NWG Assessment Tool: Doing the right thing, the right way, for the right reasons
In 2016 the NWG facilitated several events across the country to canvas members on current practice issues, overwhelmingly risk assessment was the most common cause for concern. The NWG had previously developed an assessment tool in 2013 but much had changed since then within the field of CSE.
Professor Alexis Jay’s report into CSE in Rotherham had highlighted concerns about assessment tools – particularly the use of numeric scoring systems. This lead Isobel Trowler, Chief Social Worker, to contact all directors of children’s services, encouraging them to consider the CSE assessment tools they were using.
In late 2016 the newly formed CSE Response Unit decided addressing the concerns of our members and developing a new assessment tool should be a key priority for the team. Fast forward 12 months to December 2017 and it was with great pride we launched our new assessment tool.
It’s not possible to quantify the tremendous amount of work carried out over that period to get to where we are today, most notably the efforts of Bina at NWG and Liz from our register of skills and knowledge, but I hope this blog gives you an idea of our journey.
Our overarching aim in creating our new assessment tool was to draw on what children and young people, parents and professionals were telling us about assessment tools and processes. We didn’t simply want to design another form to fill in, but also to enhance approaches to assessment to ensure they were child-focused and considered the views of parents and carers. Focus groups, forums, and many other opportunities to engage with children, parents and professionals have formed the bedrock of our tool’s design.
The views of children, young people, parents and carers were critical to the design of our assessment tool and now form the backbone of the training package we’ve developed to support practitioners using the tool.
What felt critically important was to also be informed by research in our design of the tool. Research into CSE was sparse at the time, but two key pieces of research by the University of Coventry have been central to our approach.
I’m currently a post-graduate student at the University of Bedfordshire. My lecturers are constantly reminding me to critically appraise any publications I cite in my assignments and if my studies have taught me anything it is that for every argument there’s a counter-argument and we all interpret research in different ways. This often makes negotiating research feel like a minefield for frontline practitioners.
We were fortunate to be able to engage with the team at Coventry University and the CSA Centre of Expertise during the development stage and were delighted representative from both institutions supported our assessment tool launch events – one of my personal highlights of 2017 was co-delivering a keynote speech at an international conference with Professor Sarah Brown from Coventry University – a fantastic example of research and practice collaborating.
The launch events provided the NWG with an opportunity to inform 418 professionals across the country of the processes involved in developing the tool and present the evidence base for our approach, including drawing on the evaluation of the See Me, Hear Me framework – ensuring a rights-based approach to assessment. Thanks to the patience of our design team we were able to use feedback from these events to tweak the tool numerous times before official launch in December.
The journey is still far from over. We are delighted to be working with three pilot sites who have kindly agreed to give our new assessment tool a whirl. Training has been developed to support practitioners to not only understand the tool and its functions, but also to approach the process in a child-centred, trauma-informed manner. Over 200 professionals have already received training on implementing the tool within the pilot sites.
The pilot process is being evaluated so we can learn more about what works, and also what doesn’t. We hope the initial evaluation of the pilot process will inform a future, more significant piece of research to understand the effectiveness of the tool and hopefully develop an evidence base.
We hope we have created an assessment tool which encourages professional judgement whilst supporting professionals to consider the contextual aspects of both risks and strengths affecting the child. Have we succeeded? Only time will tell but I know we’ve done the right thing, for the right reasons, the right way.
Phil Ashford – NWG CSE Response Unit Operational Lead