By Sarah Lowe
ParentAssess is based on the DOH Assessment Framework but the tools and tables used ensure parents are able to engage more easily and understand the outcomes. All assessors are trained to use the framework tools and adopt an approach which helps understanding. The vast majority of assessors work in this way, and as a result ParentAssess is widely regarded an an effective and helpful assessment framework which brings much needed clarity to a complex process.
No matter which parenting assessment framework is used, once an assessor leaves the training it will ultimately be up to them how they complete the assessment. They may follow the guidance given on the assessor training or decide to chop bits out perhaps in an effort to save time. Unfortunately, this is likely to compromise the integrity of the framework used, but more importantly could result in a poor-quality assessment. This could impact on the parent and the court may not be able to rely on the findings. In some situations, the assessment might even need to be redone. Therefore, it is important that all parties know what should be contained in a parenting assessment report especially if a specialist framework is used.
Recently, I spoke to a solicitor who was critical of the only ParentAssess Report he’d seen. I asked whether it had the required social work analysis – it didn’t. I asked if it contained the Outcome Table and Short Parent Report – it didn’t. In effect what the solicitor had seen was not a ParentAssess but they were unaware of what should be in a ParentAssess report.
We have previously set out the basic components needed for a social work assessor to refer to an assessment as a ‘ParentAssess’ (see our website). However, recently we have taken a step further and launched our Quality Assured Standard Mark. The aim is to set a standard which will hopefully ensure the parent has had a fair and balanced assessment in a format they can understand.
The QA mark can only be added to a ParentAssess report if certain criteria are met. These are detailed in the QA Form available to all Local Authority Managers, Instructing Solicitors, Children’s Guardians and LD Advocates.
To meet this standard, the assessment timescale must be 8 weeks or more. This is to ensure the parent’s specific needs have been considered and to provide them with adequate opportunity to participate and understand the assessment process and outcome.
We are aware of a very small number of ISWs who work intensively with parents over shorter timeframes. We would not recommend this unless all parties are in agreement from the outset and it is established the parent’s specific issues make this approach easier for them. The different components set out in the QA form would still need to be completed.
How does the Quality Assured Mark work?
The Assessor must ensure that the assessment has been conducted in accordance with the criteria on the QA Form. If they add the QA Mark to their report, they are guaranteeing this standard has been met. They are aware they may be challenged by those instructing if the assessment falls short of the standard. The licence to use the ParentAssess QA Mark is dependent on the social worker applying it correctly.
Do they have to meet every criteria on the QA form?
Yes, unless there are circumstances which prevent this, for example if the parent refused to attend sessions. In that situation they must explain why at the earliest opportunity. They cannot for example, only complete 1 parent/child observation and cite lack of time as this would mean they are not able to compare different observations sessions.
What happens if the QA Mark is being used incorrectly?
Please notify ParentAssess Ltd at firstname.lastname@example.org. Ultimately, the licence to use the QA Mark could be removed.
How do I find social workers who work to this standard?
ISWs and other assessment providers can add the QA Mark to their website and email signatures. We also hold a list of people who are using the QA Mark.
How do I get a copy of the Quality Assured Form?
Please email email@example.com