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1.3.3 Single Assessment Policy and Guidance


The purpose of this document is to give Social Workers practice guidance and information about the process for completing the Single Assessment in Wirral. Emphasis is placed on multi-agency working and the evaluation part of the assessment process.

Note: After the first review (5 working days), a second review is to be scheduled if an assessment is going to extend beyond 15 working days - to be clear as to why and what impact upon the child and family. The maximum timescale is 30 days, (45 working days for exceptional cases).


Initial Contacts and Referrals Procedure

Wirral Local Safeguarding Children Board Procedures Manual, Strategy Discussions/Meetings and Section 47 Enquiries as Part of Social Work Assessment of Needs and Strengths Procedure, Children's Specialist Services Recording Requirements

See also International Child Abduction and Contact Unit (ICACU)


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 3, Purpose of a Single Assessment and Pre-birth 'Good Practice Steps').

A link was also added to the International Child Abduction and Contact Unit (ICACU) (see Relevant Guidance above). This itself contains a link to the DfE Form and guidance to this with regard to the ICACU.


  1. Introduction and Background
  2. Principles of a Single Assessment
  3. Purpose of a Single Assessment
  4. Referrals to Children’s Specialist Services
  5. Conducting the Single Assessment
  6. Management of the Single Assessment

    Appendix 1: Single Assessment Flowchart

    Appendix 2: SMART Planning Tips


1. Introduction and Background

The Single Assessment was introduced by Wirral Council in April 2014 in response to the recommendations of Eileen Munro and Working Together to Safeguard Children 2015.

The Single Assessment replaces the Initial Assessment and Core Assessment within the Children and Young Person’s Assessment Framework. The Single Assessment will provide an opportunity for Social Workers to focus on the specific needs of child and allow appropriate time within the assessment for reflection and direct work with the child/young person to ensure a robust and analytical assessment.

The Munro Review of Child Protection (2011) recommended reducing statutory guidance on safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children in order to promote local autonomy and increase the scope for practitioners to exercise their professional judgement. The focus of the Single Assessment is for Social Workers to draw on their professional judgement, to analyse and reflect on information gathered regarding that child or young person and their family, and focus the assessment on the specific needs identified leading to a high quality assessment that is child focussed. An assessment is a continuous process that considers emerging needs and sustainability of any change for the family.

Working Together 2013 (archived) communicates a clear aim of the revised framework for assessment, which introduced the expectation of each local authority developing a Single Assessment as the following:

The aim of the new Children and Families Single Assessment Form is to retain the Framework for the Assessment for Children in Need and their Families (Department of Health et al., 2000) as an underpinning framework and examine children’s developmental needs, parents’ or care givers’ capacity to respond appropriately and family and environmental factors which are specific to the purpose of assessment for that child.

Through the introduction of a change in culture for assessment relying upon a greater use of professional judgement and specific focus upon the individual purpose of assessment, the following positive consequences will result:

  • Reduced prescription on timescales to allow Social Workers to specifically respond to that child and family’s specific need;
  • Allowing greater opportunity for the Social Work Practitioner to engage with children to explore their wishes and feelings, focussing upon the child’s journey and the impact of the concern upon their safety and wellbeing from the child’s perspective.
  • Social Work Practitioner will also have more time be able to reflect upon the assessment and the daily experiences of the child;
  • There is a greater focus on analysis and less expectation on process of “filling in the boxes”;
  • Reducing the need for families to repeat their story - The Single Assessment should be built upon any existing Family Common Assessment.

As the assessment becomes embedded within practice, opportunity to develop it specifically to be used for wider assessments is possible, including; Section 7 and S 37 Court reports, and Adoption support.

In response to this Wirral Council have included within the Single Assessment expectations of management review and priority setting in an aim to prevent drift and ensure clarity of management oversight.

The following are key points to be aware of:

  • Potential consequences to be considered:
    • Drift: introducing prioritisation as oppose to rigid timescales may lead to cases becoming in a state of drift, meaning those cases which would have closed previously at initial assessment stage remain open longer;
    • Delay: difficulties potentially at the “front door” as cases potentially remain open longer;
    • Focus on experience of social worker and professional judgement leave newly qualified and less experience workers potentially requiring additional support.

