Tips for keeping assessment processes strengths-focused

Practical advice from a Community Care Inform guide on taking a strengths-based approach to assessments

Senior man with social worker
Photo posed by models: Kurhan/AdobeStock

This article presents practice tips from Community Care Inform Adults’ guide on strengths-based questions. The full guide provides strengths-based ideas for moving beyond simply completing an assessment form and suggests questions and strategies for engaging people so that you can build an understanding of their life, strengths and goals. Inform Adults subscribers can access the full content here.

The guide is written by Mel Gray and Leanne Schubert from the University of Newcastle, Australia.

Assessments under the Care Act 2014, in England, or Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014, aim to enable individuals to express their wishes and preferences regarding their care. Taking a strengths-based approach invites practitioners to put the assessment form away and engage the person in a conversation about more than just the problems they face.

Building a collaborative relationship is key in strengths-based practice. This requires practitioners to step away from holding themselves as the authority and to view the individual being assessed as the expert in their own life and experience.

To keep assessment and eligibility processes strengths-focused, try to:

  1. Shift from discussing problems to exploring possibilities and solutions.
  2. Reframe a negative experience in a positive light.
  3. Encourage the person to take the lead in identifying their needs and desired outcomes.
  4. Check and confirm whether the person wants the involvement of the local authority.
  5. Prompt the person to ensure all their needs have been identified.
  6. Ask about day-to-day outcomes like dressing, maintaining personal relationships, going out into the community and, where relevant, working.
  7. Be clear about eligibility requirements. Emphasise the idea that people’s needs are often best met by combining complementary resources.
  8. Write any notes or reports and record decisions you make in the knowledge that you are required to share these with the person. Consider what it would be like to read them.
  9. Facilitate active involvement in decision making.
  10. Use open-ended questions that allow the person to describe their situation without you making assumptions regarding deficits.

While a strengths-based approach is consistent with the outcome-based assessments required under the Care Act and Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act, it does not provide all the answers. It must be used in tandem with critical theories and approaches to build a better understanding of situations, discover ways forward and help other possibilities emerge.

If you have a Community Care Inform Adults licence, log in to access the full guide and read more strengths-based ideas for moving beyond completion of an assessment form as well as suggested questions and strategies for engagement.

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3 Responses to Tips for keeping assessment processes strengths-focused

  1. Daniel November 24, 2023 at 7:14 am #

    It’s important to recognise the difference between how we approach an assessment in a strengths based way through conversation that focusses on the persons wellbeing, their goals and outcomes, and how we record it.

    For the written record of a ‘needs assessment’, it has to state what the persons ‘needs’ are, as well as their capabilities, not forgetting that it should also be proportionate and appropriate.

    The simplest was to describe a need when writing about it is to think of a need as the ‘gap’ between ‘what is’ and what ‘should be’.

    Example paragraph structure:

    1.What is- the situation, including the persons capabilities

    2.The gap- what support some ‘needs’ to reach the outcome

    3.What should be- the outcome the person should be able to achieve (ie. Care Act outcome)

    This is also a good place to identify the impact on a persons wellbeing using their own words. ie. “It saddens me that I can’t go out with my friends at the weekend like everyone else.”

    • Alec Fraher November 24, 2023 at 6:39 pm #

      The extent to which a person understands their condition within their living arrangements is the responsibility of the assessor to judge, not the recipient ~ the extent to which someone can actually participate, and be fully informed, and the nature and degree of how impacted also in the gift of the assessor….

      This is how the caselaw since the Ritchie Inquiry, (see the Camberwell Assessment Framework and Focal Person, and dare I say, ‘Still Bulding Bridges’ has been formed.

      The reenablement agenda is an ideological driver drawn from Dr Whilsenholme(sp) work on hospital discharge and systems dynamics ie the archetype ‘Out of Control’. This modelling sits with other systems archetypes, like ‘shifting the burden’ ~ which is the underlying thinking of services planning ~ crucially, and since 2009, the perception of the advantages of, say, personalisation have been called into question, most notably by the EU Social Protection Committee, because the ‘shifting of the burden’ impacted user’s and carers negatively. Leeds University had a large part in the research.

      The shifting is an ideological issue, no?

  2. A man Called Horse December 3, 2023 at 11:48 am #

    Strength based work is ideologically driven anyway. It is Austerity driven policy. In the real world people can’t even meet their basic survival needs such as food, clothing, heating the most basic of human needs. The facts are simple there are now millions of people facing destitution in the uk one of the richest countries in the world. Social workers are seeing a sea of poverty and they have to talk to people as if they are architects of their own situation. There is no care or compassion towards people in the this great nation from their Tory overlords. Local Authorities are now likely to collapse under this sea of unmet need. There is no money and with no money there is no solution. We don’t talk about needs anymore because largely they can’t be met by the Voluntary sector or the Local Authority. Food bank Britain stinks and Social Workers are told keep quiet and do exactly what you are told. Personalisation with zero resources was always going to prove difficult. Social workers need to take a radical view of the problems they see and fight against this enforcement of strength based nonsense.