Introduction, Legal Requirements and Tools (Child's Needs Assessment)

These procedures should be used by anyone that has been allocated or asked to carry out a child's needs assessment under section 58 of the Care Act, the purpose of which is to:

  1. Identify the needs that a child has now;
  2. Identify the needs that a child is likely to have when they turn 18; and
  3. Agree a plan to effectively support the child through the transition to adult Care and Support.

If you are carrying out an assessment that confirms a young person's needs at the age of 18, and to make subsequent arrangements to meet those needs you need to use the relevant adult assessment procedure for the team in which you work.

If you are carrying out a child's needs assessment under the Children Act 1989 you should refer to children's services procedures.

Under the Care Act any method of establishing needs is known as an assessment and this is the legally recognised term. Assessment is an integral part of adult Care and Support.

The term 'assessment' covers:

  1. The range of methods that can be used to establish needs, some of which are formal ( for example, a face to face assessment) and some of which are not so formal (for example, a short telephone conversation); and
  2. The range of models and frameworks used to support or shape the process of information gathering.

Unfortunately the word 'assessment' is all too often associated with outdated practices to gather information that do not support the ethos of the Care Act. For example, being:

  1. A process led by the assessor;
  2. A structured process involving the use of forms and arbitrary questions;
  3. An 'interview' of the person being assessed; and
  4. A gateway to funding and services, the nature of which is decided by the assessor.

As a mechanism to promote and support new practices around assessment that are in line with the Care Act ethos and duties, these procedures intentionally use the phrase 'Establishing Needs' alongside the legal term 'assessment'. This supports users of the procedures to think more flexibly about what an 'assessment' can, and may need to involve so that it is:

  1. Proportionate, only being formal or lengthy when it needs to be;
  2. Led by the person with care and support needs;
  3. Appropriate to the person and their situation; and
  4. A method of supporting the person to find their own solutions to issues identified.

Under the Care Act the purpose of a child's needs assessment is:

  1. To understand what the young person's needs are now;
  2. To understand what the young person's needs are likely to be after the age of 18; and
  3. To understand the support that the young person will need to enable a smooth transition to adult Care and Support.

A good assessment will also:

  1. Support young people and families to understand their strengths and capabilities within the context of their situation;
  2. Support young people and families to understand the support that may be available to them within the community or through other networks and services; and
  3. Support young people and families to consider some of the different ways that the Local Authority may be able to support them (other than through a formal service).

The information gathered will help the Local Authority to:

  1. Make a determination about eligibility for adult Care and Support when the young person becomes 18; and
  2. Understand the kind of service provisions that could be explored to meet current and future needs.

Across the country and even within each Local Authority there are a range of models and frameworks used to support or shape the process of information gathering to establish a child's needs. The Care Act recognises that different approaches are used but all must fulfil the same legal requirements.

See: Legal Requirements of a Child's Needs Assessment, part of the Care Act 2014.

Where a young person has an EHC Plan they will have begun an element of transition planning from year 9. The EHC Plan will contain information about the person, their aspirations and progress towards achieving their desired outcomes.

Where an EHC assessment and plan already exist the child's needs assessment should be carried out at the same time as any EHC plan review to reduce unnecessary duplication and the young person (and their family) from having to undergo unnecessary processes.

Existing EHC assessments and plans should be used to inform the child's needs assessment, and where possible the two assessments should be combined.

Following any child's needs assessment process any transition plan that is agreed should also be combined with any existing EHC Plan to form one comprehensive plan wherever possible.

The Care Act does not require that a specific tool (or any tool at all) is used to support or shape the assessment process, but it does acknowledge that a good tool can be helpful. However, any tool should:

  1. Facilitate and maximise the young person's involvement;
  2. Support the information gathering process;
  3. Be flexible and adaptable; and
  4. Be appropriate and proportionate to the situation and needs of the young person being assessed.

See below for details of the tools that are available for you to use as required.

The process of establishing needs involves having a skilled conversation about:

  1. Wellbeing and outcomes;
  2. Needs; and
  3. Risk.

You should consult with the young person and their parent/s when arranging the assessment to understand the specific communication needs that the young person has so that any assessment tool you use will maximise their involvement in the conversation.

If you do not feel that the assessment tools available to you will be appropriate you should speak to your manager about how they can be adapted.

Sometimes you may need to supplement the available tools with more bespoke tools to support the specific communication needs of the young person. For example, you may need to use photographs or pictures. This is entirely appropriate under the Care Act as it will maximise the involvement of the young person and will also support you to meet the duty to provide information in an accessible way.

Need to know

Remember: see the tri.x Resources to access additional practice guidance that can support the processes of establishing needs, Care and Support Planning and review when the young person has specific or complex needs.

Across the country and even within each Local Authority there are a range of models and frameworks used to support or shape the process of information gathering to establish needs. These are known as tools.

First and foremost you should have regard for any available practice guidance or good practice examples provided by the Local Authority.

The following are additional tools and guidance that may be useful:

See: SEND resources for healthcare professionals', to access a range of tools available to support any assessment process with a young person up to the age of 25 with Special Educational Needs (SEN).

tri.x has also developed a range of person centred tools that can:

  1. Support a young person to think about what matters most to them, now and in the future;
  2. Support a young person or family member to think about Wellbeing; and
  3. Support a young person or family member to think about needs and what a good day/bad day looks like.

See: Resources for Person Centred and Strength Based Conversations.

Last Updated: November 9, 2021

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