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Assessments under the Children Act

If you're the carer of a disabled child, the child may be assessed under the Children Act. Local authority social services departments have a duty under the Children Act to assess a 'child in need', including children who are disabled.

Assessments for children can be done for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they're done because there are concerns about the safety of a child.

The assessment process (described below) establishes the needs of a disabled child and which services would best meet those needs. The purpose of the assessment is to draw up a plan of action to address the needs of your child.

How to get an assessment for your child

Initially, contact the team that deals with children with disabilities in your local authority to request an assessment. Alternatively, you can ask your GP, health visitor or a voluntary organisation to contact them on your behalf.

If your child’s special educational needs are being assessed, an assessment under the Children Act will be done at the same time.

Local authorities have eligibility criteria that they use to determine whether a child is "in need" and qualifies for an assessment under the Children Act. If your local authority has decided that it will not assess your child, you can ask to be given the reasons for this decision. If you feel that your child should be assessed under the Children Act, you may wish to complain. For more information, see our page on complaints about children's services.

Stages in the assessment

You'll be told how the assessment will be carried out and what services are available. Depending on the child's circumstances, an initial assessment may include interviews with you, the child, the rest of the immediate family, and information gathered from other agencies where appropriate.

This could be followed by a core assessment, which is more in-depth. This involves social services liaising with other agencies or independent professionals who provide information, undertake specialist assessments or contribute specialist knowledge or advice to social services. The timescale for completion of the core assessment is normally a maximum of 45 working days. If specialist assessments are needed, however, the timescale may be longer.

Common assessment framework

Some children with additional needs may be assessed under the common assessment framework. This process aims to identify a child or young person’s unmet needs, and help organisations to work together to meet those needs.

A common assessment is not always necessary (as it does not replace existing assessment frameworks for children in need), but it may be helpful for a child who has a disability.

The common assessment looks at all the child’s needs, not just those that might be met by one service in particular. Common assessments can be carried out by professionals working with children in lots of different settings, such as teachers, early years professionals, and health and social care professionals. 

Under the common assessment framework, a pre-assessment check is done to identify whether your child would benefit from a common assessment. If the common assessment is carried out, you and your child will be asked about your child’s needs and how these might be met. You'll also be asked about what’s working well.

The assessment looks at the development of the child or young person, parents and carers, and the family and environment of the child.

The professional carrying out the assessment should work with you to understand any issues you have, and to develop solutions. During the assessment, a standard form will be completed. You will receive a copy. Together, you’ll agree an action plan, and you’ll be given information about how the plan will be reviewed. 

If your child is getting services from more than one agency, a ‘lead professional’ may be appointed to co-ordinate these and act as your main point of contact.

Children with disability

Dr Sheila Shribman talks about how parents and health professionals can work together to support children with disability.

Media last reviewed: 14/11/2013

Next review due: 14/11/2015


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Page last reviewed: 09/04/2014

Next review due: 09/04/2016

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