Child and Family Single Assessment Guidance

Assessments must be based on good analysis, timeliness and transparency and be proportionate to the needs of the child and their family.

Each child who has been referred into local authority Children's Social Care should have an individual assessment to identify their needs and to understand the impact of any parental behaviour on them as an individual. Local authorities have to give due regard to a child's age and understanding when determining what (if any) services to provide under Section 17 of the Children Act 1989, and before making decisions about action to be taken to protect individual children under Section 47 of the Children Act 1989.


Working Together to Safeguard Children - Assessment

Social Work Post-Qualifying Standards: Knowledge and Skills Statements


In July 2019, this guidance was updated to reflect changes to the Child and Family Single Assessment which now includes additional reference to the child's lived experience, the motivation of parents and their capacity to change.

1. Introduction

All assessments should be timely, transparent and proportionate to the needs of individual children and their families.

They should convey a sense of the child's lived experience within the family and wider community networks

Assessments for some children will require particular care. This is especially so for young carers; children with special educational needs (including to inform and be informed by Education, Health and Care Plans); unborn children where there are concerns regarding the parent(s); children in hospital; children with specific communication needs; unaccompanied migrant children; children considered at risk of gang activity and association with organised crime groups; children at risk of female genital mutilation; children who are in the youth justice system and children returning home following a period of Accommodation.

Assessment should be a dynamic process, which analyses and responds to the changing nature and level of need and/or risk faced by the child from within and outside their family.

Every assessment must be informed by the views of the child as well as the family, and a child's wishes and feelings must be sought regarding the provision of services to be delivered.

Assessment tools should be used  to inform the assessment, these should be referred to in the appropriate section. These include systemic practice tools such as ecomaps and genograms which are available on the Intranet under Safe Successful Families. All tools can be found on the Intranet under Practitioner Toolbox. Click here to view the Family Pack of Questionnaires and Scales from the Assessment Framework.

2. Starting the Assessment

At the start of the assessment, the allocated social worker should indicate whether this is a 'child in need statutory child and family single assessment' or an 'updated child and family assessment'. Each new assessment will be a 'child in need statutory child and family single assessment'.

If an assessment has been completed recently and another concern is referred or the child is an open case, then an 'updated child and family assessment' will be completed. All open cases should have an updated assessment at least every 12 months (Children Looked After) unless required earlier or if an Initial Child Protection Conference is convened. The assessment should be updated for every review Child Protection Conference as part of the report.

Once a single assessment has been completed on a child(ren)/family and a subsequent assessment is undertaken, the allocated social worker will be able to import the assessment triangle sections of the previous assessment. It is important that the information imported is reviewed, analysed and relevant to the current assessment being undertaken.

3. Child Protection Section

The allocated social worker should indicate whether this assessment is also part of a child protection enquiry, including if the assessment will also be used as a report for a Child Protection Conference and the date of the conference.

If this assessment is also a report for conference the social worker should ensure that they follow the strengthening families' link for additional guidance and areas to cover. You will be asked in conference to refer to these areas including the child's views. The report needs to reflect clearly in the analysis and recommendations section any identified risks and protective factors and what actions/services provided need to be in place to reduce any identified risks, alongside the changes required to reduce the levels of risk. The child(ren) and parent/carer's views should be clearly captured regarding the current situation and their views about the conference and the allocated social workers recommendation to conference.

The allocated social worker should also include a clear recommendation of whether the child(ren) should be subject to a plan (CP, CIN, Early Intervention) and if recommending a Child Protection Plan which category i.e. Physical abuse, Emotional abuse, Sexual abuse or Neglect.

If this assessment is a Child Protection Review Conference report then the allocated social worker should address all the above and in addition include dates of when the child(ren) were seen as part of the child protection visit statutory requirements, core group dates since the last conference and the progress of the Child Protection Plan. Include in your recommendations whether your professional opinion is that the child(ren) should remain under a Child Protection Plan and under the current category or whether they should be removed from a Child Protection Plan and what other alternative action/or plans should be in place i.e. CIN, Early Intervention. The conference will review the Child Protection Plan.

The child and family single assessment/conference report needs to be sent to the safeguarding section 3 days prior to the conference date as per procedures and shared with the child(ren)/parents.

4. Family/Household Details Including Other Significant People

All information held on CASS under maintain person will be pulled through to these sections and should be added and amended accordingly. All children who are part of the assessment will be identified. Other children within the same household who are not siblings and have different parent/carers living at the same address should have a separate assessment, as should siblings who live in another household. Other significant people should be included in the assessment particularly identifying birth parents that are not residing in the family home but have significant contact with the child, alongside any other persons who have regular contact and offer a supportive role.

