Preparing to Establish Needs (Child's Needs Assessment)

There is a legal requirement to notify and involve:

  1. The young person's parents, whether or not they have parental responsibility (a mother will always have parental responsibility but a father may not);
  2. Any other person with parental responsibility for the young person (which could include a step-parent);
  3. Any other person that the young person's parents request is involved (which could include a step-parent).

Parental Responsibility

Having parental responsibility means being legally responsible for the welfare of the young person in a range of areas. Parental responsibility does not end until the young person is 18.

Examples of the welfare a person with parental responsibility is responsible for include:

  1. Making sure that the young person has somewhere to live;
  2. Making sure the young person is safe; and
  3. Making sure the young person is cared for.

As the young person gets older and they become more and more able to make their own decisions parental responsibility reduces accordingly. This means that at the time the young person is assessed for transitional support parental responsibility will be much diminished and, if the young person is 16 the Mental Capacity Act will be the primary decision making framework.

In all cases you should let the young person's parents know that you will be carrying out the needs assessment.

The method of communication should reflect that requested by the parent/s and any specific communication needs they may have.

For the purposes of the Care Act communication about the assessment is subject to the same requirements as the provision of information and advice, and the duty to make it accessible therefore applies equally. 

See: How to Provide Information and Advice to read more about how to provide information in an accessible way under the Care Act.

In all cases where communication has been provided by telephone a follow up letter confirming the conversation and outcome should be sent to the parent/s as a formal record.

Sometimes the relationship that the young person has with their parent (or the relationship that parents have with each other) may not maximise the involvement of the young person in the assessment process. For example:

  1. The young person may become overly distracted by their presence;
  2. The young person may become distressed at their presence;
  3. Parents may be estranged and there is a high risk of conflict during meetings.

You have a duty to maximise the involvement of the young person so will need to consider any adjustments you need to make to the planned process.

Examples of adjustments could include:

  1. Holding separate meetings with each parent;
  2. Meeting with the young person without the parent's presence;
  3. Involving a parent via consultation only; and
  4. Involving the parent in some aspects of the assessment but not others.

It is important that the young person knows you will be carrying out the assessment as soon as possible so that they can begin to prepare for it.

You will need to make a decision about the best way to do this based upon:

  1. The young person's age and ability to understand the information to be provided;
  2. The likely impact of the information on the young person's Wellbeing; and
  3. The views of the young person's parents about the best way to communicate the information to the young person.

If the young person is over 16 the Mental Capacity Act applies when establishing their ability to understand the information. Mental capacity can be assessed by anyone who is able to do so competently.

If the young person is found to lack capacity to understand the information a best interest decision must be made about the best way to let them know about the assessment.

See the Mental Capacity Act 2005 Resource and Practice Toolkit, with guidance about assessing capacity and making best interest decisions.

The Gillick competency test should be used to determine whether a young person under the age of 16 is able to understand the information relating to assessment. To be able to understand the young person must be able to understand what the information and the likely implications.

If the young person is found to lack competence a person with parental responsibility should make the decision about how to inform them.

If the young person is deemed able to understand the information about the assessment you should endeavour to notify them yourself, either on a 1:1 basis or with the support of another (for example an advocate, parent or teacher).

If you decide not to notify the young person directly this decision must be made in agreement with a person who has parental responsibility and may include the following situations:

  1. When you do not already know the young person and the information is best communicated by someone who knows them;
  2. When the young person has requested the information is provided to a third party.

The method of communication should reflect that requested by the young person and any specific communication needs they may have.

For the purposes of the Care Act communication about the assessment is subject to the same requirements as the provision of information and advice, and the duty to make it accessible therefore applies equally.

See: How to Provide Information and Advice to read more about how to provide information in an accessible way under the Care Act.

In all cases where communication has been provided by telephone a follow up letter confirming the conversation and outcome should be sent to the young person (and their parents) as a formal record.

If the young person lacks capacity or competence you should let an appropriate person know that you will be carrying out the assessment. In all cases you must notify their parents but an appropriate person could also include:

  1. Anyone else with parental responsibility (for example a step-parent);
  2. Anyone legally authorised to represent the young person (for example a Deputy appointed by the Court of Protection if the young person is over 16);
  3. An independent advocate;
  4. Where the young person lives in residential care, the manager of the care home;
  5. Where the young person lives in an educational establishment, the responsible person.

