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Integrated Children's System

Core Assessment Record

A core assessment provides a structured, in-depth assessment of a child or young person’s needs where their circumstances are complex. The Core Assessment Record provides a structured framework for social workers to record information gathered from a variety of sources to provide evidence for their professional judgements, facilitate analysis, decision making and planning. A core assessment should be completed within 35 working days of its commencement. A completed Core Assessment Record is then used to develop the plan for the child or young person.

When a child or young person becomes looked after, an up to date core assessment is required and is used to inform his or her first Care Plan. A core assessment continues the process of collecting the information necessary to monitor the progress of children and young people who are looked after. For children and young people who remain looked after for longer periods, further assessments will be recorded when using the Assessment and Progress Record. The Core Assessment Records are aligned with the Assessment and Progress Records to support a continuous process of monitoring a child or young person’s development.

The Core Assessment Record is a recording tool and requires the skills, knowledge and professional judgement of social workers to use it effectively. It should NOT be used as a questionnaire with children and families: its purpose is to support social workers in recording and analysing information gathered during an assessment. This should enhance the quality of decision making and plans for children in need.

There are six age related Core Assessment Records (it should be noted that the age bands currently in use have been modified) as follows:

  • Pre-birth to 12 months;
  • 1-2 years (up until the child’s third birthday);
  • 3-4 years (up until the child’s fifth birthday);
  • 5-10 years (up until the child’s eleventh birthday);
  • 11-15 years (up until the young person’s sixteenth birthday);
  • 16 years and over.

View Integrated Childrens' System Core Assessment Record (5-10 years) (PDF format)

Completing the Core Assessment Record

The Core Assessment Record recognises that in order to obtain a clear understanding of the inter-relationship between a child or young person’s needs, parents’ capacities and the impact of family and environmental factors, it is necessary to collect and analyse information obtained from a variety of sources, using a number of different methods. The domains and dimensions of the Assessment Framework provide the structure for the Core Assessment Records and are intended to assist social workers in collating and recording information.

Social workers may wish to show the Core Assessment Record to parents prior to doing the assessment and discuss the assessment process with them. At the completion of the assessment, parents should be given a copy of the Core Assessment Record and the Child’s or Care Plan, unless by doing so the child or young person’s safety would be placed at risk. Decisions not to share a record with a particular person should be recorded.

Key Features

The heading of each section and the far left-hand column of the Core Assessment Records contain information and advice to guide social workers when completing an assessment. The prompts and reminders include:

  • research based information;
  • information about child development, health and educational attainment standards; and
  • suggestions as to the use of specific tools, questionnaires and scales.

The Core Assessment Records also contain statements that are relevant to most children and young people. The statements are intended to help social workers:

  • plan the assessment;
  • identify gaps in knowledge about a child or young person. For example, there may be a large number of reports concerning a disabled young person’s medical condition. Using the Core Assessment Record or Assessment and Progress Record to review the information may identify that there is no or little information known about how parents or carers support the young person, or whether the young person smokes or drinks;
  • with structuring and recording the information gathered during an assessment;
  • identifying areas of strengths and difficulties;
  • analysis and planning.

Each statement is accompanied by a Yes and No box, and a Notes and Evidence section. The statements are not questions and their purpose should be clearly understood. Social Workers are required to record their professional judgement about a statement by marking a Yes or No box, drawing on a range of sources of information. They should then use the Notes and Evidence section to record relevant information to evidence their judgement.

For example, a young child’s immunisations may not be up to date, but this may be on the advice of his or her GP. In these circumstances the No box would be marked and the Notes and Evidence section would be used to record the information from the parent(s) and GP and any other salient information relating to immunisations which had been gathered during the assessment.

Under NO circumstances, should the statements be used as questions which the social worker, child, young person or carer completes with a simple yes or no answer.

Not every statement will have significance for an individual child or young person. For example, where a young person has a learning disability the statements in the education section of a Core Assessment Record may not reflect his or her developmental needs. However, the statements in the other dimensions and domains of the Record may be entirely appropriate for that child or young person.