5. Communication Needs/Legal Status

These sections should capture the child's ethnicity alongside any communication/interpreter needs, including any immigration status information. The legal status of the child if known should also be included i.e. Child Arrangement Order, etc.

6. Professional Relationships

Before a Referral is discussed with other agencies, the parent's consent should usually be sought, unless to do so may place the child at risk of Significant Harm, in which case the manager should authorise the discussion of the Referral with other agencies without parental knowledge or consent. The authorisation should be recorded with reasons.

Any current involved professionals should be included in this section, including any joint visits undertaken and their contributions either verbal or written. Contributions included in the main body of the assessment should clearly identify the name of the professional followed by the information provided.

Any professional that has not contributed, the reasons should be recorded as to whether a request was made and no information provided, or any other reasons i.e. school closed as holiday period. All referrals made by a professional/actively involved agency, where appropriate should be encouraged to undertake an initial joint visit within 5 working days, unless the concerns are child protection and a section 47 is being undertaken.

Additional joint visits with other professionals/agencies involved may be undertaken in a planned way as part of the assessment.

7. Assessment Details

The initial planning and timeframe will be undertaken by the Practice Manager, however as the assessment develops planning should be in partnership with other professionals including any joint visits and additional information gathered which may alter the initial plan of the assessment and timeframe.

Every assessment will include each child being seen and where appropriate alone, this will include observations of pre-verbal children. The planning should identify if a child needs to be seen immediately. Any specialist assessments will also be identified i.e. age assessments, private fostering, young carer, sibling, reunification, Mental Capacity, etc.

The timeframe will be clearly identified as the standard 15 working days unless further time is required for completion of a more comprehensive assessment.

The reason for undertaking the assessment /presenting issues is information pulled through from the referral reason. This needs to be adapted and expanded on by the allocated social worker to ensure it clearly identifies information already known about the child and family from the referral alongside any particular issues to be explored further, including key issues to be addressed and any risks identified. This should clearly tell the family why we are involved. If the referral is from an anonymous source then any identifying information should be removed.

8. Assessment Progress (including timescales)

All assessments should be reviewed at regular periods to ensure the needs of the child/family are being met and to ensure timeliness. At the point of commencing an assessment the Practice Manager can complete the progress review on the same day should the assessment clearly require more than the standard 15 days i.e. updated assessments on open cases, Child Protection Conference and Review Report, presenting concerns, or previous history.

Additional progress reviews can take place during the assessment period but the maximum time of 45 working  days must not be exceeded. The case would then be reviewed as per procedures within supervision, at additional review points, or when the assessment is completed and submitted for sign off.

Single assessments used for Child Looked After Reviews are automatically generated 20 days before the review. They must be completed and signed off by a Practice manager, shared with parents and child  and sent to the IRO 5 days prior to the Child Looked After Review.

In all other standard assessments the timescale is 15 working days, with the progress review by day 8. If the assessment is on track for completion and an extension has not been requested on the form/or by discussion then no further action is required at this stage.

A verbal discussion should always take place between the allocated social worker and Practice Manager to ensure additional action is not required to avoid delay.

If additional time is being requested the allocated social worker should complete the reason for extension section and the additional time requested. The Practice Manager should review the case and if in agreement set the further timescale at 25, 35, 45 days.

If the reason given is not agreed then the extension should be rejected and clear guidance given to the allocated social worker that the assessment should be submitted within the agreed timescales. There can be several reviews periods if required and should be used rather than a standard 45 days set.

In ensuring good practice and timeliness of assessments being completed and submitted for sign off alongside providing time for the Practice Manager to read the assessment, suggest any changes, additional information required then the allocated social worker should submit the assessment on day 12 in respect of any standard assessment and 3 days prior in any other timescale set.

The assessment is not deemed complete and within timescales until the Practice Manager has signed off the assessment.

9. Information Sources

This information will be pulled through on CASS and the relevant person should be clicked and the date seen included, indicating if the child was seen alone. All visits undertaken as part of the assessment should be included and allocated social workers need to ensure the details of the first visit are accurate as this is separately reported on in respect of the number of days it has taken to see a child from the point of referral. It is important that the maintain person screen is up to date.