If you are able to make arrangements for the assessment to be carried out see: Section 5, Arranging the Assessment and Preparing the Young Person.

If you are not able to arrange the assessment at this first contact you should:

  1. Be satisfied that the delay is not going to increase the risk of deterioration in need or circumstances;
  2. Be satisfied that the delay is not going to increase the risk of abuse or neglect;
  3. Provide any information or advice that may be beneficial at that time;
  4. Be satisfied that urgent or interim support is not required;
  5. Be satisfied that the young person (and their parent) understands the reason for the delay;
  6. Agree a proposed timeframe for the assessment to be carried out and further contact to be made; and
  7. Advise the young person (and their parents) what to do should their situation change.

An element of monitoring should be incorporated into any delayed process to ensure that you remain aware of the young person's situation and are able to respond appropriately to any changes or need to re-prioritise their assessment.

If the timeframe for assessment agreed with the young person (and their parents) changes you should let them know as soon as possible. If you experience difficulties prioritising your own work you should seek support from your line manager.

If the young person (or their parent) is not happy about any delays and you are satisfied that you are taking all reasonable steps to make arrangements and reduce risk you must make them aware of their right to complain.

A child's needs assessment can only be carried out if the young person it relates to has given their consent unless:

  1. The young person is over 16, lacks capacity to refuse the assessment and you are satisfied that carrying out the assessment would be in their best interests; or
  2. The young person is under 16, lacks competence to refuse the assessment and a person with parental responsibility consents; or
  3. The person is experiencing, or is at risk of, abuse or neglect.

As long as none of the above criteria applies you do not have to carry out the assessment. You should:

  1. Confirm to the young person (and their parents) that the assessment is not being carried out on the basis that they have refused it;
  2. Provide any information and advice about adult Care and Support and the transition process as appropriate and relevant;
  3. Provide any information and advice that will reduce, delay or prevent the need for Care and Support;
  4. Let the young person (and their parents) know they have the right to an assessment at any point in the future on the appearance of need alone;
  5. Provide information about how the young person (or their parents) can request an assessment in the future; and
  6. Where there is a need to monitor the situation, agree how this will happen; and
  7. Where the situation is to be monitored, explain that the Local Authority will offer the young person another assessment at any point that it feels this would be beneficial to them.

Where the young person who has refused an assessment has a carer (including a parent carer) the duty to assess the carer's transitional needs still applies, unless the carer also refuses the assessment.

Where communication about refusal is provided by telephone a follow up letter confirming the conversation and outcome should be sent to the young person (and their parents) as a formal record.

If there are concerns that the young person may lack capacity to consent to the assessment then a proportionate mental capacity assessment must be carried out to determine whether this is the case. This can be carried out by a person other than the assessor if they have the necessary skills to do so.

If the young person has capacity to consent following the mental capacity assessment their consent must be obtained before carrying out the assessment.

If the person lacks capacity to consent following the mental capacity assessment then a Best Interest Decision must be made to confirm that carrying out the assessment will be in their Best Interests. This decision should be made by the assessor as the decision whether to assess or not rests with them.

See the Mental Capacity Act 2005 Resource and Practice Toolkit, with guidance about assessing capacity and making best interest decisions.

The Gillick competency test should be used to determine whether a young person under the age of 16 is able to consent to the assessment. To be able to consent the young person must be able to understand what they are consenting to and the implications and likely outcome of consenting.

If the young person is able to consent then the same conditions apply as for an adult (see above).

Where a young person under the age of 16 is not able to provide consent this should be given by a person with parental responsibility for them. Their mother will always have parental responsibility, and normally the father will as well. Depending on the circumstances other people may also have been granted parental responsibility by the courts.

If a young person does not lack capacity (or competence) but does have substantial difficulty being involved in any Care and Support process you must take all reasonable steps to maximise their involvement.

You must:

  1. Ensure that you have provided information in an accessible way, or that the young person has an appropriate person to support them to understand it;
  2. Arrange to carry out the assessment in an appropriate format so that it is accessible. This is likely to be face to face, unless the young person's difficulty arises when engaging in face to face communication;
  3. Consider whether the young person has an appropriate person to support their involvement and, if not, whether the advocacy duty applies.

See: Using Independent Advocacy, which includes guidance on how to establish whether a young person needs an advocate and how to make a referral.