Where a specific statement is not appropriate, the social worker will need to consider how to assess the child or young person’s needs appropriately. For example, the statements on SATS results may not be appropriate for a child or young person with a learning disability who is not following the National Curriculum. In these circumstances, the social worker should consider how the child or young person’s educational progress is being assessed and measured, and if the result is commensurate with his or her ability. This should be recorded in the Notes and Evidence section.

Social Workers should gather the information for the assessment from a number of sources:

  • discussions with the child or young person, parents, carers, other family members and professionals working with child and family member;
  • observations of child and his or her interactions with family member/carer.
  • review existing information, for example, social services files including existing chronology, correspondence and reports from other agencies;
  • the use of tools designed to assist in particular aspects of the assessment, for example:

    - The Family Pack of Questionnaires and Scales (Department of Health, Cox and Bentovim, 2000)

    - The HOME Inventory (for children up to and including age 10 and their families ) (Cox and Walker, 2002)

    - The Family Assessment (Bentovim and Bingley Miller, 2001)

    - other specialist assessments, such as speech therapy, psychiatric and psychological.

Information from all these sources is brought together and recorded in the Core Assessment Record.

It is important therefore, that practitioners take time to plan how they will complete an Assessment and Progress. The plan should include:

  • The timescale for completing the record;
  • The order in which domains and dimensions will be completed;
  • How the child or young person, parents or carers will be involved in the assessment of each domain and dimension;
  • The sources of information that will be used for each domain and dimension;
  • How information will be obtained from other family members, agencies and professionals;
  • Who will have access to the completed record, and what sections of the record they should have access to.

Structure

The structure of each Core Assessment Record is the same:

  • Sources of Information

    This records the sources of information and methods used to gather information during the core assessment. It includes agencies consulted, meetings with family members, questionnaires and scales used. It is recommended that this section be completed as the assessment progresses. Where other assessments have been used to complete sections of the Assessment and Progress Record, these should be recorded in this section and included as annexes to the record.

  • Details Concerning Core Assessment

    This records the background details to the core assessment: the reason the assessment is being undertaken; and details of any issues including disability which affects the child or young person. This section should be completed prior to the commencement of the core assessment and will draw on information already known about the child/young person and his or her family from the initial assessment and/or existing records.

  • Child’s Developmental Needs and Parenting Capacity

    Each of the developmental dimensions of the child or young person is considered: Health, Education, Emotional and Behavioural Development, Identity, Family and Social Relationships, Social Presentation (for children under five this is combined with Identity) and Self Care Skills (for children under five this is combined with Emotional and Behavioural Development). Information on the child or young person’s needs and the parent carer’s capacity to respond appropriately to respond are recorded for each dimension.

    As discussed earlier in this guidance, each dimension contains a number of prompts to key issues and areas. The statements are intended to assist practitioners in gathering and recording key information and space is provided alongside each statement for practitioners to record supporting information and evidence. The space to record this information is limited. This is not to encourage practitioners to be brief, but to be relevant. Practitioners should consider the significance of information before it is entered into the record.

    This extract is from the education dimension of Daniel Williams, aged 18 months, (Core Assessment Age 1 to 2):

 

  Yes No  
E11 Parent shows
approval of the child’s
achievements.
Due to her current depression Mrs Williams has little interaction
with Daniel and is unable to fully respond to his achievements.
However, Mr Williams spends time with Daniel and is patient
and supportive of him, playing games and reading to him.
E12 Parent reads to/
looks at books with/
listens to music with
the child.
Daniel is supported in this both sets of grandparents who visit
regularly and are very proud of their grandchildren. Daniel spends
time at one or other of his grandparents every weekend.

In some cases practitioners may decide that one or more statements in a dimension are not relevant to an assessment of an individual child or young person’s needs. In these circumstances it is important that the practitioner records why they have arrived at this decision and the sources of information they have used to assess the child or young person’s progress in the Notes and Evidence section.

  • Social worker’s summary

    Practitioners should review the information gathered in relation to the child or young person’s needs and parents’ capacity to respond to them appropriately. In completing this section practitioners should consider the impact on the child or young person of any needs which are unmet. The research information on the left-hand side of the page may help with this.