Click here to view the Risks and Benefits Diagram.

2. Principles of a Single Assessment

  • The voice of the child must be heard throughout the assessment;
  • Assessments must be timely;
  • Assessments must be proportionate to immediately identified and emerging risks and needs;
  • Assessments should focus on the whole family but with the ability to identify the individual needs of families;
  • Assessment should use the domains of the Assessment Framework triangle;
  • Assessment will use the Signs of Safety Model to undertake the assessment of risk for individual children;
  • The assessment should be an inclusive two way process ensuring that children, carers and parents are involved throughout;
  • Assessments should be outcome focused.

3. Purpose of a Single Assessment

Working Together to Safeguard Children March 2013 (archived) is clear that a Single Assessment should be undertaken within a maximum of 45 working days. Wirral Council have implemented a maximum timescale of 45 working days in exceptional circumstances only. The Team Manager will agree with the Social Worker the target completion date which will take into account the apparent complexity of the referral. By day 10 the Social Worker and Team Manager should review the progress of the assessment and make a decision on whether more time is required. (See Appendix 1: Single Assessment Flowchart). At this stage the Children In Need Plan should also be drafted which will include how the assessment will progress. This will be reviewed at a Multi-agency Planning Meeting.

It is essential that the child remains the focus of the assessment, to the extent of identifying needs and the impact of parental capacity and wider community influence specifically upon the daily lived experience of each individual child in the family. For example, the needs of a parent in relation to issues such as their emotional or mental health, lifestyle including their use of alcohol and or drugs or their vulnerability to domestic abuse have to be explored in terms of the impact it has on the child now and going forward. (See also Wirral LSCB, Children in Particular Circumstances.) Any actions to support the parent must be measured by its impact on the outcomes for the child.

The purpose of the assessment is to determine if there is identifiable evidence of risk or identifiable Significant Harm to the child or whether they are unlikely to achieve or maintain a reasonable standard of health or development or they have a disability. This purpose of assessment should relate clearly that Level 4 of the Wirral Council Continuum of Need is met, as illustrated in the diagram below.

Click here to view the Universal Services for all Children Diagram.

The assessment is intended to be used proportionately to gather the most significant and relevant information according to the circumstances of particular children and will determine the range and type of detail of the assessment; it helps to inform the analysis about the needs of that child and the nature or level of any identifiable risks; it helps inform judgment as to whether the child is in need or is at risk of significant harm; it also describes how those needs or risks will be addressed through an outcome focused Child in Need or Child Protection Plan. Should the analysis of the case lead to the decision to close, a clear rationale should be recorded and consideration as to whether the child and family would benefit from the support of the Team Around the Family process.

The focus of the Single Assessment will follow the domains of the Framework for Assessment triangle as illustrated in the diagram below.

Click here to view the Assessment Framework Diagram.

This will be followed by a clear section for Risk Analysis.

It will be expected that Social Workers will link analysis to research and the use of wider assessment tools to ensure evidence based assessments are produced which are clearly focussed upon the needs of the child to which it refers.

Wirral Specialist Services requires that Social Workers evidence assessment including assessment of risk by use of the Signs of Safety Model. There is an explicit expectation that the assessment includes and reflects the wishes and feelings of the child or young person in question, with any direct quotes or observations regarding the child recorded in bold. To aid with ensuring the child’s involvement within the Single Assessment is recorded, there are certain key points through the assessment to note the child’s understanding or hopes for outcomes from the assessment. The child and their family should be the focus of the assessment and the analysis should to consider what positive outcomes would benefit the child.

Throughout the completion of the Single Assessment, there is an expectation that the Social Worker is clear with both the child and their family about the timing of key decisions throughout the assessment, how these will be reviewed and that their input is incredibly valuable throughout involvement. Families should be informed of the dates of planned reviews and be part of the outcome focussed planning. The Single Assessment is an opportunity for Social Workers to demonstrate evidenced based practice balanced with sound professional judgement.

4. Referrals to Children’s Specialist Services

On receipt of a referral to Children’s Specialist Services, the decision about the need for an assessment in respect of the identified child must be made within 24 hours. A decision regarding the response of Specialist Services will be made in MASH, based on all available evidence. The following decisions can be made:

  • Advice and information given;
  • Step across to gateway to offer family multi agency support informed by a Family Common Assessment;
  • A referral is accepted;
  • Child is considered to be at Risk of Significant Harm - Strategy Discussion should be held to determine if a Section 47 enquiry should be progressed.

