A Model for Assessment


This chapter was updated in April 2022 to align to the revised Early Help Strategy. This strategy is a live document which will be reviewed and updated on a 3 monthly basis. It is recommended that the strategy is viewed on a regular basis. The chapter was also refreshed and restructured.

1. Context

This document brings together information which will help you to work with other agencies to meet the needs of all children in Lincolnshire. It will help you in identifying when a child may have unmet need(s).

This model offers:

  • A structure for consultation, co-ordination and co-operation to promote children's welfare;
  • A framework to identify when a child may be at risk of poor outcomes;
  • A process to assess risk to enable staff to balance vulnerability with protective factors;
  • A structure for delivering integrated support to children which safeguards and promotes their welfare.

2. Model of Children's Needs

Lincolnshire's Model of Children's Needs is based on the Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families and is consistent with LSCP Procedures. The model provides a framework to develop a common understanding amongst professionals of children's needs / vulnerabilities, shared assessment procedures and a platform for integrated working.

This is demonstrated in the following diagram. Click here to view the Model of Children's Needs Diagram.

See also Appendix 1: The Thresholds Document.

3. Principles

  • Child-centred;
  • Rooted in child development;
  • Focused on outcomes for children;
  • Holistic in approach;
  • Involving children and their families;
  • The child's welfare and safety is everyone's responsibility;
  • Multi and Inter-agency approach for all children with additional needs - not just those who are in need of protection;
  • The skills and knowledge of other agencies should be fully utilised;
  • The rights of parents and carers must be considered;
  • Agencies need to work together to reduce duplication and unnecessary intrusion into family life;
  • Building on strengths as well as identifying difficulties;
  • A continuing process, not an event;
  • Providing and reviewing services;
  • Social Inclusion and meeting the needs wherever possible within universal locally based services;
  • No one must be discriminated against on the grounds of race, religion, culture, sexual orientation or ability;
  • Families given the opportunity to find their own solutions;
  • Full, accurate and comprehensive information must be collated as part of any assessment. A chronology of historical information is a tool to understanding social history and family functioning.

4. Model of Assessment

Assessment requires you to gather information and form judgements about a child's needs and the ability of the family to meet those needs within any given set of circumstances. At times, this will also require you to consider the likely level of risk to a child where there are concerns about the circumstances the child is living within. It will also enable you to identify when the child is at risk of poor outcomes. The principles of professional curiosity should also be applied.

The diagram below illustrates the process of assessment.

Model of Assessment

5. Stage 1 - Information Gathering

The first part of any assessment is to gather information. Using the assessment framework domains you will need to consider where additional support or intervention is needed if the child is to be kept safe, experience healthy outcomes and to ensure that their developmental needs are adequately met. The Early Help Assessment Form should be used for information gathering. This can be found via: Early Help and Team Around the Child.

6. Stages 2 to 4 - Identification and Analysis of Risk and Protective Factors which Impact on Child

When undertaking an analysis of the information gathered, the first thing to do is identify those factors which are causing you to be concerned that a child may be at risk or harm or at risk of poor outcomes:

Risk / Vulnerability Factors are defined as those in the child's world which are likely to increase the likelihood of harm occurring.

  • Lack of protective factors;
  • Poor prognosis of change in circumstances;
  • Compounding factors emanating from environment.

Protective / Resilience Factors are those factors in the child's world which may be seen as containing a protective component:

  • School-teacher, after school club, breakfast club;
  • Relatives, adults who provide care within the wider family network;
  • Positive experiences;
  • Positive attachment;
  • One supportive parent;
  • Sibling support;
  • Sense of humour in child;
  • Good social skills and intelligence.

Whereas vulnerability is increased by the presence of risk factors, the presence of protective factors provides the potential for increased resilience.

Once protective and risk factors have been analysed, the process requires an assessment of the likely outcomes of these factors on the child. The Early Help Assessment Form (EHA) provides a structure for this analysis.

Finally, the analysis must consider what needs to change if the level of risk is to be reduced? This brings you into action planning.

7. Stage 5 - Action Planning

Children and families may experience a range of needs at different times in their lives. All children including children with unmet needs require access to high quality universal services. Some children are at risk of poor outcomes. These are children with unmet needs, and they will require targeted support from education, health, youth inclusion support programmes and other services. A smaller proportion of children have more significant or complex needs who may benefit from assessment and or intervention by statutory / specialist services.

You must remember that the principle is to work with families at the lowest level of intervention to safeguard the child and promote their welfare and that responses can escalate or reduce based on intervention and changing circumstances.

More information on indicators are outlined in:

8. Stage 6 - Implementation and Review

The child's plan must be subject to regular interagency review in partnership with the child (if old enough) and the family. The plan must outline what needs to change for the child to achieve their potential and what the agencies and the family will do to help the child achieve this. As a child's needs are met, practitioners should vary their responses accordingly. For examples once the child's needs are met through a child protection plan, a conference will normally decide to discontinue the plan and offer support through a Team Around the Child (TAC) plan.

