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Navigating Assessments in Children's Services: Let's go back to basics

For students and New Social Workers, the idea of assessment is overwhelming and pretty intimidating.

Here is the first step you can take when beginning the assessment process with children and families.

So let's start with the basics. What exactly is an assessment?

Well, in the university and training realm, we learn about it as a concept. But in the real world of children's services, an assessment is a written document—a form to be precise—that needs to be completed. I'm not suggesting tick-box practice, but it's important to be clear about the fact that whilst your assessment is holistic, it will result in a formal written document. Don't assume that people know this already.

Imagine this: you're working with children and families, and they need to understand what an assessment entails. It's crucial to make it crystal clear. Otherwise, they might hear the term "assessment" and immediately think, "a test is coming!" Whilst many people would share that assessments can feel like a test, it's not about exams or being confined to a room with someone for a single session. Assessments can take days, weeks, or even months to complete.

The simplest thing you can do as a newly qualified social worker is grab a blank assessment form and carry it with you. Show it to the families and children you work with, saying, "This is the form I need to fill out when I talk about assessment."

Break it down into different sections, explaining that you'll be asking questions related to each section or conducting some activities and direct work. It's like giving them a visual roadmap to understand the process.

Remember to address any potential challenges that may arise with written documents. Are parents comfortable with written materials? Do they need support due to language or literacy barriers?

Having a tangible form in front of them encourages open discussion and helps them formulate questions more easily. They can simply flip through the form and ask, "what does this mean?"

By taking this small step at the beginning of your assessment journey, you're not only saving time but also creating a more inclusive and collaborative environment. The alternative is reaching the end of your assessment, writing up all the details, and finding a parent, carer or young person shocked, upset and confused with the piece of paper in front of them.

Let's avoid that confusion by investing a few minutes upfront.

Think about it holistically—time as a whole throughout the assessment process rather than just individual sessions. You'll see the impact it has on building rapport and fostering better understanding with the families and children you work with.

So, let's break down those assessment barriers, make it less intimidating, and ensure that everyone involved is on the same page. And remember, a little effort at the start can go a long way toward a successful assessment journey.


Are you a student or newly qualified Social Worker?

Do you want to feel prepared for undertaking assessments in practice?

My Assessment Skills Masterclass is a comprehensive online training focused on practical skills in children's services, underpinned by theory and research.

"Vicki is clearly very knowledgeable, she was passionate about sharing her knowledge and experience, and was able to answer questions effectively. The masterclass provided practical tips and strategies that you could put straight to practice- perfect for students like me, who don't get this type of practical information at university and want to be ready for placement and the ASYE."



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