The Framework Of Assessment

The Assessment Framework 2000 introduced a systematic approach for gathering and analysing information about all children, young people and their families who may be in need, allowing for effective discrimination between different levels of vulnerability. This was jointly issued in 2000 by the Department of Health, the Department for Education and Employment, and the Home Office - reflecting joint responsibility for the welfare of children.

The Assessment Framework is symbolised by the following triangle:

Principles Underpinning Assessments

  • The assessment will be child focused and the views of the child or young person will be included.
  • The informed consent of a person with parental responsibility will always be sought unless to do so places a child at risk of significant harm.  Where refusal to give consent places the child at risk of significant harm, that fact will be recorded while the case is reported to Children's Social Care.
  • Where Gillick, or Fraser, competency applies (young person of ‘sufficient understanding and intelligence to enable him or her to understand fully what is proposed’ and thus themselves give consent), parental involvement will still be encouraged.
  • Assessment should use an interagency approach for information gathering and the provision of services.
  • Each assessment will identify and agree lead agency to co-ordinate when more than one service is involved.
  • Assessments should work to timescales and be solution and action focused.
  • Assessment is an ongoing process – not a one-off event.
  • Appropriate services will be provided through, and following, the assessment.
  • Assessments will take clear account of the cultural, racial, religious and linguistic needs of the child or young person and family.
  • Disability issues will be addressed to ensure assessments are inclusive.

All agencies and organisations continue to be guided by the above Assessment Framework for all children with additional needs. This enables common language, understanding and consistency to develop across all agencies working with children and families.

The Common and Shared Assessment (CASA) is an important tool for early help in Merton. It is designed for use when:

  • The practitioner has concerns about a child’s well-being or that their development will not progress as appropriate without additional services; or the child or parent themselves have raised a concern about the health, welfare, behaviour, progress in learning or any other aspect of well-being of the child.
  • The needs are unclear, or broader than the service (of the practitioner completing the assessment) can address
  • A Common and Shared Assessment would help identify the needs and/or get other services to help meet them

As with other Frameworks, CASA relies on practitioner judgement, who will use and have been trained in Assessment Skills and Common Core Skills, as well as Child Protection at least to Level 1 of  Merton Safeguarding Children Board Training

The information gathering domains of the CASA are based on those of the Assessment Framework 2000 (as outlined already above) which provides a universally accepted structure for collecting evidence and recording an assessment that can support a request for the child and/or family to receive additional support from another service. Fuller detail on the Common and Shared Assessment process follows in MWBM Section 3.


A Common System For Responding To Need

Children and young people with additional needs are the concern and responsibility of all practitioners and professionals from all local authority departments, strategic health authorities and community services who work with children.  Early identification of difficulties and real improvements in outcomes for these children and young people is facilitated by close collaboration between all individual workers and agencies both at a strategic and practice level. Each agency delivers different elements of service to meet a wide variety of needs, so it is important that two tools exist:

I)   A common method of assessing needs: the Common and Shared Assessment  combined with MWBM Table of Additional Needs Indicators provides a structure to assist professional judgement in identifying different degrees of vulnerability and guide towards appropriate intervention.  

II)  A range of options to enable agencies to consult and agree plans to bring all different elements to bear in a coordinated way. The continuum of support for vulnerable children as defined for those at the higher end of need in London Child Protection Procedures extends, through the five levels of Merton Child and Young Person Well Being Continuum, to procedures for medium and lower level additional needs:

  1. Some concerns may be addressed within a single agency through its own internal consultation procedures. In some instances, concerns may be addressed through joint or multi-disciplinary consultation or referral – with or without the need for professionals from different disciplines or agencies physically coming together to meet.
  2. Where child or public safety is not an issue, but there are other concerns, a multi-agency meeting (Team Around the Child/Family TAC/TAF meeting; Pastoral Support Programme (PSP) Meeting, SEN Support Review, Integrated Care Pathways meeting) provides the multi-agency planning forum: this may involve practitioners from any of the universal, targeted, specialist, statutory or private, voluntary, independent or community services
  3. In cases where

    the protection of a child is an issue, a Strategy Discussion is held, which may be followed by a Child Protection Conference - as outlined in the London Child Protection Procedures

    where public protection is at risk, the Police will lead on co-ordinating response: this is likely to involve Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA) corresponding to three categories of offender (involving violent or sex offenders) and three levels of risk management (involving more intensive multi-agency engagement)

    where a young person is on a statutory youth offending order, where the likelihood of re-offending or risk of serious harm is high, internal processes (often involving in-house Panels) take place to assess interventions required and participation of other agencies.

