5. Section 96: Assessment of wellbeing
The Act refers to assessment of an individual child or young person to determine whether “their wellbeing is being, or would be, promoted, safeguarded, supported, affected or subject to an effect” (section 96(1)). These terms are not defined within the legislation, but have the following meanings, and form the basis of an assessment:
a. promoted – actively encouraged or further developed;
b. safeguarded – protected from harm or damage;
c. supported – given assistance, approval, encouragement;
d. affected – influenced, changed; and
e. subject to an effect – likely to be affected by a set of circumstances.
Wellbeing assessments relating to individual children or young people may be related to Part 6 (Early Learning and Childcare) or 9 (Corporate Parenting) of the Act.
An assessment of wellbeing must seek to identify all the factors in the child or young person’s life which may be affecting their physical, mental or emotional wellbeing. This will help establish how best to support the child or young person when they experience difficulties. It will include, but is not limited to, recognising individual, family and community strengths as well as difficulties they face such as poverty, health, disability, inequalities or communication needs, and how these needs might be met to improve wellbeing. It should also recognise the extent to which a child or young person is able to enjoy their rights, and any support needed to enable this.
In assessing a child or young person’s wellbeing, their age, stage of development and the context of their life with their parents (see glossary), wider family and community should be considered. Wellbeing assessments should be completed together with the child or young person and their family using the GIRFEC National Practice Model (see Practice Guidance 1) proportionately to identify areas of strength, any wellbeing needs and action that may be appropriate to help meet the needs identified and improve wellbeing.
In line with Article 12 of the UNCRC, the views of the child or young person must be considered in accordance with the maturity and evolving capacity of the child or young person regardless of their age and ability. The views of the child, young person or their family may differ from the practitioner’s view and a holistic assessment should take account of all views. A condition or disability that affects a child or young person’s ability to communicate should not prevent them from expressing their views in all matters affecting them.
There is no age limit on the right of the child or young person to express their views. You should begin with the assumption that a child or young person has the capacity to form their own views and recognise that they have the right to express themselves. It is not up to the child or young person to prove their capacity. A child is able to form views from pre-verbal stages.
The assessment of wellbeing is a statutory responsibility, but for the purposes of this guidance the assessment of wellbeing is one part of the assessment that will be made using the National Practice Model.
Communication and shared decision-making between the child or young person, family and professionals has always been, and will continue to be, a crucial part of wellbeing assessments. Families should have choice and control in the support they require and how it is arranged and delivered. If the child or young person’s needs indicate that they may need support from additional services, agreed local pathways should be used to access these. The practice guidance on information sharing (Practice Guidance 4) should be followed.
A wellbeing need, or an accumulation of wellbeing needs, can lead to a child or young person being at risk of neglect or physical, mental or emotional harm. The National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland sets out in detail how to identify when a child may be in need of protection. It is accompanied by local Child Protection procedures. A risk of harm often relates to how safe, healthy and nurtured a child is, but the other wellbeing indicators (SHANARRI) may also be affected and should be considered in this context. The requirement to follow Child Protection procedures is not changed by the Act or by this statutory guidance.
If a wellbeing assessment indicates that a child is in need of protection, guidance, treatment or control, and it might be necessary for a compulsory supervision order to be made, a referral must be made to the Principal Reporter as specified in section 60(3) of the 2011 Act. The Principal Reporter is responsible for determining whether a Children’s Hearing should be convened. These procedures are not changed by the Act or by this statutory guidance.
Acting early and a compulsory supervision order are not mutually exclusive in promoting, supporting and safeguarding the wellbeing of a child. The use of compulsion at an early stage may help to ensure compliance with interventions, and prevent wellbeing needs escalating. The seriousness of the concern, as well as parental capacity, should be considered in order to assess whether the child or young person’s wellbeing needs are likely to be met by voluntary support or whether a compulsory supervision order might be necessary. There is multi-agency (see glossary) Guidance on Referral to the Reporter.
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