The purpose of assessment

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.


Whatever legislation the child is assessed under, the purpose of the assessment is always:

  • 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 suffering or likely to suffer significant harm (section 47); and
  • to provide support to address those needs to improve the child’s outcomes to make them safe.

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.  A good assessment will monitor and record the impact of any services delivered to the child and family and review the help being delivered.  Whilst services may be delivered to a parent or carer, the assessment should be focused on the needs of the child and on the impact any services are having on the child.

Good assessments support professionals to understand whether a child has needs relating to their care or a disability and/or is suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm.  The specific needs of disabled children and young carers should be given sufficient recognition and priority in the assessment process.  Further guidance can be accessed at Safeguarding Disabled Children - Practice Guidance (2009) and Recognised, valued and supported: Next steps for the Carers Strategy (2010).5, 6

Practitioners should be rigorous in assessing and monitoring children at risk of neglect to ensure they are adequately safeguarded over time.  They should act decisively to protect the child by initiating care proceedings where existing interventions are insufficient.

Where a child becomes looked after the assessment will be the baseline for work with the family.  Any needs which have been identified should be addressed before decisions are made about the child's return home.  An assessment by a social worker is required before the child returns home under the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010.  This will provide evidence of whether the necessary improvements have been made to ensure the child's safety when they return home. Appropriate support should be provided, following an assessment, for children returning home, including where that return home is unplanned. Any such support should ensure that children continue to be adequately safeguarded.

Where a child becomes looked after as a result of being remanded to youth detention accommodation (YDA), the local authority must visit the child and assess the child's needs before taking a decision. The information must be used to prepare aDetention PLacement PLan (DPP), which must set out how the YDA and other professionals will meet the child's needs whilst the child remains remanded. The DPP must be reviewed in the same way as a care plan for any other looked after child.