This informal CPD article, ‘3 ways newly qualified social workers can approach child and family assessments’, was provided by Victoria Shevlin of Social Work Sorted: Training and Consultancy, who provides high quality training to equip new social workers with the skills they need for practice.
Student social workers learn a great deal around theory when it comes to assessment skills. These theories are extremely valuable, but when it comes to practice, it is vital that newly qualified social workers understand the type of assessment they are undertaking.
Child and family assessments are undertaken under section 17 of the children act 1989. Many local authority teams refer to section 17 assessments with different terms and abbreviations, e.g. CAFA, CAF, C&F. This can leave new social workers feeling confused about the requirements of the assessment they are tasked to complete.
An ideal starting place for newly qualified social workers is a refresher on legislation and policy to truly embed the guidance into their practice. This connects with the importance of communication in social work. Social Workers undertaking assessments must be able to communicate why they are undertaking an assessment, what it entails and how it could impact the individual or family who are subjects of the assessment.
Problems can occur within local authority teams when newly qualified social workers are confused about why they are completing an assessment. They need to know how they are going to carry out an assessment within the parameters of statutory guidance. If they don’t feel confident in the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of assessment, they won’t be able to communicate this to the children and families they work with. This can inhibit assessment processes and create a block in building positive working relationships.
Statutory guidance Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018, states that a good assessment should involve children and involve families (2018: p.29). The first stage of involvement is an explanation of what will happen when an assessment is undertaken.
Newly qualified social workers must understand that the children and families they come into contact with may have no prior knowledge of child and family assessment processes. It can be helpful to begin breaking down the elements of an assessment to offer clarity and simplicity.