The young person's parent (or anyone with parental responsibility) is not able to refuse an assessment unless:

  1. The young person is under the age of 16; and
  2. Has been found to lack competence to consent using the Gillick competency test; and
  3. Is not experiencing or at risk of abuse or neglect.

If any assessment is refused by the Local Authority you must confirm this in writing and explain to the young person (and their parents):

  1. The reason the assessment has been refused;
  2. Information and advice about what can be done to prevent or reduce the development of needs for Care and Support in the future; and
  3. What to do if their needs change in the future.

The only grounds upon which the Local Authority can lawfully refuse a child's needs assessment are:

  1. There is no likely appearance of any need from the age of 18; or
  2. Carrying out the child's needs assessment at that time would not be of significant benefit.

Significant benefit will generally be had at the point when any needs for Care and Support the young person may have as an adult can be predicted reasonably confidently. This should have already been determined at the point of contact or referral.

It is unlikely that the Local Authority would refuse many assessment requests.

If you do feel that an assessment is not appropriate you should discuss this with a manager before refusing it as you must be sure that the decision to refuse is legally sound.

Whenever you refuse to carry out a child's needs assessment on the basis that the timing is not of significant benefit you must indicate when it may be of significant benefit and make appropriate arrangements to make sure that the assessment is carried out at that time.

If the assessment was requested by anyone other than the young person and it has been refused you should notify the person who requested it so that they can make any arrangements to discuss other options with the young person. For example this could be:

  1. A carer;
  2. A health professional;
  3. Another social worker or an occupational therapist;
  4. A teacher;
  5. A housing officer;
  6. A care provider.

Sometimes another person will obstruct you from carrying out a child's needs assessment with a young person who may have Care and Support needs. This can happen at any point from initial contact, to arranging an assessment, to carrying out an assessment. You should establish whether:

  1. The young person has asked the person to obstruct the assessment, and if so whether they have capacity to refuse the assessment (over the age of 16) or competence to refuse the assessment (under the age of 16);
  2. The person obstructing the assessment is doing so out of concern for the young person (for example would the assessment process cause anxiety);
  3. The young person is at risk of abuse or neglect.

Wherever possible you should provide information and advice relating to adult Care and Support, transitions and the assessment process to the person obstructing the assessment, to support them to understand the benefits and engage in the process.

If the person continues to obstruct the assessment, and you are not able to establish from the young person that this is at their request you must take action to ensure the assessment is carried out. By obstructing the assessment process the person is:

  1. Putting the young person at risk through lack of support now or when they become 18;
  2. Preventing the Local Authority from fulfilling its duties under the Care Act to assess and meet eligible needs.

An assessment in this situation can be carried out based on the information available and through consultation with others. The advocacy duty should be considered and it is likely that a referral would be appropriate to ensure that the young person's involvement in the process is maximised.

Any information gathered must be enhanced at such time when the young person is involved, and all information sharing should give regard to confidentiality.

Depending on the circumstances consideration should also be given to raising a children's safeguarding concern.

Under the Care Act you have a duty to carry out the assessment if the young person is at risk of abuse or neglect. This is regardless of whether they consent to it or not.

Where the young person does not consent but there is a duty to assess you should:

  1. Explain to the young person (and their parents) that you have a duty to assess;
  2. Support and encourage the young person (and their parents) to be involved in the assessment; and
  3. Carry out the assessment to the best of your abilities while maximising their involvement as much as possible.

The Care Act is clear that you should not ask the young person (or anybody that you consult with for the purpose of assessment) to repeat information that has already been made available to you unless there is a valid reason for doing so. For example, if you have not understood the information and want to clarify the meaning behind it then it may be appropriate to ask for it to be repeated, summarised or clarified.

Before continuing or beginning to carry out the child's needs assessment you should take some time to read through the information that is already available for the purposes of:

  1. Understanding it; and
  2. Thinking about how it should inform the assessment process.

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.

Existing sources of information may be available via:

  1. Referral forms;
  2. Recordings of any contact made;
  3. Letters, texts and emails;
  4. A confidential conversation with a colleague or manager who is familiar with the young person;
  5. Reports from professionals (for example a Speech and Language Therapist, Psychologist or Teacher);
  6. Records relating to current or historical safeguarding enquiries or concerns;
  7. Existing or historical mental capacity assessments; or
  8. Existing or historical assessment reports, review reports, EHC or other Plans.

All information gathering and sharing should be carried out with regard to the Caldicott Principles, Data Protection Legislation and local information sharing policies.