If a decision is made that a referral requires an assessment by a Social Worker, the referral will be allocated to the relevant District Social Work Team. Where a contact received has progressed to a referral and a decision is made that a Single Assessment is required this must be progressed and allocated within 24 hours.

Dependent on the outcome of the Assessment the Single Assessment report will either form the basis of the Social Worker’s evidence to a Child Protection Case Conference or will provide the assessment framework which underpins and informs a child in need intervention. In either case the need for robust multi agency planning and review is critical to the effectiveness of the process.

5. Conducting the Single Assessment

A useful reference at this point is: Ten Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them, (NSPCC).

This document outlines common problems with assessments and suggests how they can be avoided.

Key points of oversight

Key points of process and management oversight during the Single Assessment:

  • Initial tasks will be set by the Team Manager upon referral and allocation and entered into an opened Single Assessment, including priority setting of initial review after 3 working days (urgent CP), 5 working days (potential CP) or 10 working days (likely CIN);
  • Visit the child within 5 working days from allocation as a maximum and within 24 hours if there is a Section 47 concern;
  • A Management Review is to take place at a maximum of 5working days. The review should be earlier if needed and be specific, relating to the child in question;
  • After the first review (max 5 working days), a Single Assessment will need a second review if it is going to extend beyond 15 working days - to be clear about the purpose of the extended assessment and the impact on the child and family;
  • Maximum timescale is 30 working days, 45 working days for exceptional cases.

It is important to note that some Single Assessments will be expected to be completed and finalised within 10 working days.

For clarity of process, see Appendix 1: Single Assessment Flowchart.

Single Assessment priority setting and tasks

A Single Assessment is identified at the point of the District manager accepting the referral. The Team Manager has the responsibility of setting the priority and timescale. The assessment is something that should be parallel to intervention and not a precursor for services and action. Maximum initial priority to be set at the beginning of assessment is 10 working days, with the priority re-set at each review point by the team manager.

i) Child/Young Person’s Developmental Needs:

Consider each area of needs and development identified within the Assessment Framework triangle, however focus upon those areas which are particularly pertinent for the child/young person you are assessing - note the strengths but also identify the areas of difficulty which cause concern.

Physical, Emotional and Mental Health of the Child

Include relevant and significant information about the child’s emotional, physical and mental health as well as considering any evidence/or diagnosis of learning difficulties or physical impairments. This will involve talking with other relevant people in contact with the child as well as with the family and child. You will need to speak to the GP and Health Visitor/ School Health Advisor involved with the family, including consideration of discussion with any other involved health professional (e.g. community paediatrician). Are the child’s immunisations up to date? Is the child missing health appointments? Consider whether parent can read appointment letters. Has the child been subject to any major illness or diagnosis? Has the child been referred to any specialists? Does the child have generally good health, or not? Does the child smoke or use substances? Consider the potential impact of poor home conditions upon the child’s health.

Education/ Early years Experience for the Child

This should be considered in a way that describes what school / early years setting means to the child including relevant and significant information about their attendance, attainment and participation. How does the child get to early years setting or school? Is attendance regular or how does reduced attendance impact upon the child’s ability to reach their full potential? Are they fed, clean and ready to participate? How does the child present and consider impact of lack of routines upon attention span or ability to engage in learning? Any cognitive, learning or behavioural assessments completed? Give a sense of whether the early years setting or school is a good place for the child and identify any areas that may be a source of stress. It also requires consideration about what the child is learning in the home. Are there books and toys in the home? Is the child read to by the parent? This will involve speaking to the school or early years setting. In respect of children too young for a formal education setting, consider the stimulation and engagement they receive within the family home. What age appropriate toys are available within the family home?

Emotional and Behavioural Development of the Child

This should be considered in relation to the degree of resilience or vulnerability of the child. What are the self-care skills of the child and are these age appropriate; what is the extent of their resilience? What are the sources of the child’s resilience and are these age appropriate? Are they a resilient child? Does the child seem to be emotionally secure and attached? Has the child witnessed domestic violence and how does their behaviour reflect this? Consider the impact of Physical and Sexual Abuse upon the child’s behaviour and emotional presentation. Does the child feel supported and do they have a supportive adult available to them? Does the child present with difficult or challenging behaviours? Is the parental response to challenging behaviour consistent or does it fluctuate? Does the child present with different behaviours outside of the family home?

