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1.2.15 Assessment of the Needs of Disabled Parents and Their Children (Young Carers) - Children's Social Care and Adult Assessment Services - Interim Joint Protocol


This chapter was significantly amended in September 2017 to include the role of the single assessment, including the timescales identified by Working Together to Safeguard Children.


  1. Introduction
  2. Philosophy
  3. Practice Standards
  4. Referrals to Assessment and Intervention (A&I)
  5. Referrals to Adult Teams
  6. Young Carers
  7. The Single Assessment
  8. Care Packages
  9. Direct Payments/Personal Budgets
  10. Finance Administration
  11. Review

1. Introduction

This joint protocol was negotiated between Adult Social Care and Children’s Social Care and was agreed in May 2012.

The aim of the protocol is to ensure that the needs of disabled adults and their children are appropriately assessed, and that service provision is effective. It is also to ensure that children’s needs as carers are fully assessed.

For the purposes of this protocol, the term ‘disabled parent’ refers to parents with:

  • Learning, physical and sensory impairments;
  • Chronic sickness and deteriorating illness.

2. Philosophy

The protocol is underpinned by the social model of disability which “redefines disability as the disadvantage or restriction of activity caused by society which takes little or no account of people who have impairments, and thus excludes them from mainstream activity.” Throughout this document the term “disabled” is used to describe this discrimination, and the term “impairment” to describe a parent’s condition.

The protocol starts from the basis that:

  • Disabled parents have the right to be supported in fulfilling their roles and responsibilities as parents;
  • The needs of children are best met when disabled adults support needs are acknowledged, assessed, facilitated and regularly reviewed;
  • Children have the right to be protected from harm and to receive services when their health or development is likely to be impaired without such provision;
  • The provision of services to children and families will occur within the bounds of legislation;
  • Boundaries between teams and services should allow for flexibility in order to ensure that needs are met;
  • A multi-agency approach to both assessment and service provision is likely to be in the best interests of parents and children;
  • The identification of need should not be resource-led;
  • Resources may influence the services that can be provided to meet identified need.

3. Practice Standards

The following standards should apply to practice throughout the assessment and care planning process:

  • Disabled parents’ needs should be defined as including those occasioned by parenting, as well as by the disabled adults’ own personal needs, e.g. personal care of the child; preparation of meals and drinks; attending to the child’s health needs; parental involvement in indoor and outdoor play; support in education;
  • Parenting needs should also be seen as tasks that do not directly involve the parent, but support their parenting choices, e.g. providing child care while a parent rests;
  • Assessments should be undertaken by staff competent to:
    • Practice within the social model of disability with an understanding of the need to enable and empower disabled parents;
    • Use the DHSC assessment framework as a way of identifying a child’s developmental needs and parents’ capacity to meet those needs.
  • Parents and children (where appropriate) should receive copies of assessments in formats accessible to each individual;
  • Assessments and care plans should always be inter-agency in their approach;
  • Care plans must ensure a clear focus on the welfare of the child;
  • Children are entitled to have any caring role assessed and must be spoken to about their caring role and this must be assessed thoroughly;
  • Disabled adults and children (where appropriate) should always be advised as to how to make representations or complaints about any part of the assessment and care planning process and are supported should they wish to do so.

4. Referrals to Assessment and Intervention (A&I)

  • A&I social workers should routinely record whether a parent is disabled;
  • Within 24 hours a decision should be made as to whether the child is potentially a child in need within the terms of Southwark’s threshold criteria;
  • If a child is not identified as ‘in need’, and a parent is disabled, there should be an automatic referral to Adult Services;
  • If a child is potentially ‘in need’, a referral should be made to Adult Services, and arrangements made for a joint Single Assessment. This should be led by Adult Services, who should take responsibility for contacting the family;
  • Where an adult carer is identified the RAD team manager should be advised so that the responsibility for the joint assessment can be passed to the senior specialist worker who will organise a joint assessment with Adult Services.