10. Assessment Framework Triangle

Assessment Triangle

10.1 Child/Young Person's Developmental Needs

Children should be seen and listened to and included throughout the assessment process. Their ways of communicating should be understood in the context of their family and community as well as their behaviour and developmental stage. It is important that the impact of what is happening to a child is clearly identified and that information is gathered, recorded and checked systematically, and discussed with the child and their parents/carers where appropriate.

The assessment must provide a clear picture of what life is like for the child living in their family and what they make of it.

If the assessment is being completed for more than one child then their name should be used as a heading in each of the 4 sections. These sections should include evidence of the social workers direct observations / contact and information from other professionals, discussions with the child(ren), parent/carers.

  • Health - this section should consider the following; growth and development as well as physical and mental wellbeing, is the child's development age appropriate, the impact of any genetic factors and of any impairment, is the child receiving appropriate health care when ill, an adequate and nutritious diet, exercise, immunizations where appropriate and developmental checks, dental and optical care, and for older children appropriate advice and information on issues that have an impact on health, including sex education and substance misuse;
  • Education - this section should consider the following; all areas of a child's cognitive development which begins from birth, opportunities for play and interaction, to have access to books and being able to develop skills and interests, experience of success and achievement, promoting the child's learning and intellectual development through encouragement, stimulation, and promoting social opportunities, enabling the child to reach their full potential, ensuring the child has access to educational provision, current education provision, attendance, attainment, home school relationships, including any areas for concern;
  • Emotional and behavioural development - this section should consider the following; is the child's development age appropriate, does the child present as happy, are they able to regulate their emotions, is the child demonstrating attachments, does the child display any self-harming, aggressive, challenging, risk taking or violent behaviours. An SDQ should be compelted as part of the assessment;
  • Identity/family and social relationships - this section should consider the following; the child's growing sense of self as a separate and valued person, hobbies, interests, skills, race, religion, age, gender identity, sexuality, disability, where the child fits within the family, feelings of belonging and acceptance by family, peer group and wider society, including other cultural groups, self-esteem, relationship with parents/carers, relationship with siblings, age appropriate friendships with peers and others significant persons in the child's life and response of family to these relationships, trusted adults and/or peers, does the parent/carer ensure the child(ren) keep in contact with important family members and significant others, is the child subject to conflict between family members. In summary, it is important to gain a sense of how the child fits into the family system of relationships, how they relate to others and how others relate to them;
  • Self-care skills/social presentation - this section should consider the following; does the child have age appropriate self-care skills, appropriate supervision and support is offered by parents/carers to encourage development of self- care skills and independence, does the child have proportionate levels of responsibility according to their age, is the child provided with clean, adequate and appropriate clothing for age, gender, culture and religion, cleanliness and personal hygiene;
  • The child's lived experience is important to capture. This summarises the combined impact of the above domains on their day to day life.

10.2 Parenting Capacity

These sections should include evidence of the social workers direct observations/ contact and information from other professionals, discussions with the child(ren), parent/carers. It is important to record clearly the name of the adult to whom the attribute refers and its impact on parenting capacity. It is also important to record details of adults who are considered to be or are likely to be posing a risk of significant harm to the child. These adults may or may not be living in the same household as the child. In sibling groups it is important that if there are any differences between the children in the level of care provided to them it is highlighted, and therefore their names will need to be used as headings.

  • Basic care/ensuring safety - this section should consider the following; are all the child(ren)'s basic needs regarding food, clothing, access to health, education, other services met, is the child adequately protected from significant harm or danger, are there concerns about contact with any unsafe adults/other children, are there concerns of the child and self-harm, recognition of any hazards and danger in the home or elsewhere, is the child protected from inappropriate adult behaviours, such as criminal, antisocial, sexual behaviours, at risk of child sexual exploitation, are there any concerns that affect the parent/carers capacity to provide basic care and safety to the child i.e. physical illness; mental illness; learning disability; substance/alcohol misuse; domestic violence; childhood abuse; history of abusing children;
  • Emotional warmth/stimulation - this section should consider the following; the child's requirements for secure, stable and affectionate relationships with significant adults/carers, with appropriate sensitivity and responsiveness to the child(ren)'s needs, appropriate physical contact, comfort and cuddling, praise and encouragement, the opportunity to engage in educational and social activities as part of the family or individually;
  • Guidance and boundaries/stability - this section should consider the following; how does the parent/carer provide consistent parenting, how are boundaries within/outside the home instilled and managed, are there any challenging/difficult behaviours of the child and how are these managed, is the child provided with a stable family environment, has there been any instability within the family dynamics, has there been several house moves, changes within the family, do both the child's parents live within the same household, are the parent's providing separate care or another adult/carer, does the child have any regular or significant contact with another parent/carer/adult;
  • The assessment should provide analysis of the parent's understanding of risk, their capacity to manage it in the future;
  • The assessment must provide analysis of the parent's motivation to make changes to reduce risk and sustain them in future.