Family and Social Relationships of the Child

This should be considered in a way that describes what the family and their wider social circle means to the child. What is the quality and extent of child’s attachment to their caregivers and wider family? What style of attachment is evident? What is the child’s role and involvement in this family; how are they valued and how is this demonstrated to them? Is the child taking on inappropriate responsibility within the family environment - i.e. is the child a young carer? Consider the number of care arrangements for the child; different households for some of the week? Describe the family giving a sense of their history, culture and values. Is the family a source of support and resilience? Has the family faced any traumatic or distressing events and how has this had an impact for the child? Does the family feel part of a community? Are there significant friends or organisations? Is the child involved in any gang related activity? Is the child reporting any evidence of domestic abuse that involves verbal abuse? What is the child’s peer relationships like and do they value their close friends?

Identity and Social Presentation of the Child

Consider within this section whether the child is a valued member of the family and how is this evidenced? Does the child have access to their own private space? What are their sleeping arrangements and are they appropriate? What is a typical day? Do they have a sense of belonging? Do they participate in any organised social activity outside the home and school? Who are they mixing with socially and is this appropriate? Do parents know where they are going and is this age appropriate? Is anyone bullying the child or is there anyone the child is frightened of? Is their clothing clean and appropriate? Does the child have any friends they see regularly? Do they have a best friend? Has the child been involved in offending? Does the child demonstrate appropriate stranger awareness? Does the child recognise their ethnicity in relation to their identity? Are there any language barriers that the child faces? Is the specific child’s race, ethnicity and culture recognised by the family?

Any Traumatic Experiences for the Child

Consider the impact of any significant event for the child within their life and how this has affected their daily lived experiences. Has the child witnessed arguments? Has the child witnessed anybody being assaulted? Has the child witnessed their parent have a psychotic episode or taking an overdose? Has any close relative or friend died? Has the family ever experienced homelessness? Has there ever been a domestic fire? Has the family experienced burglary? Has the child had to go to hospital? Has the child been exposed to abuse?

ii) Parent’s/Carers capacity to respond to the needs of the child/young person:

In this section, consider the use of how a parent or carer meets the needs of the child of young person by relating it to the Assessment Framework triangle as a basis. Consider how each parent provides for and responds to their child/young person’s needs and what both the strengths and weaknesses are in this area. It is often helpful to start by considering what are the specific sources of vulnerability for the child/young person in question and how could they or do they impact upon the parenting required by that child.

In summary - consider clearly whether each parent is able to meet the needs of the child and the impact of parental past experiences on their current parenting capacity, their ability to face and accept their difficulties, their ability to use support and accept help and their capacity for adaptation and change in their parenting response. Observation and interaction is key to ensuring that professional judgement is evidence based.

Consider each parent or caregiver individually, and ensure that any potential influence on their ability to parent effectively is considered e.g. mental health issues, poor physical health, drug or alcohol misuse, domestic violence, isolation, language barrier. Ensure that a hidden partner, particularly a “hidden male”, is considered within this section of the assessment.

Separate History of the Birth Father and the Birth Mother

Do both parents live with the child? If not, what contact does each parent have with the child? Is the father of the child named on the birth certificate? Are there any Court Orders relating to the child which influence contact with either parent? What are each parent’s life story/ history / background? Are there any criminal offences? Is there history of involvement by any other services (mental health, substance misuse, domestic violence, criminal justice)? Is there any evidence of a cognitive and/or learning difficulty? History of learning difficulty at school whether or not diagnosed? It might be appropriate to approach the education service for information. Do the parents or carers have any specific health needs or disabilities and consider how these additional needs could impact upon their parenting.

What is the parent’s experience of how they were parented? Were they brought up by their own parents or did they experience alternative carers (whether family or Foster Carers)? Did the parent’s upbringing involve any mental health issues, substance misuse or domestic violence? Are the Grandparents still together? Is there any history of involvement by any services? Did they experience bullying as children and what was their own experience of being at school? Did they attend a special school? Were they abused as a child? Was there any involvement from Specialist Services or other agencies? Did they observe domestic violence anywhere throughout their lives prior to becoming a parent?