It may be appropriate and necessary for you to undertake an element of research in order to improve your own knowledge or awareness of a particular issue or health condition:

  1. By speaking with a colleague who possesses skills and knowledge in a particular area;
  2. By reading particular guidance or written resources about a particular medical condition;
  3. By accessing a reputable website for information and advice (for example the British Institute for Learning Disabilities or MIND).

See: National Organisations with Information and Advice Helplines for details of some national organisations offering a specific information and advice helpline.

See: National Contacts for Adult Care and Support for a wider range of useful national contacts for adult Care and Support.

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.

You may need to speak to the young person in advance of arranging their assessment in order to gather or clarify any information.

You will need to make a decision about the best way to do this based upon:

  1. The young person's age and ability to understand the information to be provided;
  2. The likely impact of the information on the young person's Wellbeing; and
  3. The views of the young person's parents about the best way to communicate the information to the young person.

You may need to speak to the young person's parents in advance of arranging their assessment in order to gather or clarify any information. This can be done with or without the young person's consent.

In addition, you may identify a benefit in gathering information and consulting with others.

See: Gathering Information and Consulting with Others.

Legally you must have regard to the following when arranging a child's needs assessment:

  1. The young person's views and wishes about when and how the assessment is carried out, including who they would like to support them;
  2. The young person's parents views about when and how the assessment is carried out;
  3. The impact of any delay in assessment on their individual Wellbeing; and
  4. Whether any information and advice can be given to the young person (and their parents) that will prevent, delay or reduce the need for Care and Support.

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.

The timing of the assessment should be agreed with the young person (and their parents) and anyone else who is to be involved in it. Where an EHC Plan already exists the assessment should be carried out as part of a planned review.

Significant benefit

The Care Act statutory guidance states that a child's needs assessment must be carried out when it is of 'significant benefit' to the young person to do so.

Significant benefit will generally be had at the point when any needs for Care and Support the young person may have as an adult can be predicted reasonably confidently. This should have already been determined at the point of contact or referral.

A range of other factors will also determine whether the timing of the assessment is of significant benefit, including:

  1. The stage the young person has reached at school and any upcoming exams;
  2. The time it may take to carry out an assessment;
  3. The time it may take to plan and put in place the adult Care and Support;
  4. Any relevant family circumstances; and
  5. Any planned medical treatment.

General considerations

Any assessment should be carried out over an appropriate and reasonable timeframe taking into account the urgency of the needs or situation and consideration of any fluctuating needs. This means that arbitrary timeframes (fixed timeframes that apply to all) should be avoided and a more flexible approach taken that reflects the needs of the person and their situation.

You should also take into account the following:

  1. The level of risk;
  2. The level of need;
  3. Current support in place and the sustainability/effectiveness of this;
  4. The urgency;
  5. The likelihood of deterioration;
  6. The potential for fluctuation;
  7. Any clear indication of timeframe provided within any referral or recorded contact; and
  8. Whether the young person will need the support of an independent advocate and the time it may take to arrange this.

Arrangements should be made with the young person and their parents. The method of communication should reflect that requested by the young person (and their parents) and any specific communication needs they may have.

For the purposes of the Care Act communication about the assessment is subject to the same requirements as the provision of information and advice, and the duty to make it accessible therefore applies equally. 

See: How to Provide Information and Advice to read more about how to provide information in an accessible way under the Care Act.

In all cases where communication has been provided by telephone a follow up letter confirming the conversation and outcome should be sent to the young person (and their parents) as a formal record.

The most important thing you must consider when arranging the assessment is how you will maximise the involvement of the young person. Some of the things you should think about include:

  1. Whether the young person will require independent advocacy;
  2. Whether the young person will find any assessment process to be emotionally difficult and what can be done to reduce their anxiety;
  3. Whether the timing of the assessment is of significant benefit to the young person;
  4. The information the young person (their parents and any carers) may need to prepare for the assessment;
  5. Whether the young person requires any support with communication (for example, will any assessment tool need to be adapted, will an interpreter be required or does a Speech and Language Therapist need to be involved);
  6. Whether the young person (or their parents and any carers) would like for anyone in particular to be involved in any assessment;
  7. Which environment would be best to meet in (if a meeting is to be arranged); and
  8. Whether the assessment needs to consider any physical needs the young person (or their parent) has for medication, rest or personal care.
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.

