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2.2.3 Single Assessment Framework


This guidance concerns the completion of the single assessment which fully incorporates both the section 47 outcome and the Initial/Review Child Protection Conference Report, where applicable. The purpose of this amalgamation of reporting is to enable families to have all their information in one place and prevent duplication of work for practitioners.


Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Pre-Birth Protocol

Single Assessment Template Guidance


In October 2018, Section 5, Communication was updated to include an additional resource in relation to parents with learning disabilities.


  1. Introduction
  2. Purpose of Assessment
  3. Principles
  4. Process of Assessments
  5. Communication
  6. Focus on the Child
  7. Planning
  8. Developing a Clear Analysis
  9. Contribution of the Child and Family
  10. Contribution of Other Agencies
  11. Single Assessment Timeline
  12. Completing and Recording the Single Assessment
  13. Outcomes of Assessment

1. Introduction

The guidance aims to assist social workers and their managers undertake a Child and Family Assessment under Cambridgeshire County Council’s single assessment framework.

The Cambridgeshire County Council’s Single Assessment timeline sets out what is expected of Social Workers and Consultant Social Workers when undertaking a statutory assessment of a child and their family’s needs. The Single Assessment Template guidance supports the effective completion of the assessment template on ICS.

The timeline for undertaking an assessment incorporates the recommendations of Working Together 2015 which states:

“Decision points and review points involving the child and family and relevant professionals should be used to keep the assessment on track. This is to ensure that help is given in a timely and appropriate way and that the impact of this help is analysed and evaluated in terms of the improved outcomes and welfare of the child.”

A key aim of the single assessment framework is to set out clearly the assessment timescales and process agreed within Cambridgeshire County Council and with partners.

This single assessment framework will:

  1. Support a systemic methodology;
  2. Aid relationship building with children and their families;
  3. Strengthen reflective social work and supervision;
  4. Foster increased use of research in our assessments;
  5. Consider the balance between managing and reducing risks and promoting resilience;
  6. Assist in explaining to children and families why social workers are involved in their lives.

The assessment will also incorporate any S47 enquires and will form the report for both Initial and Review Child Protection Conferences.

The intention of the framework is to allow Social Workers (SW) to use their professional judgement during the assessment process. The framework is intended to be used across all of Cambridgeshire County Council’s statutory children’s social care assessments.

The council will support implementation of the single assessment by providing continued professional development opportunities, quality supervision, a robust quality assurance framework, and continued access to national research through memberships such as CC Inform and Research in Practice

This single assessment (SA) framework promotes high quality effective assessments, leading to purposeful plans and interventions, which are developed through meaningful relationships with children, their families and those involved with them. The single assessment will be used for initial care planning, child in need planning, child protection (s47) outcomes and child protection concerns to an Initial Child Protection Conference. it will be updated to review the risks to a child through the Review Child Protection Case Conference pathway as well as reassessing the needs of children in need or looked after children at points of change in their lives, such as preparing for reunification.

Assessments of children’s needs should be a continuous process with at least an annual updated single assessment undertaken. A new single assessment should also be undertaken when there is a critical incident or significant change to the child and family’s circumstances.

2. The Purpose of Assessment

Whatever legislation the child is assessed under, the purpose of the assessment is always:

  • To gather important information about a child and family; to develop an understanding of each child’s experience;
  • To analyse their needs and/or the nature and level of any risk and harm being suffered by the child. This should include any factors that may indicate that the child is or has been trafficked or a victim of compulsory labour, servitude and slavery Note; if there is a concern with regards to exploitation or trafficking, a referral into the National Referral Mechanism should be made See - GOV.UK, Human trafficking/modern slavery victims: referral and assessment forms;
  • To decide whether the child is a Child in Need (Section 17) and/or is suffering or likely to suffer Significant Harm (Section 47); and
  • To provide support to address those needs to improve the child's outcomes to make them safe;
  • To refresh knowledge and understanding about the child/family, at least annually, or in response to a significant event.