Basic Care and Wellbeing of the Child

Is the child clean, washed and bathed regularly? Are they receiving regular meals? Are there wider concerns that the child is always presenting as hungry? Is adequate nutrition being provided which promotes a healthy lifestyle? Is food regularly available and healthy? Is the child attending a dentist regularly? Are the child’s medical needs attended to and in responsive timing? Describe relevant information such as diet, smoking, use of alcohol and drugs. Do people smoke in the house - consider the impact of this if the child suffers from asthma or another breathing disorder? Has the Social Worker had full access to the child’s home and seen the child’s bedroom? Does the child raise any concerns or worries about their day to day care?

Ensuring the Safety of the Child

Consider if there is appropriate protection inside and outside of the house (floor coverings, electrical safety, evidence of weapons, drugs, stair gates, garden gates); are there other adults coming into the house who may pose a risk? Use your professional observations - is it safe for a child to be living here? Are there animals? Are they companion animals or for protection - consider that if professionals feel threatened then what is the child’s lived experience? Are the animals treated appropriately? Is there animal waste inside or outside the house? Are the children given appropriate boundaries for their age and understanding?

Emotional Warmth for the Child

What is the quality of the child’s and parent’s relationship? Do parents respond appropriately when the child is upset or distressed? Does the parent give praise and encouragement? Do they demonstrate empathy with the child? Does the child experience age appropriate physical warmth?

Stimulation of the Child

Consider how each parent is able to provide interaction and stimulation to the child to encourage and promote the child reaching their full potential. Do the parents read to the child? What opportunities are there for the child to engage in age appropriate activities? Has the parent got a learning difficulty? If so, how could this affect the child and are there others who could provide support as the child develops? Is the child’s language developing age appropriately? How does the interaction with the child help the child to learn and develop?

Guidance and Boundaries for the Child

Consider whether the guidance and boundaries provided by the parent are age appropriate? Are there any routines in place for the child? How do the parents establish boundaries? What are the sanctions or rewards and are they consistent? Are the parents able to respond to and manage the child’s behaviour appropriately and safely?

Stability for the Child

Consider how stable the child’s life has been so far - how many changes of parent’s partners or addresses has the child experienced? What steps has the parent taken to make the child’s life stable despite difficulty? Is there a secure attachment to the parents and how is this evidenced? Is the child attached to others within the family or is there close social support?

Good Things about Being a Parent!

Encourage and facilitate the parent to reflect upon their relationship with their child and what they mean to them. This can be especially important for parents of very young children who have not yet developed language to express views and wishes. Empower parents to consider their strengths, as well as where they can identify the need for further support.

What are the Parent’s Views of the Challenges of Being a Parent?

What are the parent’s expectations of their child? Are they appropriate? Are there any sources of stress within the household? (You may want to consider using tools such as the Daily Hassles Scales.)

iii) The impact and influence of the wider family, community and environmental factors:

In this section, consider the wider influencing factors upon the family that may impact and direct the care given to the child/young person. Consider where their strengths may lie and identify any weaknesses which may be indicated either through historical involvement with Specialist Services or wider agency involvement with the identified child/ young person or their family.

It is key to remember that the development and care of children does not take place in a vacuum which is unaffected by external influences. All family members are influenced, both positively and negatively by the wider family members and close friends, the neighbourhood, and culture in which they live. The history of the parents and of individual family members may have a significant impact on the child’s daily lived experiences.

History of the Current Partner if they are Not the Birth Parent

Be clear not to miss any hidden adult which may have contact with the child.

Are There any Other Adults in the House?

Consider the potential impact upon another adult being within the family home and whether they assume any level of parenting for the child. This may be a member of the extended family, adults who come to the home to care for a disabled child or to support a parent with a learning difficulty. It is important to think about other adults living in the household in a variety of different circumstances and whether they can be viewed as a strength or potential risk (e.g. a lodger?).

How did this Family Come Together?

Consider how and where the child’s parents met? Are there any previous partners who share parenting? In what circumstances and how quickly did the child or children arrive? What did the pregnancy and birth mean for each of the parents?