When arranging the assessment you should also identify other people who may need to be a part of it.

You are required to involve:

  1. The parents of the young person;
  2. Any carers;
  3. Anyone other person with parental responsibility;
  4. Any other person with legal responsibility to act on the young person's behalf.

You are also required to involve:

  1. Anyone the young person asks you to involve;
  2. Anyone a parent asks you to involve; and
  3. Anyone a carer asks you to involve.

If the young person lacks capacity or competence you should make arrangements to carry out the assessment with an appropriate other person. Normally this would be the young person's parent but could also include:

  1. Anyone else with parental responsibility (for example a step-parent);
  2. Anyone legally authorised to represent the young person (for example a Deputy appointed by the Court of Protection if the young person is over 16);
  3. An independent advocate;
  4. Where the young person lives in residential care, the manager of the care home;
  5. Where the young person lives in an educational establishment, the responsible person.

Under the Care Act you must provide specific information to the young person whenever they have been deemed to have capacity or be competent to understand it. In all cases all of the information must also be provided to the young person's parents and, if the person lacks capacity or competence any other person representing them.

Wherever practical the information must be provided before the assessment process begins.

Any information must be provided in an accessible way for the person who will be receiving it. In all cases where information has been provided by telephone a follow up letter confirming the information provided should be sent to the person.

The information that must be provided is as follows:

  1. Information about what can be expected during the assessment process;
  2. The format that the assessment will take (e.g. telephone assessment, face-to-face assessment);
  3. The indicative timeframe for assessment (when will it begin and how long is it likely to take);
  4. The complaints process; and
  5. Information about possible access to independent advocacy.

You must also provide a list of any questions that you intend to ask of the young person during the assessment. This will help them to prepare for the assessment and to think about their Wellbeing, the impact of their needs on this and what outcomes they want to achieve.

Financial assessment is often a key point of anxiety for people and it is important that you are able to provide good information and advice (either directly or by supporting the young person and their parents to access it from an appropriate person or source).

You must inform the young person (and their parents) that, from the age of 18, if the Local Authority meets any eligible needs a financial assessment will take place and that the outcome of this will determine whether they will need to make a financial contribution to the cost of any support, services or equipment arranged.

See: Specific Requirements on the Provision of the Information and Advice around Finances for guidance on the requirements of the Care Act.

See the Financial Assessment and Charging FAQ Response Support Tool for the answers to some frequently asked questions around financial assessment.

If the need for independent advocacy has not already been established at contact or referral then this should become clear when either arranging the assessment or providing information about it. As soon as this is established you must consider whether the duty to make independent advocacy applies and, if so make the necessary arrangements.

See: Using Independent Advocacy, which includes guidance on how to establish whether a person needs an advocate, the different advocates that are available and how to make a referral.

Aside from the young person themselves you are required to involve:

  1. The parents of the young person;
  2. Any carers;
  3. Anyone other person with parental responsibility;
  4. Any other person with legal responsibility to act on the young person's behalf.

You are also required to involve:

  1. Anyone the young person asks you to involve;
  2. Anyone a parent asks you to involve; and
  3. Anyone a carer asks you to involve.

Other people may involved in the child's needs assessment when:

  1. The young person has consented to the involvement of another person;
  2. The young person will be using independent advocacy;
  3. The young person lacks capacity and a decision has been made in their best interests to involve another person;
  4. The young person lacks competence and a person with parental responsibility has consented to involve another person;
  5. The young person may already have a multidisciplinary team in place; or
  6. The assessment is being carried out because of the risk of abuse and neglect and there is a need to involve others.

The Care Act is clear that a whole family approach to assessment should be taken wherever possible. This means that you should establish who relevant family members are and arrange for them to be involved in the assessment when:

  1. The young person consents;
  2. The young person is over 16, lacks capacity and a best interest decision is made to involve the family member; or
  3. The young person is under 16, lacks competence and a person with parental responsibility consents.

Relevant family members include anyone living with the young person, including older adults and any siblings, including younger children. It can also include family members who are not living with the young person, but who are still involved or interested in the young person's wellbeing.

The young person's parents should be prepared in the same way and given the same information as the young person.

The information that must be provided is as follows:

  1. Information about what can be expected during the assessment process;
  2. The format that the assessment will take (e.g. telephone assessment, face-to-face assessment);
  3. The indicative timeframe for assessment (when will it begin and how long is it likely to take);
  4. Information about financial assessment;
  5. The complaints process; and
  6. Information about possible access to independent advocacy.