3. Principles

Key principles for assessments:

  1. The welfare and safety of the child is paramount;
  2. Families are unique and know their own story;
  3. Children are best maintained within their own family unit wherever this is safe to do so;
  4. There is a duty to assist families to identify support either within their own family or the community in order to meet their child’s needs and keep them safe;
  5. When working with families staff will be clear about what we are doing and why, and the legislative framework for practice;
  6. Consent for an assessment will always be sought, even where there are concerns about significant harm, unless to do so will put any person at immediate risk of harm;
  7. Children and family members will be treated with respect, openness, and honesty; staff will talk to them, listen carefully and record and take into account their views;
  8. Assessments will be undertaken in a timely manner;
  9. The assessment will balance risk and resilience factors;
  10. The child will remain central to the focus of the assessment, whilst involving immediate family members and any other significant people in family or community;
  11. The assessment will lead to an agreed plan of intervention incorporating the wishes and feelings of the child, their family and professional agencies involved;
  12. Each plan will be outcome focused and lead to action, where needed.

In addition, the Assessment Framework Triangle in Working Together to Safeguard Children 2015 provides a model which should be used to examine how the different aspects of the child’s life and context interact and impact on the child. It notes that it is important that:

  1. Information is gathered and recorded systematically;
  2. Information is checked and discussed with the child and their parents/carers where appropriate;
  3. Differences in views about information are recorded; and
  4. The impact of what is happening to the child is clearly identified.

A good assessment investigates the three domains of the Triangle. The interaction of these domains requires careful investigation during the assessment. The aim is to reach a judgement about the nature and level of needs and/or risks that the child may be facing within their family.

Assessment Framework Triangle


4. Process of Assessments

The Assessment should be led by a qualified and experienced social worker supervised by a highly experienced and qualified social work manager.

The date of the commencement of the Assessment will be recorded on ICS.

The social worker should carefully plan the following:

  • See/interview the child, usually alone to understand their experiences and any concerns, and also with their parents to assess their relationship
  • Interview the parents and any other relevant family members;
  • Determine what the parents should be told of any concerns;
  • Consult with and consider contributions from all relevant agencies, including agencies covering previous addresses in the UK and abroad.

In exceptional circumstances, if it is determined that a child should not be seen as part of the assessment, this should be discussed with the District Safeguarding Manager/Group Manager and then recorded by the manager on ICS with the reason for their decision.

If during the course of the Assessment, it is discovered that a school age child is not attending an educational establishment, the social worker should contact the local education service to establish a reason for this.

If there is suspicion that a crime may have been committed, including sexual or physical assault or neglect of the child, the Police must be notified immediately.

5. Communication

Direct working and communication with the child is essential to inform any assessment.

In planning the assessment and also in providing the parent and child with feedback, the social worker will need to consider and address any communication issues, for example language or impairment.

Where a child or parent speaks a language other than that spoken by the social worker, an interpreter should be provided. Any decision not to use an interpreter in such circumstances must be approved by the line manager and recorded.

Where a child or parent with disabilities has communication difficulties it may be necessary to use alternatives to speech. In communicating with a child with such an impairment, it may be particularly useful to involve a person who knows the child well and is familiar with the child's communication methods. However, caution should be given in using family members to facilitate communication. Where the child has had a communication assessment, its conclusions and recommendations should be observed.

Where the parents have learning disabilities, it may be important  to adapt communications to meet their needs. For further information, see Good practice guidance on working with parents with a learning disability (2007) updated 2016.

6. Focus on the Child

It is essential that each child’s needs are identified and addressed separately within the assessment. Focussing simply on one child could lead to the needs of siblings being overlooked and not met, particularly in large families.

Children should be seen and listened to and included throughout the assessment process. The ‘child’s voice’ should be evidenced throughout the assessment and ongoing case recording. Their ways of communicating should be understood in the context of their family and community as well as their behaviour and developmental stage.

Any services provided should be based on a clear analysis of the child’s needs, and the changes that are required to improve outcomes for them. Their continued appropriateness/suitability should be kept under review.

Children should be actively involved in all parts of the process based upon their age, developmental stage and identity. Direct work with the child and family should include observations of the interactions between the child and the parents/care givers.

All agencies involved with the child, the parents and the wider family have a duty to collaborate and share information to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child.

7. Planning

All Assessments should be planned and coordinated by a social worker and the purpose of the assessment should be transparent, understood and agreed by all participants. There should be an agreed statement setting out the aims of the assessment process.