Social Networks of the Adults and the Implications for the Child

Consider the influence of wider social networks upon the family. Note whether these are strengths or weaknesses e.g. does the family attend any organisations or faith groups? What is the impact of this? (There is research evidence that membership of a faith group is one of the indicators of resilience but it might also be a source of risk.) Who are the adults who regularly visit the house and what are the positive/negative implications? Where is the circle of support for the child and for the family?

Sources of Income and How is it Used and Managed for the Benefit of the Child

Financial issues within a family can have far reaching implications for the care provided to the child, both practically and emotionally. Consider who within the household makes the financial decisions? What debts are there and how are these being managed? Who is owed money? Have the family had any money or benefit advice and are they accepting of the advice? Do the family need signposting? Is either parent currently in employment, if so is this secure, casual or seasonal and how does this impact upon their involvement with the child? Are the parents able to provide the child with any money of their own (pocket money) or fund social activities? Are financial issues a cause of strain within the family and does the child openly witness this?

Security of Housing and Community for the Child

Consider the family’s stability and security within their home. How long have the family lived in the property? How many different homes has the child lived in within their life and how has that impacted upon their peer relationships and educational opportunities? What is the condition of the property and who owns the property? What is their relationship with the neighbours and local community? What is the neighbourhood like for the family and is it appropriate for the child? Is there a safe outdoor space for the child to play? Do the family feel settled in their home? What do they like about their home and their area? What is problematic for the family in relation to their home situation? What other sources of support are there in the family / community? Also consider the wider community location upon the daily lived experience for the child. Has anyone in the family experienced physical or verbal violence? What is the pattern of such violence? Are they willing to disclose/discuss the subject? Are there any barriers to disclosure of community issues? Does the family, both children and adults, feel safe in the house? What forms of transport are available to the family? How easy is it for the family to access facilities such as shops, getting to work, doctors and health clinics, children’s schools?

What Services are the Family Receiving at the Moment

Consider the level of engagement from the family. Do they think that they need any help or support and what is their attitude towards people and services? What has changed or is changing as a result of the help?

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:

  • A risk assessment of the parent(s) should ‘commence immediately upon the social workers being made aware of the mother’s pregnancy’;
  • Any Assessment should be completed at least 4 weeks before the mother’s expected delivery date;
  • 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;
  • 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 Public Law Outline Procedure, Pre-Birth Planning and Proceedings).

iv) Analysis

Risk Analysis

Within this section the Signs of Safety Model Tool should be used to analyse the information collected as part of the assessment.

This tool is intended to help Social Work Practitioners with risk assessment and safety planning. Its purpose is to enable practitioners across different disciplines to work collaboratively and in partnership with families and children. The tools are designed to help conduct risk assessments and produce action plans for increasing safety, and to reduce risk and danger by identifying areas that need change while focusing on strengths, resources and networks that the family have.

Overall Analysis

The Single Assessment has three inter-related domains, each of which has a number of critical dimensions which can have influence upon the care provided to the child. The interaction of these dimensions can often be intertwined with each other and clear consideration and exploration throughout the assessment is required, with reflection upon the analysis of risk, to ensure a comprehensive and detailed analysis to understand the daily lived experience of the child in question and what intervention may be necessary to improve outcomes for the child.

Consider the following key questions within the analysis:

What are the key issues for the child and family and why was the decision made to initiate assessment?

E.g. why are we assessing now, summarise the major concerns, reflect the reason for assessment, has anything changed throughout the assessment process?

What is the current impact upon the child and family?

The key here is to include observations of the child and any direct work completed with the child. Consider how the child is presenting and in particular consider any behaviours and how this may have reflected what child has witnessed or been the subject of.

What is the potential impact upon the child if the circumstances do not change and the risks are not reduced?

What does research tell us that is key within the decision making and planning for this child and family?

Reflectively consider research and how it is specifically relevant for this family - do not just copy and paste quotes into the assessment.

Do the parents and wider family take on board the concerns raised throughout assessment?

What should a plan reflect? - ensure that the objectives are SMART (see Appendix 2: SMART Planning Tips).

Initial plan recorded within a Single Assessment

To be completed by 5 working days to reflect plan for assessment and ensure concurrent assessment and planning for the child.