You must also provide a list of any questions that you intend to ask of the young person during the assessment. This will help parents to prepare themselves and the young person to for the assessment and to think about Wellbeing, the impact on needs and outcomes.

In addition parents may have particular questions and require additional information, which could include:

  1. Information about mental capacity and best interests;
  2. Information about a Lasting Power of Attorney;
  3. Information about Appointeeship;
  4. Information about Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards; and
  5. Information about carers assessment.

The needs of parents to maximise their involvement should also be considered, but this should not be at the detriment of maximising the young person's own involvement.

It is important that everyone who is to be involved in the assessment is aware of:

  1. The purpose of the assessment;
  2. The process of assessment; and
  3. Their role in any assessment.

In addition people may have particular questions and require additional information to the general guidance above, which could include:

  1. Information relating to financial assessment;
  2. Information about mental capacity and best interests;
  3. Information about a Lasting Power of Attorney;
  4. Information about Appointeeship;
  5. Information about Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards; and
  6. Information about carers assessment.

The needs of others involved in the assessment should also be considered, but this should not be at the detriment of maximising the young person's own involvement.

If a person has a role in the assessment process but is not able to physically attend any planned meeting it is possible under the Care Act to consult with them separately and still include their views in any assessment and decision making processes.

Under the Care Act anyone with parental responsibility must be involved in the assessment because parental responsibility applies until the young person is 18. This is the case whether the young person consents to their involvement or not.

Parents may also be carers for the young person and, if so this is another reason to involve them as carers must be involved in any assessment of the cared for person.

Maximising the young person's involvement

Sometimes the relationship that the young person has with their parent (or the relationship that parents have with each other) may not maximise the involvement of the young person in the assessment process. For example:

  1. The young person may become overly distracted by their presence;
  2. The young person may become distressed at their presence;
  3. Parents may be estranged and there is a high risk of conflict during meetings.

You have a duty to maximise the involvement of the young person so will need to consider any adjustments you need to make to the planned process.

Examples of adjustments could include:

  1. Holding separate meetings with each parent;
  2. Meeting with the young person without the parent's presence;
  3. Involving a parent via consultation only; and
  4. Involving the parent in some aspects of the assessment but not others

Under the Care Act carers have to be a part of the cared for person's assessment, even if the cared for person does not want them to be. This is because the Local Authority needs to:

  1. Understand the person's needs, how they are currently being met and whether this is appropriate and sustainable; and
  2. Identify and support carers.

When a young person has not consented to the carer being a part of the assessment you should:

  1. Advise the young person that you have a duty to involve the carer;
  2. Explain the benefits of the carer being involved; and
  3. Agree the most appropriate way to involve the carer (for example a separate meeting with the carer).

If the young person has requested particular information not relating to needs is withheld from the carer, and they have capacity to do so normal confidentiality rules apply unless:

  1. Doing so would put the person at risk of abuse or neglect; or
  2. Doing so would prevent a parent from fulfilling their parental responsibilities to the young person (where the carer is a parent).

The Care Act recognises a whole host of different methods of assessment, any of which could be appropriate so long as:

  1. The young person's involvement is maximised by the method;
  2. The method is appropriate and proportionate to the needs and circumstances of the young person;
  3. The method will provide a full picture of the young person's needs now;
  4. The method will provide a full picture of the young person's likely needs when they turn 18, in regard to the impact that those needs have on their Wellbeing; so that
  5. The Local Authority can provide an appropriate response at that time and plan the transition to adult Care and Support.

Possible assessment methods include:

  1. Face to face assessment;
  2. Telephone assessment;
  3. Online assessment;
  4. Combined assessment (with a carer);
  5. Joint or integrated assessment;
  6. Supported self assessment; and
  7. Delegated assessment

To access the Care Act definitions for each of the above assessment methods, see: Methods of Assessment, part of the Care Act 2014.

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.

A child's needs assessment can be carried out under the Care Act as a combined assessment at the same time as any carers assessment, so long as:

  1. It is deemed appropriate to do so (for example both parties involvement can still be maximised and there is no conflict between the parties);
  2. Both the young person and the carer agree to a combined assessment process; or
  3. The young person is over 16, lacks capacity to agree but a best interest decision is made to carry out a combined assessment;
  4. The young person is under 16, lacks competence and a person with parental responsibility consents;
  5. Both parties consent to sharing information with each other for the purpose of combined assessment; or
  6. The young person is over 16, lacks capacity to consent but a best interest decision is made to that effect; or
  7. The young person is under 16, lacks competence to consent but a person with parental responsibility consents.