Planning should identify the different elements of the assessment including who should be involved. It is good practice to hold a planning meeting to clarify roles and timescales as well as services to be provided during the assessment where there are a number of family members and agencies likely to play a part in the process.

The assessment process can be summarised as follows:

  • Gathering relevant information;
  • Analysing the information and reaching professional judgments;
  • Making decisions and planning interventions;
  • Intervening, service delivery and/or further assessment;
  • Evaluating and reviewing progress.

Assessment should be a dynamic process, which analyses and responds to the changing nature and level of need and/or risk faced by the child. A good assessment will monitor and record the impact of any services delivered to the child and family and review the help being delivered. Whilst services may be delivered to a parent or carer, the Assessment should be focused on the needs of the child and on the impact any services are having on the child.

8. Developing a Clear Analysis

Research has demonstrated that taking a systematic approach to assessments using a conceptual model is the best way to deliver a comprehensive analysis. A good Assessment is one which investigates the three domains; set out in the Assessment Framework Triangle. The interaction of these domains requires careful investigation during the Assessment. The aim is to reach a judgement about the nature and level of needs and/or risks that the child may be facing within their family.

An assessment should establish:

  • The nature of the concern and the impact this has had on the child, reflecting the child’s voice.
  • An analysis of their needs and/or the nature and level of any risk and harm being suffered by the child;
  • How and why the concerns have arisen;
  • What the child's and the family's needs appear to be and whether the child is a Child in Need;
  • Whether the concern involves abuse or Neglect; and
  • Whether there is any need for any urgent action to protect the child, or any other children in the household or community.

The Assessment will involve drawing together and analysing available information from a range of sources, including existing records, and involving and obtaining relevant information from professionals in relevant agencies and others in contact with the child and family. Where an Early Help Assessment has already been completed this information should be used to inform the assessment. The child and family’s history should be understood.

Where a child is involved in other assessment processes, it is important that these are coordinated so that the child does not become lost between the different agencies involved and their different procedures. All plans for the child developed by the various agencies and individual professionals should be joined up so that the child and family experience a single assessment and planning process, which shares a focus on the outcomes for the child.

The social worker should analyse all the information gathered from the enquiry stage of the assessment to decide the nature and level of the child's needs and the level of risk, if any, they may be facing. The line manager should provide regular supervision and challenge the social worker's assumptions as part of this process. An informed decision should be taken on the nature of any action required and which services should be provided, mindful of the need to understand the level of need and risk in a family from the child's perspective and ensure action or commission services which will have maximum positive impact on the child's life.

When new information comes to light or circumstances change the child’s needs, any previous conclusions should be updated and critically reviewed to ensure that the child is not overlooked.

9. Contribution of the Child and Family

The Child

The child should participate and contribute directly to the Assessment process based upon their age, understanding and identity. They should be seen alone and if this is not possible or in their best interest, the reason should be recorded. The social worker should work directly with the child in order to understand their views and wishes, including the way in which they behave both with their care givers and in other settings. The agreed local assessment framework should make a range of age appropriate tools available to professionals to assist them in this work.

The pace of the Assessment needs to acknowledge the pace at which the child can contribute. However, this should not be a reason for delay in taking protective action. It is important to understand the resilience of the individual child in their family and community context when planning appropriate services.

Every Assessment should be child centred. Where there is a conflict between the needs of the child and their parents/carers, decisions should be made in the child's best interests. The parents should be involved at the earliest opportunity unless to do so would prejudice the safety of the child.

The Parents

The parents’ involvement in the assessment will be central to its success. At the outset they need to understand how they can contribute to the process and what is expected of them to change in order to improve the outcomes for the child. The assessment process must be open and transparent with the parents. However, the process should also challenge parents’ statements and behaviour where it is evidence that there are inconsistencies, questions or obstacles to progress. All parents or care givers should be involved equally in the assessment and should be supported to participate, whilst the welfare of the child must not be overshadowed by parental needs. There will be circumstances, for example in cases of Sexual Abuse or Domestic Violence and Abuse the plan for the assessment must consider the safety of an adult as well as that of the child.