Caption: section 8, Stage 6 - Implementation and Review
Universal Needs Additional Needs Complex Needs Immediate Safeguarding
Indicators to help identify what is happening and what action is needed to meet a child's needs are described in the following:
Required Response
Individual agency response

Use a Child and Family EHA to gather information and assess level of response:

Possible Outcomes of Assessment:

  1. Needs can be met within own agency;
  2. Referral to specialist agency;
  3. Interagency care planning through TAC meeting.
Interagency assessment and care planning led by Children's Services Interagency assessment and planning under LSCP Procedures
Required Process

Universal provision
Community support

Family Group Conference

Family Group Conference
Child In Need
Team around the Child

Child Protection strategy meeting
Admission to acute health

9. Children with Universal Needs

These are children / young people who make good overall progress in all areas of development. Broadly, these children receive appropriate universal services, such as health and education leisure facilities, housing or voluntary services.

10. Early Help Assessment (EHA)

Local authorities, under section 10 of the Children Act 2004, have a responsibility to promote inter-agency co-operation to improve the welfare of children.

In Lincolnshire, we have a partnership approach to providing support for children and families through a multi-agency, partnership Early Help Strategy. See: https://www.lincolnshirescp.org.uk.

Early Help is more effective in promoting the welfare of children than reacting later. Early Help means providing support as soon as a problem emerges, at any point in the child's life, from the foundation years through to the teenage years. It is the responsibility of all professionals involved in supporting children and families to deliver Early Help and to aid the child and family in accessing the appropriate support to meet their needs.

Universal services and children's families are best place to identify where there may be additional unmet needs that can be met through an Early Help approach.

Effective Early Help relies upon local agencies working together to:

  1. Identify children and families who would benefit from Early Help;
  2. Undertake an assessment of the need for Early Help (via an Early Help Assessment);
  3. Provide targeted, multi-agency package of support that may include targeted Early Help services to address the assessed needs of a child and their family.

This refers to children, young people and families who have been assessed as having additional needs which cannot be provided purely by universal provision.

Early Help Care Coordination (ESCO) aims to raise the standards of care for children and young people, aged 0-18 year. These children have significant and complex needs and require targeted coordination of services. This can include:

  • Sensory or physical difficulties;
  • Complex health needs including disability;
  • Babies leaving hospital with medical and other support needs;
  • Children who have a greater difficulty communicating;
  • Life limiting conditions and palliative care;
  • Children with multiple and significant factors which effect learning and development.

More information about the role of ESCO can be found via:

Lincolnshire Police has an established process for sharing data relating to children at risk, through a public protection notice. This notice can contain considerable information relating to a child or children and their current circumstances. The officer will have a conversation with the child or children. As part of this process, the officer completing the notice seeks consent for an early help assessment to take place, which is recorded.

More information on indicators is outlined in:

Where professionals have concerns that a family appears to not be engaging with the TAC progress or making progress with the support plan it is advised that they seek support and advice from the Early Help Consultants: earlyhelpconsultants@lincolnshire.gov.uk. The TAC process is voluntary, and they will work through the worry statements and goals to ensure that they are realistic, clear and achievable as this can be a barrier to progress and engagement. The discussion will also work through how the plan was formulated to ensure that it is family led and that all communication has been transparent. The Early Help Consultants will be able to provide advice and guidance in relation to thresholds and if there is a need to escalate the concern via a safeguarding referral.

11. Role of the Lead Professional

When a child needs a package of support, experience shows that they and their family benefit from having one person who can help them through their journey and ensure they get the right services at the right time.

Key functions:

  • A single point of contact - giving children, young people and their families a trusted person to support them and communicate without jargon;
  • Coordinate services - so that effective action is properly planned, delivered and reviewed;
  • Reduce overlap and inconsistency - to ensure a better service experience and outcome.

For more information around the Lead Professional role, please see the TAC Handbook.

12. Children with Complex Needs

This smaller group of children / young people require intensive help and support to meet their needs. This group includes those children who require an assessment to determine whether or not they are, Children in Need those that have been assessed as Children in Need and those who may be at risk of suffering significant harm.

You should undertake an assessment using the Safeguarding Referral Form, balancing risk, what you are worried about, with protective factors, what is working well, to evidence and confirm whether the child has complex needs which would benefit from an assessment by a Children's Services Social Worker The majority of children with complex needs will have already been receiving support through the TAC process.

See Appendix 1: The Thresholds Document to assist with completing the referral form.

Further guidance about the Referral Process can be found via the Safeguarding Referrals Procedure.

