fully involved in the assessment and planning process to understand what change is needed. Their views should always be taken into account, their strengths should be recognised and they should be appreciated for their achievements.

The plan will be used to record what needs to be done to improve the family's situation; clarifying what is expected to be done, who will do it and by when. The plan should identify actions and activities, the improvements they are intended to make and how the progress will be measured. It should always be a working document and should be easily understood by everyone involved.