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Assessments used by Local Authorities when involved with families

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There are lots of different types of assessments that can be completed when Social Services become involved in your life. Here are examples of some of the assessments you may be asked to undertake.

Every child who has been referred to Local Authority children’s social care should have an individual Single Assessment to identify their needs and to understand the impact of any parental behaviour on them as an individual. The single assessment is the means by which a Section 47 Enquiry is carried out. When conducting a Section 47 enquiry the Social Worker must assess the potential needs and safety of any other child in the household of the child who has been referred for the single assessment.

A Risk Assessment can also be required of parents, parent’s partners and anyone else who is having contact with the children. This assesses the potential risk of harm to the child (e.g neglect, emotion/physical abuse, substance misuse, sexual abuse). The risk assessment relies on information gathered from the child, parents and extended family and professional network. Harm is defined as “the ill-treatment, or impairment of health or development, including for example, impairment suffered from seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another.”

A Psychological Assessment looks at your emotional and mental wellbeing and how this impacts on your ability to parent a child. A psychological assessment will generally be required for  parents who have a history that includes issues such as mental health, substance misuse, domestic violence or a criminal record. A psychological assessment will consider a person’s competence in all tasks involved in the adequate care of a child. It will look at your ability to make and sustain change and they may also want to know about any difficulties in your childhood, within your family or as a parent and whether this has impacted on your parenting capacity. If you have been asked to undertake a psychological assessment you should seek legal advice to ensure that the questions being asked of you are fair and proportionate.

You could be asked to undertake a Cognitive Assessment. A cognitive assessment assess a parent’s ability to understand and retain information. This assessment will be completed where parental learning difficulties are suspected. This assessment can help professionals understand what the best way is to guide and support you and is an initial first step in ensuring your children’s safety, permanence and well-being. Only a psychologist or other qualified professional will be able to accurately assess a parent’s level of cognitive function. If you feel that you may need extra support and you are asked to undertake a cognitive assessment then this can be positive and will give the Social Services a better understanding of how best you learn.

Following the cognitive assessment, if this determines that you do suffer with some level of learning difficulty then you may be required to undertake a PAMS Assessment. This is similar to a parenting assessment but will be tailored to your needs and a trained PAMS assessor should complete this assessment. You will be asked about your knowledge and understanding in each key area of parenting such as routines and boundaries. You will also be observed to see how you put your skills into practice and whether you take on board any advice given to you. For more information about PAMS assessments, read our article:

A Residential Assessment is considered as an in-depth and independent parenting assessment whereby a person is assessed and observed by professionals while living in a residential assessment unit. You may be asked to undertake a residential assessment where concerns have been raised about your ability to provide safe care for your child. A residential assessment will commonly last around 12 weeks. A risk assessment may be completed before going into the unit to ensure that there is no risk posed to the other members at the residential unit. For more information read our article:

If a Parenting Assessment is required then this will be conducted by the Social Worker or on some occasions by an Independent Social Worker. A parenting assessment will usually be based in the community. The parenting assessment will assess parent’s capacity to change whilst ensuring the children remain the focus of the assessment process. The assessment will look at your knowledge and understanding in each key area of parenting.

Children’s Services cannot force you to undertake any of these assessments but It is important that you fully understand what is being asked of you and it may be worthwhile seeking legal advice before agreeing or disagreeing to any of the assessments.

Get in touch with Johnson Astills in Leicester and Loughborough

Johnson Astills have a specialist care department comprising of experts in child care law who can advise, assist and represent you throughout your involvement with Social Services. If your children are subject to a Child Protection Plan, Pre-Proceedings or Proceedings and you would like to speak to one of our specialist family law solicitors at Johnson Astills, please do not hesitate to call us on 0116 255 4855 or email us at