S 17 - Child In Need

Some children with complex needs may also be children who are defined as being 'in need', under s17 of the Children Act 1989. The criteria for a child under Section 17 are those whose vulnerability is such that they are unlikely to reach or maintain a satisfactory level of health or development, or their health and development will be significantly impaired, without the provision of services (s17(10) of the Children Act 1989), plus those who are disabled. The critical factors to be taken into account in deciding whether a child is in need under the Children Act 1989 are:

  • What will happen to a child's health or development without services being provided; and
  • The likely affect the services will have on the child's standard of health and development.
Local Authorities have a duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in need.

The following list provides indicators of complex needs:

  • Disability (with a permanent and substantial impairment of function);
  • Life threatening medical conditions;
  • Significant emotional and behavioural difficulties or significant mental health needs;
  • Children and young people who are homeless;
  • Involved in alcohol or substance misuse;
  • Children whose parents / carers have a physical or learning disability, have mental ill health, are seriously ill or misuse substances such that is is impacting upon their parenting;
  • Young Carers;
  • Long term neglect which can be evidenced as having a significant impact on child's physical health, emotional wellbeing, or development;
  • Living in a situation where there is serious or repeated domestic abuse;
  • Living in a situation where an adult carer is subject to MAPPA registration;
  • Experiencing harassment on the basis of race, gender, culture or sexuality;
  • Living in families where there are serious family relationship problems;
  • Children whose behaviour has been sexually harmful;
  • Children who are go missing;
  • Children whose parents are experiencing difficulty in providing a reasonable standard of parenting;
  • Previously subject to Child Protection Plan;
  • Children who are being sexually/criminally exploited.

13. Significant Harm

Some children are in need because they are suffering, or likely to suffer, Significant Harm. The Children Act 1989 introduced the concept of significant harm as the threshold that justifies compulsory intervention in family life in the best interest of children and gives Local Authorities a duty to make enquiries to decide whether they should take action to safeguard or promote the welfare of a child who is suffering, or likely to suffer, significant harm.

The court may only make a care order or supervision order in respect of a child if it is satisfied that:

  • The child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm;
  • The harm or likelihood of harm is attributable to a lack of adequate care or control (s31).

The following list provides a guide of all children where Children's Services have a statutory responsibility:

  • Children who are unlikely to reach or maintain a satisfactory level of health or development, or their health and development will be significantly impaired, without the provision of services;
  • Children who are subject of a Child Protection Plan;
  • Children subject to Care Order or Supervision Order;
  • Looked After Children;
  • Children for whom adoption is the plan;
  • Children remanded into the care of the Local Authority Accommodation or Youth Detention Accommodation;
  • Children who are Privately Fostered;
  • Unaccompanied asylum seeking children (see also Children from Abroad Procedure).

14. Immediate Safeguarding

This table includes those children where there is a need for immediate safeguarding as they may have suffered or be at risk of suffering significant harm. These children would require an immediate referral to Children's Services for consideration social work assessment to be completed to better understand their needs.

  • Children at immediate risk of suffering significant harm, including physical, sexual, emotional harm and Neglect (see Working Together to Safeguard Children, Glossary);
  • Children with unexplained injuries, suspicious injuries or where there is an inconsistent explanation of the injury;
  • Children from families experiencing a crisis likely to result in a breakdown of care arrangements;
  • Where there are serious concerns regarding the risk of suffering significant harm to an unborn child (see Pre-Birth Protocol);
  • Children who are remanded;
  • Children who are engaged in criminal activity (refer to YOS);
  • Children who allege abuse;
  • Vulnerable children who are left alone;
  • Children whose parents are unable to provide care whether for physical, intellectual, emotional or social reasons.

The child's "experience" should be considered, families where there is "low warmth/high criticism", are particularly vulnerable.

Children's Services is the lead agency for undertaking Section 17 and Section 47 Enquiries.

If you are in any doubt or would like to discuss particular concerns contact your line manager or the Customer Service Centre.

16. Children's Services Assessment

Lincolnshire children services have moved away from an assessment model with two stages. These were called Initial and Core assessments. These activities are now combined into a Single Assessment process which is known as a social work assessment. See Social Care Assessment.

17. Conclusion

This summary guide provides an overview of the continuum of needs of all children in Lincolnshire. It provides guidance on the key concepts and processes in working with children, young people and their families according to their needs.

It is acknowledged that decisions about how and who is best to meet a child's needs are based on individual judgements and involves professional and personal values. Professionals are encouraged to discuss concerns openly with their own agency line manager or with Children's Services. (If in doubt consult.). Further support to resolve any professional concerns can be found via the LSCP Professional Resolution and Escalation Protocol.

The Early Help Advisors based in Customer Service Centre will be able to offer advice on meeting the needs of children.

Appendix 1: The Thresholds Document

Click here to view Appendix 1: The Thresholds Document.