For many years social work assessments have been the main focus for debate and questions within the media and social work practise. First we do the Initial assessment, then if we need more information we complete a more fuller core assessment. The time scales for these assessments were set in guidance regardless of the need or risk.
A good assessment will lead to good interventions and positive outcomes, with key decisions being made on the basis and quality of the assessment; but a bad assessment will lead to poor interventions and outcomes for the children. Historically, social work assessments have focused on what has worked well with families and have been rigid in the time scales for completion, with the needs and risks in individual situations being assessed in detail before judgements can be made about what interventions and services would be appropriate.
Therefore there has been some interest from children social workers with regard to how social work assessments in the new ‘Working Together document 2013′ would bring the changes that Munro had explored and described in her papers about child protection. In essence the new ‘Single Assessment’ as recommended by Munro has been developed and given the go ahead by the Government to be implemented by each Local Authority as they see fit, after being trialled and developed in eight local authorities. The single assessment combines and replaces the Initial Assessment and Core Assessment, and has the flexibility of the time scales to be set by the social work manager assessing the case. Bringing with it a new theory and practise, in order to manage and complete the essential social work assessment, whilst retaining the Assessment Framework Triangle and remaining child centred. The aim being that the plan is developed and identified right from the very first visit whilst along side this the social worker completes the assessment.
‘Assessment is the foundation for all effective intervention: as such it needs to be grounded in evidence from research and theories’ (Baldwin and Walker)
The single assessment brings with it a new way of social work practise, for social workers to be not only ‘Emotionally Intelligent’ but also have ‘Creative thinking’
‘A sense of being able to look at familiar situations in a new light. This is important way of avoiding getting bogged down in routine, standard ways of working that have limited effectiveness’ (Thompson and Thompson).
For me as a social worker I have seen that this has brought a positive change in social work practise, there is now a definitive sense that social work practise is looking at its knowledge base to evidence its work, training is being developed and focused on ensuring assessment skills and theories are relevant to the current pressures and demands being placed on social care departments at the moment. Quality in social work practise is being sort and demanded from social workers not for the image of social work, but for positive outcomes for families and children and because we are being starved of funding to support all but the most needy.
However, Community Care looked at what has changed two years on from the final Munro report? and whether social workers do feel that there has been any big change since Munro’s recommendations. We finally have the a slimmed down Working together document, but despite this the paperwork remains incredibly high and case loads remain high.
Despite this ‘Can there only be one?’ is the single assessment a better way forward removing delay between the assessment and the date from when the support can begin, requiring good management over sight to ensure that delay does not happen on the assessment. It allows the social worker to look at outcomes rather than assessment looking at the services the child may need. Furthermore it allows the social worker to develop a better understanding of what the risks are and what the strengths are within the families. Rather than looking at what has worked with other families it allows the social worker to be creative to develop an evolving plan and evolving assessment that changes with each new piece of information to reach the outcome established at the beginning of the assessment.
I think the answer is that there can never be one assessment, but a continuous assessment that allows an understanding that we can never look at a snap shot and that the plan should adapt with every new piece of information.