Local authorities have a responsibility to their people when it comes to safeguarding. Safeguarding refers to the process of protecting vulnerable members of society from abuse and neglect. This means making sure their well-being, health care, and human rights are all being looked after to a high standard. One group of individuals that classes as vulnerable are children, and that is anyone under the age of 18.
Children’s services have a duty to check out situations where there has been a concern expressed about the safety and well-being of a child. These services are made up of a mixture of people, predominantly social workers, but also the police, health workers, and any other professionals that are connected to the child.
When a situation is raised, that is when a social worker carries out a social care assessment under section 17 of the Children Act 1989. This must take place within 45 days of the concern first being raised.
What does the assessment consist of?
The assessment aims to gather information and analyse the needs of the child or children and/or their family, and the nature and level of any risk of harm. Each Local Authority has their own way of carrying out these assessments, involving different child protection procedures and protocols. However, across the board the investigation will generally require that a social worker:
- Visits the family to discuss the allegations that have been made
- Conduct an interview with the child away from the family
- Liaise with other professionals that are involved with the child and/or family
- Assess the developmental needs of the child
- Assess the ability of the parents to respond to the child’s needs
- Consider the impact the family, the family history, the wider family and any environmental factors have on the parents’ capacity to respond to their child’s needs and the child’s developmental progress
As you can see, the assessment must be informed by the views of the child independently, as well as the family.
What are the potential results of an assessment?
As a result of the assessment, Children’s Services will come to one of the following conclusions:
- The child is not ‘In Need’. In this case, Children’s Services will take no further action other than, where appropriate, to provide information and advice in accordance with the local Common Assessment Framework.
- The child is ‘In Need’, but it has been determined that the child is not suffering, or considered likely to suffer, significant harm. In this case, Children’s Services will determine the support which will be provided and draw up a ‘Child In Need’ plan accordingly.
- The child is ‘In Need’ and that there are concerns that the child is suffering, or considered likely to suffer from significant harm. In which case, Children’s Services will initiate a Strategy Discussion to determine whether another investigation is necessary; and consider whether any immediate protective action is also required. This Strategy Discussion can involve the police, health and education providers to decide on further steps that need to be taken to safeguard the child.