  • What is the identified need coming out of the most recent assessment?
  • What is the current impact on the child?
  • What outcome is each action going to achieve?


  • How are we going to make some changes to look at positive outcomes for the child?
  • What will make the most impact?
  • Who will the task be assigned to complete?
  • Outcome?
  • By when will the task be completed or reviewed?
  • How will we know if there has been any change or positive outcome for the child?
  • What will a good outcome look like?

This initial plan is key particularly where cases are being stepped down from Children’s Specialist Services involvement and can create a smooth path in particular to a Team Around the Family plan.

All plans must be outcome focussed and all progress must be evidenced. By 20 working days, an initial Multi-agency Planning Meeting should be held and the plan updated.

Review assessments

Good practice would suggest that a Review Single Assessment is completed after 12 months open to a social worker, with a set 45 day timescale. This should be an update of the original.

6. Management of the Single Assessment

Key points

  • Referral decision within 24 hours. Allocation within 2 working days to include manager setting priority, planned date for review and set tasks within timescales;
  • Initial tasks will be set by manager upon allocation;
  • Visit child within 5 working days from allocation as a maximum, within 24 hours if Section 47 concerns;
  • After the first review (max 5 working days) a second review is to scheduled if assessment is going to extend beyond 15 working days - to be clear as to why and what impact upon the child and family;
  • Maximum timescale is 30 days, 45 working days for exceptional cases;
  • Initial Child Protection Conference will be held within 15 working days of strategy discussion and Single Assessment needs to be complete 2 working days prior to conference at latest in order to share with parents and child and allow IRO to review the report in advance;
  • Initial Child In Need Plan to be in place within 15 working days and a Child In Need Meeting to be Convened within 15 days of assessment completion.

Appendix 1: Single Assessment Flowchart

Click here to view Appendix 1: Single Assessment Flowchart.

Appendix 2: SMART Planning Tips

  • Specific - Start by describing the child’s needs as addressed in the assessment. Avoid clichés or describing needs using ‘universal’ terms e.g. “Jon needs to reach his full potential” - all children need that. Do not describe needs in ‘service terms’ e.g. ‘Jon to be referred to CAMHS’ is not enough - this is an action not a need, think WHY are you concerned. Link these specific needs whether they are RISKS (and why) or NEEDS (and why) e.g. poor hygiene impacting upon health;
  • Measurable - Some things aren’t easily measured in numbers. ‘Jon to have 100% school attendance’ is easily measured. Measuring whether a child is less neglected or emotionally abused is harder. But, again, consider what is it that the child witnesses, says and does that is worrying? For those that can’t be measured numerically, work out what opposite ‘good’ things the child might witness, say or do and choose those as your measure e.g.: 8 year old witnessing ongoing physical DV from Dad to Mum. Child herself looks anxious, is aggressive with classmates, drew ‘worries’ of Dad hitting mum. Measurable might include child will say she hasn’t seen or heard Dad hit Mum;
  • Achievable and Realistic - To say a child’s aggressive and challenging behaviour will change completely in 2 weeks is unlikely to be realistic. Plans should not require parents to provide more than ‘good enough’ parenting. In law good enough is the type of care that ‘could be reasonably expected of a parent of a similar child’. This means what level of care would most children of a similar age get from a reasonable parent and how would most such children present. Make sure the plan contains these clear achievable outcomes so that as time progresses, families can (hopefully!) see the plan shrinking and that demonstrative outcome can be communicated;
  • Timely - Make sure you’ve agreed deadlines and that the plan is “owned” by the multi-agency team. Setting a clear timeframe helps measuring progress of plan and parent’s engagement. Think ‘No Delay’ - If time required is too long what are the implications for child?


Department of Health (2000) “Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families.” London - The Stationary Office.

Munro (2011) “The Munro Review of Child Protection: Final Report - A Child Centred System.” (Cm 8062, 2011)

HM Government - Working Together to Safeguard Children (2015)

Ten Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them: What Research Tells Us - Dr Karen Broadhurst, Professor Sue White, Dr Sheila Fish, Professor Eileen Munro, Kay Fletcher and Helen Lincoln

NSPCC Inform: Child Protection Information, Advice and Support (September 2010)