Support the #Respect4SocialWork campaign today and celebrate the social work profession.
Make an Enquiry
Contact Us

ParentAssess framework for assessing parents with additional needs

PAMS assessments have been synonymous with assessments of parents with a learning disability pretty much since the assessment’s inception in 1988.

Still hugely popular, we frequently are asked for expert social workers to carry out PAMS assessments of parents with a learning disability to assess their parenting abilities.

However, more recently, we are increasingly getting requests for Independent Social Workers to carry out assessments using the Parent Assess model.

Parent and child washing hands

So what is it?

  • ParentAssess is a comprehensive assessment framework for parents who have learning disabilities or additional needs.

  • ParentAssess is named in the Department of Health Good Practice guidance on working with parents with a learning disability (July 2021) as a recommended framework for assessing the impact of a parent’s learning disability on their parenting capacity.

  • ParentAssess is also recognised by the Courts and Legal Aid Agency as an alternative model of assessment to other frameworks such as PAMS.

Where has it come from?

ParentAssess was founded by Sarah Lowe who has over 40 years of experience in the social work field and specifically with people who have learning disabilities.

“One of the things I’ve always made a priority in my practice is listening to the people I am working with about how the social work process feels. Many of the parents with learning disabilities told me how fearful they were of the assessment process, others felt like they were being treated like a child and some just did not understand the assessment process. I knew things had to change to make things work for these parents,” said Sarah.

The Model

Throughout the assessment the parent and the assessor use a traffic light system. This helps the parent express their views and also helps the assessor show the parent how they are doing. The aim from the outset is that the parent understands what they need to focus on. The outcome is also explained using red, amber and green.

  • Red suggests significant concerns
  • Amber means some concerns - monitoring needed
  • Green reflects no concerns

“The first thing is simplicity,” said Sarah. “Make things simple and clear, easy to understand – this makes the work we do accessible. It’s vital the parent understands the process.”

There is optional software which supports the work of the assessor by making the completion of the assessment easier. Its main function is to generate the tables once the information is entered.  This makes understanding progress and the outcome much easier for the parent. The software is designed to be simple and easy to use although ParentAssess can be used as a framework without the software.

The software is available in Windows and Mac versions.

What do people say?


Independent Social Worker Pamela Smith, who attended the ParentAssess training, said: “The ParentsAssess training was really good. It was engaging, it was at the right pitch for everyone involved even though we all came with varying experience in assessing parents with learning disabilities, there was the opportunity to talk and iron things out and the timing was just right.”

“It is child and family focused and there are a lot of tools available to help parents with a learning disability understand what you are talking about. The accompanying IT system is easy for parents to comprehend, it is family friendly and easy to use for social workers and other professionals. Plus it gets straight to the point of the assessment,” said Pamela.

“ParentAssess incorporates photographs of people doing tasks which is far more appropriate.”

“It is absolutely a more appropriate model for assessing parents with a learning disability. I think it has the potential to become as popular as PAMS has been. It is a good model and I hope the people who produced it continue to keep it updated and relevant” concluded Pamela.

What Parents Say:

“I liked the traffic lights made me think about what I was doing.”

“The traffic lights made me realise how me and the social worker see things differently and what the problems are.”

“You made me see how it is for my child. I was doing things wrong but I never knew it.”

How to find out more or attend the ParentAssess Training

If your team or organisation would like to hear more about ParentAssess, you can book a free 30-40 minute online presentation where you will hear about the framework and tools and see how easy it is to interpret the tables.

Course dates:

2022 Course dates: 

Online :4th and 5th May

Online: 18th and 19th May

Online: 8th and 9th June

Special Offer

The ParentAssess software is being offered at half price for those who sign up for the training before end of April 2022.

For more information:

Contact Dave Wareham, Head of Services at WillisPalmer on 01206 878169 or

Working Together For Children

Make an enquiry

A multi-disciplinary organisation providing independent, high quality social work, psychological, psychiatric, therapeutic and family support services. Contact us with your requirements and speak to a member of our team who will help you today.
Make an Enquiry

Knowledge & Resources

Keep abreast of the latest news in the children's services sector.

Reliance on agency staff in Star Hobson authority highlights capacity issues in social work


The “reliance on agency social workers” in the local authority responsible for safeguarding Star Hobson highlights capacity issues in the social work profession, the Chair of the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel has warned.

Star Hobson

Addressing the education select committee, Annie Hudson – who last month published Child Protection in England into the [...]

Read Full Story

Unaccompanied children included in Homes for Ukraine scheme


Applications for unaccompanied children from Ukraine are starting to be processed under the Homes for Ukraine scheme, the government has announced.

The Homes for Ukraine scheme will allow children and minors under the age of 18 who have already applied through the Homes for Ukraine Scheme to come to the UK without a parent or [...]

Read Full Story

Ofsted consults on introducing a judgement in inspections on progress for care leavers


Ofsted has launched a consultation on proposals to include a new judgement on the experiences and progress of care leavers in the local authority children’s services (ILACS) inspection framework.

The inspectorate proposes to:

•             Introduce a separate new judgement within ILACS: “The experience and progress of care leavers.”

•             Review and update the existing evaluation criteria to [...]

Read Full Story
Children First is an online resource for professionals working with children presented by WillisPalmer, providing you with the latest news, features and interviews.
Subscribe Today
WP Quality Assured

A Mackman Group collaboration - market research by Mackman Research | website design by Mackman

linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram