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getting it right for every child: Proposals For Action

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Section 3: Integrated Assessment Planning and Recording Framework ( IAF)

At the heart of the proposals for reforming the children's support system is the intention that children receive the help they need when they need it.

Section 2 set out our proposals for integrated assessment and action plans for each child. The legislative, regulatory or other barriers to achieving these proposals will be identified over the coming months. In the meantime, agencies will need to make sure that assessments and action plans meet current statutory assessment and planning requirements where they exist, (for example, care plans and co-ordinated support plans).

This section outlines our proposals for:

  • a framework within which action should be taken;
  • assessment on which action should be based;
  • action plans; and
  • records.

Framework

The framework applies to all children. It does not require elaborate and cumbersome arrangements where simple, timely, effective action will improve matters. It will require compliance with the data standards set out by the Social Care Data Standards Project ( SCDS at http:// www.scds.org.uk).

Where needs are significant or require multi-agency intervention, inter-agency assessment and plans will be required. Examples are when:

  • parents, the child and agencies all need to know and understand each other's responsibilities and contributions to make sure there are no gaps or duplication in their efforts;
  • close monitoring of progress is needed to secure a child's safety and wellbeing or the safety and wellbeing of others; and
  • compulsory measures of care may be needed.

The Integrated Assessment Planning and Recording Framework ( IAF):

  • requires every worker and every agency to be accountable and acknowledge their responsibilities for the development and wellbeing of children and young people;
  • applies to everyone working with children and young people, whether they are part of a universal service such as education, primary health care or the police, or whether they are in a more specialist, targeted service, such as social work, school care accommodation service or secure accommodation services, acute/tertiary health services or the psychological services;
  • will be used by all those working in both the voluntary and statutory agencies;
  • requires agencies to share information in order to promote the best interests and welfare of all children. Trust, shared ownership and commitment are essential;
  • will support the integration of a range of information and assessment from different professionals and agencies into a coherent view of a child's experiences, strengths and needs; and
  • will improve the consistency and quality of assessments for all children.

Key principles

The key principles behind this framework are that it:

  • applies to all children;
  • serves the best interests of the child or young person;
  • seeks to identify the earliest, most effective and least intrusive response to needs;
  • includes the views of the child or young person, in line with their age and level of understanding; and the views of the family and others who are significant in a child's life, ensuring they understand and agree the aims of assessment;
  • takes account of all aspects of the child's life, respecting rights and diversity, recognising communication, cultural or religious needs in order to prevent discrimination; and
  • brings together professionals to work to make sure that assessments focus on personal and family strengths, support networks and resources available, needs and risks, the gaps that need to be filled and the resources and options to fill them, and continuity and progression, especially at times of transition.

Assessment

By definition, assessment is an ongoing process of gathering information, structuring it and making sense of it, in order to inform decisions about what needs to be done to make sure children achieve their potential. Assessment is a process, not a one-off event.

Assessments are undertaken in partnership with children, those working with them and those who care for them. Assessments identify and build on strengths. They take account of risks and needs. They assume the sharing of information where the law, practice and policy allows or requires it.

Assessment can be undertaken for different reasons. It is important to be clear about the purpose of assessment as that will influence content, the emphasis given to various factors, the subsequent analysis of the information gathered and action planned.

Those involved will consider the significance of the information about the child and their family circumstances and decide on future action for the child.

The assessment triangle

The assessment triangle is a key element of the framework. It identifies generic areas important in the development of all children, which should be taken into account when assessing children and young people.

All those working with children should consider, as part of the assessment process, all the components of the triangle - whatever their professional background or setting.

Considering and reflecting on the components of the triangle will ensure that assessment is holistic and that every child and young person will be able to play his or her part in the process throughout childhood, adolescence and youth.

The Assessment Triangle

The Whole Child: Physical, social, educational, emotional, spiritual and psychological development

The Whole Child: Physical, social, educational, emotional, spiritual and psychological development

The framework builds on the work done by the Department of Health, Department for Education and Skills and Home Office (2000) and sets it within the Scottish context 1. It takes account of the important principles set out in the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 with particular focus on the requirement to listen to and take account of the views of children and young people, and to working in partnership with parents.

At the heart of this approach is the principle that all adults work together with the focus on helping the child. This approach extends to all those who work with parents, carers or groups whose own needs or problems may affect children and young people. The strengths and achievements of children and their families, as well as needs and risks of harm are taken into account.

The framework supports the integration of a range of information and assessment from different professionals and agencies into a coherent view of a child's strengths and needs.

Children are already assessed in a variety of ways within universal and specialist services. The difference will be that all professionals will be working to the same frame of reference and will be required in their assessments to take account of the child's life in the context of the families and communities in which they live.

It will also mean that a child will not have to be subjected to repeat assessments if he/she moves from one geographical area to another. Vital information will not be delayed on transfer, as the assessment information will transfer with the child and be built on and updated in the new area.

When children and young people move at key transition stages in their lives (for example from primary school to secondary, or at school leaving age), important information can travel with them.

Key elements of assessment

When children are assessed, the key elements expected to be covered are summarised below. More detail can be found in the supporting papers available at www.scotland.gov.uk/topics/people/young-people/childrens-services/18058/11525. These include a technical paper which provides more detail on the framework, a set of case histories which demonstrate how the framework works and a mapping template which can assist organisations in considering what they already do and the elements they will need to work on in order to come into line with the framework. Work is underway to develop these documents for implementation (for example eCare has developed a multi-agency information sharing protocol).

An assessment requires bringing together relevant information to guide judgements about appropriate action. The assessment triangle acts as a template to structure thinking and information gathering. The information will include:

  • a core set of biographical details about the child or young person;
  • a chronological account of significant achievements, developments, events and changes in a child's life; and
  • appropriate information about the child's life and experience.

Multi-disciplinary assessments will document strengths and resilience, protective factors, needs, vulnerabilities and risks.

The assessment will be based on the evidence available. In some cases it may be recognised that further information has to be sought. The information will be analysed and restructured into a balanced account or overview of what needs to change for the child or young person.

A plan resulting from the analysis and assessment will then be agreed (see "Action plans" below).

What to assess

The assessment triangle exists to guide thinking about the child's development in its widest context and remind all professionals of their responsibilities for the child's total wellbeing. For example, if there are concerns about poor concentration, clinging or disruptive behaviour, we expect all professionals to use the triangle to aid their assessment and planning to meet a child or young person's needs. In most cases brief references to factors under the triangle headings which the worker or family consider to be significant will be sufficient. These can be considered more fully over time if necessary.

Schools and health services routinely assess children's health and development. We do not expect that every time someone considers that a child may need their vision checked or their hearing tested they set in motion an elaborate and detailed assessment of a child's life. However, all professionals, families and carers need to respond at the earliest possible moment to factors, which may affect a child achieving their full potential.

The level of detail involved in any assessment should be proportionate to the concerns or needs identified. Occasionally routine assessment may lead to a wider or more detailed investigation of a child's needs and circumstances. Sometimes a child may express a worry or concern which suggests a need for support, which is additional to that routinely offered to all children. A concerned neighbour, friend or volunteer, as well as a child, a parent, carer or professional, may request or instigate action that may require an assessment to identify what action, services or resources are needed.

The assessment may be progressed through a variety of routes. Initially it will be undertaken by the agency where the issue was first raised. A full interdisciplinary assessment should only be needed when the agency that first identifies a concern is unable to resolve it without the help of another. The assessment will need to be co-ordinated by a lead professional. The role of lead professionals is set out in Section 2.

Recording

Purpose of records

A child's record (sometimes called case notes, clinical notes or other agency specific terms) will record personal information for their own or agency use and to record the child's views and wishes.

Agencies use records so that children and their families do not have to keep repeating personal details on every contact, to assist in sharing information with others that need it and to account for their work. Practitioners use records to assess, plan, monitor and review their work. Managers use them to exercise oversight and to monitor and evaluate work. Inspectors use them to support inspection or monitoring. Where a child requires compulsory measures or where an adoption or permanency order is being sought, records may be used in evidential proceedings.

Although each agency may have different requirements, there is a broad range of information about individuals that is usually recorded on files: correspondence, background history; assessments, plans and reviews; records of events, reports etc.

Key principles of effective record keeping

  • The record will include information which is readily accessible to all those who need it, primarily the child and their family.
  • The relevant information will be in a single record.
  • Records are accurate and up to date.
  • Recording reflects the purposes for which it is written, is succinct and relevant.
  • Records differentiate between fact, opinion and judgement.
  • The record is written in plain English.
  • The same basic recording system is used across agencies although some services may need to adapt the recording to meet specific service requirements.

Content of a child or young persons record

  • Basic information (name, address, date of birth and age).
  • Significant events and concerns. In cases where there has been a long history of multi-agency involvement or there have been a number of significant events, a summary of the relevant history may be needed.
  • Information about significant others, particularly the families of children looked after.
  • Risk assessments with dates (consideration of risk is part of all assessments).
  • A planning section to include assessments, work plans and reviews.
  • Record of contact - including contacts or failed contacts, such as absences from school, details of letters or messages and notes of significant events such as hearings and case reviews.
  • Personal circumstances that may impact on how the service is delivered, (for example, English being a second language, mobility problems or limited availability).
  • Correspondence and notifications of events and referrals.
  • Reports.
  • Statutory orders.
  • Any other relevant information.
  • Next appointment or review of progress.

Specific agency sections

Each agency will have agency specific matters that it records for each child. For example health professionals' records will include among other things immunisations, schools will record a range of data including attendance and levels of attainment, social work will record placements for a child who is accommodated, legal status of the child and contacts, the police will record charges against individuals and SCRA will record Children's Hearings decisions.

Some of the detailed information about personal and agency data has already been set out by Social Care Data standards (see supporting documents www.scds.org.uk). We will set out further standards and guidance taking into account the lessons learnt from the various pilot schemes currently underway.

In addition to records about service users, there is merit in having a record or compendium of information for service users.

Action Plan

Where necessary, an Action Plan should be drawn up. The plan should be as simple as necessary and relevant to the child's needs. It should be updated or amended as needs change.

Content of a child or young persons Action Plan

Concerns or matters to be addressed - Why agencies or families believe a child needs an action plan, including any issues of concern to be addressed.

Partners to the Action Plan - The name and designation of all the partners to the plan including parents and children and how they can be contacted.

Assessment of child's circumstances - The assessment should be based on the Assessment Triangle and cover:

  • the child's wider world (community and family);
  • how the child should grow and develop (health, education, development, behaviour); and
  • what the child needs from people who look after him or her (needs, strengths and risks).

Desired outcomes and milestones for achievement - This may include physical, social or personal development milestones. The plan should identify both short and long term outcomes time scales for achievement.

Where a child is at risk of abuse or neglect or poses a risk to others, the action plan should identify the minimum requirements or standards of care, nurture or behaviour to ensure a child is safe or the safety of others is protected.

The plan should encourage ambition for children and their families.

Assessment of what needs to be done to improve a child's circumstances and achieve desired outcomes to include:

  • action to promote future wellbeing and achievement (for example social, training or employment opportunities, education - including good citizenship and how to be safe);
  • strengthening both the child's and the family's support network (for example parenting classes, respite services);
  • any changes that need to be made in the child's living situation to keep them safe (for example the provision of mobility or lifting aids such as hoists or the separation of a child from their parents);
  • action to make good any harm already caused or to help a child catch up with their peers (for example extra educational input, counselling or health treatment); and
  • an assessment of the need for compulsion where this is considered necessary.

Action to be taken - by whom (to include professionals, the family and the child) and by when.

Resources to be provided - by whom and within what timescale.

Contingency plans - A statement of what will happen if milestones or agreements are not met. An agreement about what might have to be put in place if risks escalate and what action partners to the action plan will take.

Monitoring, review and 'lead professional' arrangments

  • The name and contact details of the person who is responsible for monitoring progress and how this will be done.
  • The name and contact details of the person who is responsible for co-ordination, communication and undertaking review arrangements.
  • Consideration of the need for review and how this will be undertaken (forum, paper, electronically), when this will be undertaken, who should participate and the need for prior assessments or review reports.

The child's views (and those of their parents or carers) about any or all of the elements of the action plan.

Compulsory measures - where compulsory measures of supervision are needed, the reasons for these should be recorded on the action plan.

Reviews - a summary of the work undertaken in the review period and, a review of progress, achievements, and any setbacks including any outstanding work. For children where there are concerns about risks to themselves or to others it would also be important to include a summary of contacts or appointments, kept or not kept, with action taken. When the order or contact has ended it is helpful to have a final review of progress over the whole period of involvement and conclude with a final assessment.