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ParentAssess is a referenced assessment framework in the Revised Good Practice Guidance 2021

Now established in many parts of the UK and over 600 Social Workers are trained in ParentAssess

Sarah Lowe has been awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of her contribution to social work in the Social Worker of the Year Awards 2022

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What makes ParentAssess different?

The framework is based on the well established DOH Assessment of Children in Need and their Families (2000) , but uses a range of tools and tables to help parents with additional needs engage and understand the process. A separate Abridged Parent Report is provided which explains the outcome in a way the parent can understand. 

It is a strengths based framework. Assessors are trained to carefully identify the parent's specific needs and to understand what might help the parent. 

It covers all the issues of potential risk with focus on the child's experience. Assessors are trained to help parents to understand risk to themselves and their children by using creative approaches.  

The recommendations from relevant case law and the Good Practice Guidance are embedded in ParentAssess including careful consideration of the proposed support network. 

Traffic light system

Throughout the assessment the parent and the assessor use a traffic light system. This helps the parent express their views and also helps the assessor show the parent how they are doing. The aim from the outset is that the parent understands what they need to focus on. The outcome is also explained using red, amber green. 


Some concerns - monitoring needed
No concerns
Significant concern

"The assessment is transparent - the parent understands the concerns and the outcome"                                   


The Assessment 

The assessment explores 5 key areas

 The child's experience of being parented

How the parent meets the physical and emotional needs of the child. This includes attachment.  

 Specific issues

Considers additional issues such as domestic abuse, alcohol, drug use, offending and gambling. The assessment also covers cultural issues. 

 Parental functioning

Explores the parent's history and considers how it impacts on parenting. Looks at issues such as the parent's ability to change, decision making, multi-tasking and how they manage risk.  

 The parent's daily living skills

How the parent is able to organise and manage daily life. 


If any gaps are identified in the areas above then the parent's support network and their ability to access support is considered. 

Pre-Birth Assessments

ParentAssess has been used successfully in Pre-Birth Assessments and can then move into a full assessment after baby is born. This means that the parent does not have to 'start again' and the assessor is able to consider how the parent adapts to their new responsibilities.   

Respecting Cultural Diversity

The start of any assessment is understanding the parent as a whole, embracing the person's individual culture and identity. Assessors are encouraged to listen carefully and use the tools to enable the parent to provide a better understanding of how they experience their culture.  The assessor needs to be curious about how the parent's cultural upbringing might influence parenting in order to help develop the person's strengths. The various tools in ParentAssess reflect cultural diversity in an appropriate way. The framework also allows for some flexibility in any questions asked of a parent. For example, when asking about a child's diet, the foods discussed need to be those which are familiar to the parent. 

Parents with Autism

Autism is often treated as if it is a learning disability when it is a condition - most people with Autism have IQs the same or higher than their peers.  The flexibility of ParentAssess means it is a suitable framework to use when assessing parents who have Autism. Additional workshops are provided to Assessors to ensure they understand the strengths and possible challenges these parents might have. 

Parents with Additional Needs

ParentAssess can be used in the assessment of any parent. Many parents have had adverse childhood experiences which can make parenting harder. Some parents have mental health issues and need their difficulties to be understood and considered. We encourage assessors to adopt a sensitive approach and we find by ensuring the parent understands the assessment process levels of anxiety can be reduced.  

What Parents Say 

"I liked the traffic lights ....it made me think about what I was doing"

"The traffic lights made me realise how me and the social worker see things differently and what the problems are"

"You made me see how it is for my child. I was doing things wrong but I never knew it"