It is important to ensure that the views of all parents and any others with parental responsibility are included within the assessment. Additional efforts may sometimes be required to secure the engagement of ‘non-custodial’ and/or absent parents.

10. Contribution of Agencies Involved with the Child and Family

All agencies and professionals involved with the child and the family have a responsibility to contribute to the Assessment process. This might take the form of providing information in a timely manner and direct or joint work. Differences of opinion between professionals should be resolved speedily but where this is not possible, the local arrangements for resolving professional disagreements should be implemented.

It is possible that professionals have different experiences of the child and family and understanding these differences will actively contribute to the understanding of the child / family.

The professionals should be involved from the outset and through the agreed, regular process of review.

The social worker’s supervisor will have a key role in supporting the practitioner to ensure all relevant agencies are involved.

Agencies providing services to adults, who are parents, carers or who have regular contact with children must consider the impact on the child of the particular needs of the adult in question.

11. Single Assessment Timeline

It is the responsibility of SW to follow the assessment timelines as set out below. It is the responsibility of Consultant Social Worker (CSW) or Team Manager (TM) as the supervisor to ensure that assessments are reviewed at the intervals set and management actions are recorded and that assessments are completed in the time frame set.

In Cambridgeshire, the expectation is that all Single Assessments (SA) will be completed within 35 working days and the majority within 20 working days. Assessments must always be completed within 45 working days.

An assessment can be concluded at any point within the maximum 45 working days. It is important that the timescale is always considered in line with the needs of the child. Therefore assessments may be required much quicker or, depending on complexity, may require longer. The timeframe should be set by the CSW/TM and agreed by the social workers. CSW/TM and managerial oversight is captured within case records on ICS. It is important to bear in mind what Working Together 2015 says:

“Whatever the timescale for assessment, where particular needs are identified at any stage of the assessment, social workers should not wait until the assessment reaches a conclusion before commissioning services to support the child and their family. In some cases the needs of the child will mean that a quick assessment will be required.”

When a Section 47 (S47) Child Protection Enquiry has been undertaken, the SA will be commenced and outcome of this recorded within the S47 panel of the SA. The analysis of this enquiry will be recorded in the assessment and the Team Manager/District Safeguarding Manager will place a case note on the child’s file evidencing oversight. The analysis and the case note should be completed within 3 days of a S47 commencing.

When the SA is being undertaken to inform a child at conference it must be completed at least 2 days before an initial CPC and 3 days before a review CPC such that it can be shared with the family and Chair ahead of the conference.

Timeline for Single Assessment

Day 1 - A case note will be added by CSW/TM flagging this as a significant event/change of circumstance which has triggered a SA or just an updated SA. This case note will identify the reason the assessment is being undertaken, what actions around expectations of the SW and will set a provisional timescale for completing the assessment. On new cases this will be known as the Allocation Case Note.

Day 20 - It is expected that some SAs will be completed, fully written up, shared with the family and authorised by the manager. This will be reviewed within the Unit meeting/supervision and any decisions made regarding the SA will be noted. This is the maximum timescale within the Integrated Front Door.

Day 35 - All assessments are expected to be completed. Only in exceptionally complex cases should the manager agree a further extension and on agreement a set timescale for completion MUST be agreed and adhered to and within the 45days. A GM must agree and have oversight on every assessment post 35 days.

Day 45 - All assessments must be completed, signed off by the manager and with a plan in place where needed.

S47 Enquiry – Analysis of this enquiry will recorded in the SA and Group/Team Manager will copy this analysis on to a case note and sign off to evidence oversight and timescale.

Click here to view the Assessment Timeline Flowchart.

12. Completing and Recording the Single Assessment

The Single Assessment Combined is a template on ICS. Some aspects of the single assessment template will be pre-populated from existing records held in respect of the child and their family within ICS. However the main information within the assessment template will require the SW to demonstrate their understanding of the child and their family.

Single Assessment Combined Recording Guidance

See Single Assessment Combined Recording Guidance.

13. Outcome of Assessment

Upon concluding the assessment, the Social Worker will propose a course of future action which could involve a plan of work under s17 or s47, no further action or ‘step down’ to Early Help services.

This requires the ratification of their line manager who must complete the ‘Manager’s Comments/Decision’ box including their rationale for the decision made.