When making a decision about the method of assessment you must have regard to:

  1. The wishes and preferences of the young person;
  2. The wishes and preferences of the young person's parents;
  3. The outcome the young person (and their parent/s) seeks from the assessment; and
  4. The severity and overall extent of the young person's needs.

Some of the other factors that should be considered include:

  1. Availability of a particular assessment method;
  2. Whether the chosen method will facilitate the involvement of all those that need to be involved;
  3. If the young person has a carer, whether carrying out a combined assessment process would be beneficial.
  4. Whether there is a concern about the young person's capacity or competence in relation to a particular decision to be made. In this situation the Care Act requires you must carry out a face to face assessment;
  5. Whether the method of assessment chosen poses any challenges or risks for the young person;
  6. The specific communication needs of the young person (specifically whether they will be able to engage in the assessment method);
  7. The potential fluctuation of the young persons needs or situation; and
  8. Any need for multidisciplinary working or assessment.

Using a tool to support the process of establishing needs or formal assessment can be useful for all involved. If you are going to use a tool you should endeavour to provide this to the young person (or whoever will be supporting them) before the assessment is scheduled to take place.

See: Tools and Practice Guidance to Establish Needs.

Sometimes there may be a clear benefit to a joint assessment with another service area, team or professional. The Care Act recognises this and permits the Local Authority to make any arrangements it deems appropriate in order to facilitate joint working with others.

There is an expectation under the Care Act that children's and adult's services will work together whenever the person is known to both. Working together involves:

  1. Sharing information;
  2. Carrying out joined up processes wherever possible, such as review; and
  3. Agreeing and making seamless arrangements for the transition of support.

Where the Local Authority requests another person to work jointly in some way to benefit the young person that person has a duty to co-operate with the request (unless by doing so they will be prevented from carrying out their own duties under the Care Act or other legislation).

For further information about the duty to co-operate under the Care Act, see: Co-Operation.

Any decision to request joint work should be made with the young person (and their parents). Where the young person is unable to provide consent to joint work decisions should be made in their best interests (if they are over 16) and by a person with parental responsibility (if they are under 16).

Joint work requests should be made in the manner preferred by the service or team to which the request is being made. This may or may not take the form of a referral.

The request should explain clearly the nature of the joint work required and any specific skills, knowledge and competence requirements of the practitioner to support allocation.

If you have been asked to work jointly with a colleague in adult Care and Support, children's services or in another organisation (such as health or housing) you should contact the person you will be working jointly with to confirm your involvement and discuss the most effective way to work together. The things you should establish include:

  1. The work they are doing/will be doing/have done and whether they have any information that you need to know or can use to avoid duplication;
  2. Whether there are opportunities to co-ordinate systems and processes and, if so how this will be managed;
  3. What the expectations are in terms of joint-working (for example will you be expected to carry out a joint assessment, meet with the young person together, produce joint records or just consult and share information);
  4. What the anticipated outcome of the joint work is (for example joint funding of support, on-going joint-work to monitor);
  5. What does the young person (and their parents) know about the joint-work to be carried out (and if they don't know who and how should this be explained);
  6. Who will be the primary contact for the young person (and their parents) to go to with any queries; and
  7. Who will be responsible for communicating progress and decisions to the young person (and their parents).

See: Joint Work for further practice guidance about effective joint working.

The child's needs assessment should never be carried out as an assessment to meet an urgent need.

If the assessment is deemed urgent because the young person has unmet needs you should refer to children's services procedures and the appropriate assessment under the Children Act 1989 or the Children and Families Act 2014 should be carried out.

If the assessment is deemed urgent because the young person is now nearing the point of transition you must agree with the young person and their parents:

  1. Whether to arrange the assessment and carry it out in a timely way as per these procedures; or
  2. Whether to arrange for an adult needs assessment to be carried out instead.

If the young person is already receiving support under the Children Act 1989 or the Children and Families Act 2014 this support must continue until the point that their needs have been established under the Care Act, an eligibility determination reached and any adult Care and Support services arranged. This is the case even if the young person becomes 18 during that time.

Last Updated: November 9, 2021

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