    where a Statement of SEN needs to be considered, a multi-disciplinary Statutory SEN Assessment is led by the Local Authority

    where a child with complex disabilities may require statutory support, an in-depth Assessment will be led by Special Educational Needs and Disability Integrated Service (SENDIS)

ANY agency can therefore take responsibility for co-ordinating a response to a concern about a child or young person (MWBM Levels1-2 above) – unless the concern is so serious as to warrant statutory or complex specialist intervention (MWBM Levels 3).

  • Services to young people with additional needs should be provided on the basis of assessment and analysis – and be reviewed to ensure that needs are being met.
  • The full involvement of children, young people and parents is implicit in Merton Child and Young Person Well Being Mode 2013.  All activity involved in multi-agency meetings should be known to parents, children and young people, and they should be fully involved as far as possible.
  • All agencies must commit to participating in Consultation, without necessarily receiving a Referral.
  • All agencies must respond seriously to requests to attend multi-agency meetings
  • Where significant harm to a child is likely, then the responsibility for co-ordinating action rests with Social Care under the London Child Protection Procedures
  • Statutory coordination for Public Safety, Statements of SEN, CAMHS, Youth Re-Offending rests with agencies as outlined in (MWBM Levels 3) above.

Universal Services

The majority of Common and Shared Assessments will be carried out or arranged by Universal services such as schools, health settings, early years and childcare centres. These services are best equipped to identify possible needs in their early stages.

Specialist Targeted and Statutory Services

The CASA is the main method for early assessments, and is not intended to replace specialist assessments from the targeted (including voluntary) or statutory sectors. However, if a Common and Shared Assessment is used to identify the need for a specialist or statutory service, then practitioners within these services should use any relevant information from the CASA to inform their own specialist or statutory assessment.

Multi-agency Assessments

Practitioners will use their professional relationships and networks to assist them in achieving good outcomes for children and their families.

Inter-agency, inter-disciplinary assessment requires an additional set of knowledge and skills to that required for working within a single agency or independently. It requires that all staff understand and appreciate the roles and responsibilities of staff working in contexts different to their own.

Universal services, voluntary, private and independent sector agencies, adult services or any other agencies or organisations work to assist statutory agencies with assessments as required, of families that are either known to them or with whom they are working. This can include working in partnership with Social Care to produce in-depth Single Assessments for those smaller numbers of children who need to be safeguarded. For further information and guidance on this refer to Agency Roles in London Child Protection Procedures).

Similarly, when specialist services are working in collaboration with other services (universal, targeted, statutory, private, voluntary or community) as part of a multi-agency team at lower levels of concern MWBM Levels 1-2, they may be asked to contribute to an existing Common and Shared Assessment in order to assess and review the progress of a child and identify if any additional support is required to meet the unmet needs.

The welfare of children is a corporate responsibility of the entire Local Authority working in partnership with other public agencies, the voluntary sector, and services users and carers.  Joint working extends across the assessment, planning, management, provision and delivery of services. Merton’s Child and Young Person Well Being Model recognizes that quality collaboration at an inter-professional level requires effective multi-agency and multi-disciplinary procedures and arrangements beyond informal processes to ensure that good inter-agency working is not reliant on the commitment of dedicated individuals. Merton’s multi-agency practitioners handbook contributes towards providing such foundation.

Evaluating the Assessment

All professionals assessing the needs of children, young people and their families must consider strengths and risks in all three domains of the assessment framework. Exposure to risk factors is associated with an increased likelihood of experiencing negative outcomes.  The combination or accumulation of risk factors, especially when occurring across more than one domain, results in a much higher probability of a child suffering negative outcomes.  Exposure to protective factors (for example, Resiliencies Table) may reduce the likelihood of negative outcomes.

Decisions relating to the type of intervention necessary must be evidence based, using professional judgement, backed up by consultation and supervision.

The set of Tables of Additional Needs Indicators, or risk factors, introduced above, is a tool to assist practitioners in deciding whether a child is vulnerable, in need of support, or in need of protection.  The levels indicated are NOT absolute thresholds.  They are a guide to assist the assessment and appropriate intervention.