5. Referrals to Adult Teams

  • Adult teams should routinely record whether there is a child in the family;
  • At the first visit, the children should be seen and a decision made as to whether they are potentially ‘in need’ within the terms of Southwark’s threshold criteria;
  • If the children are not ‘in need’, Adult Services are to carry on with their assessment and care planning process. This should always include frequent consideration of whether the child’s needs are being met;
  • If the children are potentially ‘in need’, a referral should be made to Children’s Services and arrangements made for a joint Single Assessment;
  • If there are concerns about possible significant harm to a child, an immediate referral should be made to the child care team.

6. Young Carers

For many young people they will view their caring role within the family as appropriate and an integral and central part of their relationship with their families. This can and should be seen as an important part of their identity. Social Workers should not see the caring role as necessarily negative or a source of unhappiness and this is why careful assessment.

For some young people it is possible that because of their parent’s illness or disability they are undertaking inappropriate tasks that have an impact on their welfare. When a young person is undertaking an inappropriate caring role within the family the first consideration should be whether or not the adult is receiving the necessary services and if the provision of service could provide needed help to a young carer.

Support for young carers should be a major consideration in any care package. A referral to the Young Carers project in Southwark should always be considered by social workers undertaking the assessment.

7. The Single Assessment

Note: Please see the Protocol for Single Assessments (Agreed with Southwark Safeguarding Children Partnership).

The Single Assessment should be completed within a maximum of 45 working days of referral to Children’s Services. The assessment should be carried out jointly with an adult social care worker.

The assessment should:

  • Identify the core needs of the Adult Service user;
  • Explore the degree of permanency of the Adult Service user’s impairment;
  • Identify the child’s developmental needs, and the parents’ capacity to meet those needs within the context of their environment;
  • Take account of known variations in need for assistance, such as additional support during school holidays, at weekends, etc;
  • Agree a joint action plan with the parent(s) and child (if appropriate) which identifies the care package to be provided, responsibility for provision and timetable for review;
  • If there is a risk of Significant Harm to the child – the assessment should identify this and make appropriate recommendations.

At the end of the assessment, a care plan should be jointly agreed between Children’s and Adult Services. This should be approved by the managers of both teams and the outcome of all assessments must be presented to the Resources Panel.

8. Care Packages

Packages will be provided through the purchasing mechanisms and contracts available to the Adult Assessments Teams. The council’s policies relating to safe employment must be adhered to in the commissioning of any packages.

9. Direct Payments/Personal Budgets

When the adult service users wish to purchase their own care packages via a personal budget through a ‘direct payment’, the social worker from Adult Services should undertake this component of the assessment, and give specialist advice to the Adult Service users.

10. Finance Administration

The following process is designed to formalise joint responsibilities and sharing of costs whilst ensuring that there is sufficient flexibility to meet identified needs.

Finance administration of joint packages between adult assessments and the children’s division will be undertaken by Adult Services. Budgets will be identified for:

  • Care packages provided by private and voluntary agencies;
  • Care packages provided by cost and volume contract providers;
  • Care packages funded under a Personal Budget or Direct Payment arrangements.

Allocated finances will be administered by Adult Division applying a 70% Adults 30% Children split.

If a child is Accommodated as part of the changing circumstances of the family, this will not affect the source of funding of the package unless the child is Accommodated for a period in excess of six weeks and there is no plan to return the child to the adult service user’s care in the near future. However the size of the care package may well be adjusted in view of the child being so Accommodated.

If the child is on Southwark’s List of Children with a Child Protection Plan, any additional services required as part of the Child Protection Plan should be identified by the Core Group and purchased separately by the relevant children’s team.

Where there is a dispute between social workers concerning the allocation of resources to support a care package, the social workers should identify the nature of the dispute in writing and the relevant managers should attempt to agree a compromise solution within the guidelines in this protocol.

11. Review

A specific panel to review joint packages between Adult Services and Children’s Services has been established in Children’s Services that meet on a quarterly basis.

Timescales for review will be identified at the point that a joint action plan or joint care plan is agreed.

The review process should take account of the fact that disabled people’s needs constantly change in both foreseen and unforeseen ways. The timescale for should therefore be set in response to the particular circumstances surrounding the adult service user’s needs, changing needs of the child and the complexity size of the package being provided. There should always be the flexibility for a case to be re-reviewed at any time or re-opened speedily if they have been closed.

Should the priority for review differ between the two services then the shorter timescale will be adopted.