How social workers can improve assessments of family and friends carers

Family Rights Group warns of lack of minimum standards and inconsistency of practice in relation to viability assessments of prospective carers

Guidance to help social workers assess prospective family and friends carers has been issued to address a lack of minimum standards in this area.

The Family Rights Group guide follows research conducted by the group in 2015, which found a lack of consistency in the way assessments were carried out and that 35% of assessments carried out by professionals had been done by phone call only.

The guidance, which is endorsed by Family Court president Sir James Munby, the Association of Directors of Children’s Services and Cafcass, outlines what a viability assessment for family and friend carers should look like, what social workers should consider and how to undertake international assessments.

Assessment objectives

It says that a completed viability assessment should set out clearly:

  • The information gathered by the social worker in relation to the child’s current and anticipated future needs.
  • The ability of the family member or friend being assessed to meet these needs (with appropriate support).
  • The social worker’s analysis of this evidence, which underpins the recommendation they have reached.

Practitioners should explain to prospective carers the difference between fostering, special guardianship and child arrangement orders and the implications of each in terms of further assessments and support, so that cares can make an informed choice.

“In summary, not all options need to be fully assessed, but all realistic options for the care of the child must be and viability assessments serve to identify which are the realistic options. Viability assessments that rule out a potential carer must evidence that this option is clearly and plainly unrealistic, and one that the court can and should confidently dismiss,” the guidance says.

Cathy Ashley, chief executive of the Family Rights Group, said the guide was made with the input of social workers, lawyers, local authority senior managers and kinship carers.


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