  • Family and Environmental Factors

    The layout of this area is similar to those covering the child or young person’s developmental needs. Statements are again used to direct practitioners to key areas and issues in relation to Family and Environmental Factors impacting on a child or young person and the ability of parents to respond appropriately to the his or her needs. Where core assessments are being carried out on several children in a family it is be important for practitioners to remember that Family and Environmental Factors might not cover the same issues nor have the same impact on siblings.

  • Analysis

    This section is for practitioners to analyse the significance and consequences of the needs, strengths and weaknesses identified in the assessment. This is a key stage of the assessment process. Research, the findings of Inquiries and Social Services Inspectorate inspections have frequently highlighted weaknesses in the area of assessment. Time and effort goes into the information gathering stage, but this can often result in assessments that describe what is happening. Little attention is paid to the analysis of the information gathered. Analysis takes the assessment process beyond surface considerations and explores why issues are present and the relationship between what is happening and the implications for the child or young person and other family members.

    Practitioners should also consider the interrelationship between each of the domains of the Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families (Department of Health, 1999). It may be helpful to list key factors in each domain and how they relate to the factors identified in the other domains. It is important that strengths as well as weaknesses are identified. Parental and family strengths can be used to inform the Child’s Plan. During the analysis of the information gathered practitioners should also evaluate the impact on the child or young person and his or her family of any services already provided.

  • Summary

    This part of the record starts with a summary of the needs, strengths and weaknesses identified in each of the domains. Parents and young people are asked for their views. This provides an opportunity for them to contribute to the assessment. If possible they should be encouraged to write their views.

Links to other records in the Integrated Children’s System

  • Relationship between the Core Assessment Record and Plans

    Assessment is not an end in itself. The information gathered through a core assessment should be used to inform the plan most appropriate to the child or young person’s needs and circumstances, including decisions about which interventions are the most appropriate for this particular child and family. For example, the core assessment will inform the:

    Child’s Plan when a child is living with his or her family;

    Care Plan when a child or young person needs to be looked after;

    Child Protection Plan where a child or young person has been subject of s47 enquiries and his or her name been placed on a Child Protection Register.

  • Using the Core Assessment Records in Child Protection

    The objective of enquiries conducted by the local authority under s47 of the Children Act 1989 is to determine whether action is required to promote and safeguard the welfare of the child or young person who is the subject of these enquiries. A Core Assessment should be commenced at the same time as s47 enquiries are initiated.

    If, at the end of the s47 enquiries, an initial child protection conference is not convened social services should decide, having consulted the child or young person and their family, whether further work on the core assessment is required or whether the assessment has been concluded. Decisions will also be required about what further services should be provided and whether the child or young person and family wish to take these up. When an initial child protection conference is held, but the child or young person’s name is not placed on the child protection register, the core assessment should be completed with the family’s agreement and co-operation, and decisions made about future service provision.

    Where a child or young person’s name is placed on the child protection register, the core assessment should be completed and used to inform the Child Protection Plan. This plan should be developed fully by the core group, based on the Outline Child Protection Plan agreed at the initial child protection conference.

  • Using the Core Assessment with Looked After Children

    When a decision is made that a child or young person needs to be looked after, the core assessment (and any additional information about the child and family since it was last completed) will inform the Care Plan. The core assessment will also provide a baseline understanding of the child or young person’s needs at the point he or she became looked after. This will enable the child or young person’s developmental progress to be monitored and evaluated over time.

    In circumstances where a child or young person becomes looked after and does not have an up to date core assessment, this should be completed within 35 working days of the date when the child or young person became looked after. The majority of children and young people who become looked after return to live with their birth family within eight weeks. Where this occurs the core assessment should, with the family’s agreement, be completed even if the child or young person returns home within 35 working days. The Core Assessment Record will inform the Child’s Plan and help to ensure that appropriate support is available to the child or young person and their family, thereby helping to prevent re-admission to care.

    Where a child or young person who has been looked after for more than six months returns home, a core assessment should be repeated and completed within 35 working days of the date of their return home. This updated Core Assessment Record will inform the Child’s Plan and help to ensure that the child or young person and family are provided with appropriate services.
 
 
 
By Steve Walker, David Shemmings and Hedy Cleaver
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