When a decision is made that a parenting assessment is required, a social worker may carry out the assessment and conclude that parental mental health problems exist and a psychiatric assessment is required. The psychiatrist may then carry out the psychiatric assessment only to conclude that a forensic risk assessment is required.
As parents wait for each individual assessment, occurring in silo, the fear, stress, distress and anxiety rises. Parents then have to relive the experiences that led to a parenting assessment being required which can be shameful, upsetting and traumatising.
Where complex needs present, parents should not be subjected to multiple assessments, reliving their experiences to multiple professionals from different disciplines. It is unethical. It can often be the case that it is the parents’ circumstances that have resulted in the parenting assessment rather than them actively neglecting or abusing their children. Poverty, mental health, self-medication through substance misuse and living in overcrowded, unsuitable poor housing can all contribute.
These issues have only been exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Mental health problems have increased. Domestic abuse has risen. Financial problems following work losses have emerged and created huge problems. Abuse and neglect have escalated yet these cases have not come to the attention of children’s services.
The Department for Education has stated that while referrals to children’s services have gone down, the complexity of cases has increased.
The Multi-Disciplinary Family Assessment offers an ethical and timely solution to complex problems which need to be addressed in a parenting assessment.
As opposed to assessments being carried out in silo, a multi-disciplinary team led by the Independent Social Worker and which can comprise clinical and educational psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists and family support workers assess the parents collaboratively to address needs.
There are two key factors: firstly the assessment is carried out in the family home. This means that parents and children are in their familiar surroundings and less likely to feel intimidated. This also removes the need for costly residential assessments. Where there are safeguarding risks concerning the child or children, 24/7 family support can be included in the package meaning trained and experienced professionals are on hand at all times to provide practical and emotional support.
Secondly, the MFA is carried out in an eight-week time-frame which provides families with the knowledge that the assessment will be completed by a set date. All evidence will be collated by that point and the report will provide clear evidence-based conclusions and recommendations, thus preventing the ongoing distress for parents and children.
Each assessment is bespoke and tailored to the needs of the family and the professionals included in the MFA team are selected according to the families’ needs.
Following referral, you will be contacted by WillisPalmer to arrange a referral meeting with the core team which will be made up of various professionals including the assessing social worker, psychologist, psychiatrist, therapist and Family Support Worker.
This meeting is designed to agree the following:
Following this, a meeting will be arranged with the family. WillisPalmer will set out an explanation of the MFA, ascertain the expectations of parents and establish ground rules. Any questions or concerns the family may have will also be addressed before a risk assessment is caried out of the internal and external accommodation.
Once WillisPalmer receives the Letter of Instruction, the core team begins the assessment by meeting with the local authority to agree the scope and focus of the work. A mid-point review is held with the local authority to provide feedback on progress of the assessment, and discuss the level of family support required for the second half of the assessment. The assessment stage is completed after eight weeks, and full multi-disciplinary report filed ten weeks from the date of the initial planning meeting.
Chief Executive of WillisPalmer Mark Willis said: “We have 17 years’ experience working with high risk children and family cases and are therefore ideally placed to offer multi-disciplinary assessments to local authorities and legal colleagues.”
“I am immensely proud of this service and our multi-disciplinary approach prevents delay and is cost effective when compared to residential alternatives and moreover it produces safe outcomes for children,” he concluded.