10.3 Family and Environmental Factors

Children may be vulnerable to neglect and abuse or exploitation from within their family and but increasingly also from individuals they come across in their day-to-day lives. These threats can take a variety of different forms, including: sexual, physical and emotional abuse; neglect; exploitation by criminal gangs and organised crime groups; trafficking; online abuse; sexual exploitation and the influences of extremism leading to radicalisation.

The interaction of these domains requires careful investigation during the Assessment. The aim is to reach a judgement about the nature and level of needs and/or risks that the child may be facing within their family and/or community. Importantly the assessment, in looking at the domains, should also consider where the strengths are in a child's circumstances and in what way they may assist in reducing the risk.

These sections should include evidence of the social workers direct observations/ contact and information from other professionals, discussions with the child(ren), parent/carers. It is important to record details of any adults who are considered to be or are likely to be posing a risk of significant harm to the child(ren):

  • Family history and functioning - this section should consider the following; parent/carer's history, experience of being parented, parent/carer's current and historical relationships, how long together, any drug, alcohol misuse, mental health, disability, learning disability, sensory impairment, periods in care, known history of violence, domestic abuse, offending, anti-social behaviour, experience of being abused as a child, and their views on any of the above;
  • Wider family and significant others - this section should consider the following; who are considered to be members of the wider family/support network by the child(ren) and the parent/carers, include related and non-related persons and absent wider family, what is their role and importance to the child/family, what additional support do they provide i.e. emotional, financial, practical, respite, caring responsibilities;
  • Housing/employment/income - this section should consider the following; does the accommodation have basic amenities of water, heating, lighting, sanitation, cooking facilities, sleeping arrangements, cleanliness, hygiene, does the current accommodation meet the child/family's needs, are there any concerns around rent/mortgage arrears, is there a risk of homelessness, has the child(ren)s bedroom been seen, who is working in the household, are there any issues around their pattern of work/hours, what impact does a parent/carer working have on the child which may include child(ren) attending a child care provision, home alone for short periods if age appropriate or caring for siblings, is the family in receipt of all its benefit entitlements, are there financial difficulties/debts which affect the child(ren), is there adequate food in the household, does the child(ren)/family enjoy regular activities or holidays;
  • Family's social integration/community resources - this section should consider the following; is the child/family part of the local neighbourhood and community, what facilities and services does the local neighbourhood provide, including universal services or primary health care, day care and schools, places of worship, transport, shops and leisure activities.;
  • Any current/historical social care involvement/services from other agencies - this section will allow the chronology to be imported, however, it is important that this section is not a list of dates and events. The information should be analysed and summarised into paragraphs clearly highlighting relevant information.

    Involved and previous agencies/services may also have provided key information regarding support and interventions previously or currently provided. Any significant events/key information should also be added to the child(ren) CASS chronology. It is the allocated social worker's responsibility to analyse whether the information provided is a significant event. This information will be provided via the referral form, assessment contribution form or verbally.

    Discussions should also take place with the child/family about any previous support services they have had or any previous involvement by another local authority. Additional checks may be required with any identified services/other local authority.

    If this is a child protection review report it may be this section where the appropriate visits and core group dates could be inserted in the chronology format.

10.4 What is it like to live in this family?

  • The Child(ren)
    Children should participate and contribute directly to the assessment process based upon their age and understanding. They should be seen alone and if this is not possible or in their best interest, the reason should be recorded.
    Every assessment should be child centred and at the pace of the child, additional visits dependant on the nature of the concern may be required to encourage a trusting relationship. Where a child is pre-verbal/non-verbal this should be recorded and observations included. If an interpreter is required then arrangements should be made to ensure an independent interpreter is resourced and not a family member.

    A decision may also be made to see the child(ren) away from the family home i.e. school, it is good practice that parent/carer's will have given permission for this as part of the assessment process, however it should also be appreciated that some children may not want to be seen at school and permission should also be sought from the child(ren)
  • The Parents / Carers
    The parent/carer's involvement in the assessment will be central to its success. At the outset they need to understand how they can contribute to the process and what is expected of them to change in order to improve the outcomes for the child. The assessment process must be open and transparent with the parent/carer. However, the process should also challenge the parent/carers' statements and behaviour where it is evidenced that there are inconsistencies, questions or obstacles to progress. All parent/carer's should be involved equally in the assessment and should be supported to participate whilst the welfare of the child must not be overshadowed by parental needs. There may be exceptions to the involvement of some adults in cases of sexual abuse, physical violence or domestic abuse where the plan for the assessment must consider the safety of an adult as well as that of the child.

10.5 Risk and Strengths Factors

This section should clearly identify all the information gathered within the assessment alongside the presenting concern of all risks, strengths, protective factors and any vulnerability.

What does all of the information gathered tell you about the child/family's situation and what needs to change, where there are protection risks what needs to change to minimise these risks, identify any areas that are unclear or may be of potential concern for the child(ren), what does the family do well, what services can support this, what role/involvement do wider family and support networks have to support the child/family.

10.6 Analysis and Recommendations

  • Analysis - this section should focus on pulling all the information together gathered from the assessment, the presenting concerns and how these are being addressed, historical information, any additional concerns highlighted during the assessment, family functioning, any identified risks should be clearly recorded and how these can be managed safely for the child(ren) and what needs to change, any areas of unmet needs, how all the above impact on the child(ren), whether any concerns are not substantiated;
  • Recommendations - this section should clearly identify any recommendations or actions required by the child(ren), parent/carer's, children's social care or other agencies to achieve positive change, whether there is a need for any urgent action to protect the child(ren)/adult in the household or community, what package of support services are required. If the case is going to close provide clear reasoning for this decision and what support services are in place, what further potential action should be taken/considered if further concerns are referred/disclosed to children's social care/other agencies, any contingency planning.

11. Decisions

The assessment outcome should be suggested by the allocated social worker. If timescales were not achieved a reason provided for any delay. Referrals to other agencies or involved services should be recorded.

The supervisor/manager will endorse or change the assessment outcome and will record a clear decision for no further action or action to be taken as advised by the allocated social worker. If additional work is identified by the supervisor/manager this will be recorded clearly.

12. Consultation Following Completion

There is an expectation that  the assessment is shared with the family in a timely manner, and that their views are gathered and recorded. A verbal discussion with the child(ren)/family may take place during the assessment process outlining a proposed plan of potential action dependant on no additional concerns being raised from checks with other agencies. It is important that this section captures the views on the assessment and outcome. It should be recorded if the child(ren) are too young to contribute to this section.

For Child protection conferences, the report should be shared with the family in order that there is sufficient time to provide an informed response.

Where assessments recommend a Child in Need plan the report should be shared with the family before the case is transferred in order that the family can provide an informed response.

All agencies who have contributed to the assessment and are involved with the child(ren)/family should also be informed of the proposed outcome and their views gathered and recorded.

There is an expectation that relevant information is shared with children in a format that they can understand. Reasons for not sharing information should be recorded. A copy of the assessment should be sent to the child(ren), parent/carer's and the agencies that contributed to the assessment or are involved/providing services once the assessment has been signed off by the supervisor/manager. Consideration should be given as to whether it is appropriate to share assessments which are deemed S47 assessments with all the above, however it should be noted if this is a conference report then this would be shared with all relevant parties. A clear reason should be provided if a copy has not been provided. In addition if the child(ren)/parent/carers state they do not want a copy of the assessment to be shared with a particular agency, then this should also be clearly recorded. Copies sent by post should be clearly evidenced within the attachment section of CASS, or clearly recorded under daily records if a copy has been provided in person.

The referrer should be informed of the outcome only. If they are a professional/agency then the above sections apply. If the referrer is a non-professional then confidentiality of the child(ren)/family needs to be followed. The allocated social worker should take into account who the referrer is and what role they have with the family. The referrer should be clearly advised under these circumstances that children's social care are unable to provide full information i.e. following the referral you made an assessment was undertaken and the case will now be closed as there is no on-going role, or has been signposted to other services, that social care will be remaining involved. Where cases are being closed the referrer should always be encouraged to re-refer any additional concerns. Informing the referrer as indicated above will be reliant on their name, telephone details, or address being recorded on the referral. If there is an address only then a letter should be sent.

This section should be completed at the latest by day 10 after the assessment has been signed off by a supervisor/manager. The case will not be able to transfer or close until this section has been fully completed.

Trix procedures

Only valid for 48hrs