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For the purpose of this assignment I will be discussing the general approaches, skills and principles of the assessment process. I will then discuss these in relation to Rhain from my case study, together with any relevant legislation and policies. Additionally I will show my understanding of the Code of Practice, the consideration of ethical issues and anti-oppressive practice within a Welsh context.
Assessments are undertaken by social workers as part of their role and responsibilities of their profession. An assessment is core to good social work practice and its purpose is to understand and highlight the service user's situation, help the social worker identify the needs of the service user, and make relevant changes to help the service user have a better quality of life and well- being.
'Coulshed and Orme (2006, p24) describe assessment as 'an ongoing process in which the client or service user participates, the purpose of which is to assist the social worker to understand people in relation to their environment. Assessment is also a basis for planning what needs to be done' to maintain, improve or bring about change in the person, the environment or both.'
The first point of assessment is when an individual has either self-referred or have been referred by someone else, such as family, friends or other professionals. It will then be determined if that referral meets the eligibility criteria set out by the department or if they need to be referred on to another agency. If the individual has met the criteria then a social worker would then carry out an assessment of need, the age of the service user would determine which kind of assessment is needed, Unified Assessment or Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families. To enable a social worker to carry out an effective and purposeful assessment they will need to know relevant up to date legislation and polices, have good areas of skills, use correct approaches and models, practice anti-oppressively, values and principles.
There are several skills that are needed to carry out a purposeful and effective assessment, some of which are communication, observation, reflection and evaluation skills. Communication skills are used to interact with the service user, this can be done verbally or non-verbally, through body language and eye contact and actively listening. Communication skills allows social worker's to interact with the service user whilst asking relevant questions about their past and present lives, and using an holistic approach when carrying out an assessment. Additionally non-verbal communication is also vital, being able to actively listen to what the service user is telling you, as assessments should be a two way process. Service users should be able to express their views, feelings and their needs with the social worker to negotiate the best possible outcome that will help support them. Additionally negotiation skills are also needed, to allow the social worker and service user to interact with each other and come up with an agreed outcome, this will also show the service user you respect and value their views and opinions and can also help empower the service user. Social worker's will need to be mindful that we cannot force service users to use the support or provisions put into place, they do have a right to refuse. However negotiation depends on individual circumstances, such as, does the individual have the mental capacity?, is there risk involved or is it a section 47 of the Children Act 1989 child protection order. Communication can also be done through body language and facial expressions on both sides, the social worker must be aware of how they are perceiving themselves across to the service user, had it could be a positive or negative. You will need communication skills in order to work in partnership both with service users and significant others. Another skill is to be able to adjust the way social worker's speak to the service user as you will be working with mixed groups of people, such as, older person, children, mental health……observational skills are also needed as this gives us additional information and evidence, for example, when you are carrying out an interview with a service user you may observe their house is very cold which could potentially tell you that they cannot afford heating or the house itself is inadequate. Another part of communication is reflecting, paraphrasing and summarising, by doing this the social worker will know if the service user has understood what has been said to them and vice versus for the social worker. Egan (2007,p72) suggests assessments are based on information gathered on what the social worker has come to understand through the give-and-take of the dialogue. Once information has been gathered the social worker will then need to reflect and evaluate on it. They will need to decide what information is relevant, and compare other information gathered from other sources. They will need to critically analyse all the information in order to achieve the best outcome for the service user, such as , what has happened, why, and how it happened and how this can be resolved or possible consequences if it is not resolved.
Smale, et al. (1993) highlights three different models of an assessment process, first is the questioning model where a social worker would gather factual information, then make informed judgements based on theory, frameworks, policies and legislations. Secondly would be the procedural model where the assessment has been judged on the fact of the service user meeting criteria's, it is ruled by frameworks and guidelines of agencies. Additionally is the exchange model where people are regarded as experts and they have a say to how best to work together to agree aims and work on them.
One good approach that needs to be used when carrying out an assessment are a person centred approach this is where the assessment will be carried out on a 'needs only' basis remembering that each individual is unique and each service user will have different needs. Principles that underpin Assessment Framework are making the service user the core of the process; this is called a person centred. Social worker's will look at the service user's needs and the support they require by working in partnership and letting them express their views and wishes in order to shape the assessment process. Methods such as information gathering, assessment tools such as ecomaps, to help the service user prepare and be part of the assessment, this also helps empower the service user to look at their own strengths as well as identifying difficulties. Social workers must be mindful in how service users are perceived and how they are spoken to. An assessment is an on-going process so must be monitored and reviewed continually to ensure the correct provisions and services are in place, added or removed.
My approach with Rhain would be to set up a meeting so we could talk and put aside any fears she may have with social workers being involved. This would give Rhain the opportunity to express her feelings and ask any questions which should be answered honestly. This will also show Rhain I am there to listen and respect what she has to say. Once this relationship has been built I would then explain to Rhain what the assessment process is about and why I need to ask certain questions that could potentially be upsetting to Rhain. I would also explain to Rhain the Data Protection Act 1998 and the process of information sharing, and to whom and why information will be shared with others. Then with Rhain consent I would carry out a Unified Assessment where I would gather relevant information and get a holistic view of Rhain. Through the assessment I would be listening to the information Rhain gives, empowering her to acknowledge her own strengths and what needs or support she would require to enhance her quality of life. We would look at any issues or difficulties Rhain may have and possible agreed solutions and ways forward to achieve them. However, Rhain would need to be made aware there are eligibility criteria's to be met to put a service or provision, therefore until the assessment is complete we could not say we would give her anything we was unsure of. During the assessment we could use tools such as a genograms to help, again this allows us to interact and discuss areas which could have been forgotten. Whatever information has been given by Rhain would need to be backed up with evidence; this is where the information sharing would come into practice. With Rhain's consent I would approach all other professionals, agencies and family involved with Rhain and ask for information to be shared with me so I could do this. Be mindful that there is Data Protection involved and only share relevant information on a need to know basis. During any assessment a social worker must be honest with the service user and never make any promises they cannot keep as it gives false hope and can have an impact on any relationship that has already been built, they should not be judgemental nor should they assume anything before meeting and discussing information with any service user. If you are asked a question and do not know the answer be honest say you're unsure but will find out, then pass on accurate information to service user. You must never discuss verbally or non-verbally the service user or anything that they are involved in unless you have consent and only on a need to know basis. A social worker is bound by Code of Practice and Code of Ethics to which must be practiced at all times, in and out of work. When carrying out an assessment social workers must use an Anti-oppressive approach whilst empowering the service user. Social worker's should accept each individual and respect their have their own values and beliefs to which they may not feel the same way. Social workers will show the individual respect at all times and respect their confidentiality, privacy and dignity. Social worker will also be face with ethical issues on daily basis and must be able to solve the dilemmas or challenge such issues.
Wales is now a diverse and multi- cultured country, therefore Welsh and English are not the only languages spoken. Social workers must respect individuals who speak other languages along with their beliefs and values. When working with over the age of eighteen we work with the Protection of Vulnerable Adults (POVA). Wales has different legislations and policies than England and social workers will need to know these to practice good social work. When carrying out an assessment In Wales we need to address legislations and policies such as Data Protection Act 1998, Unified Assessment Process, Wales Accord on the Sharing of personal Information (WASPI), In safe Hands (WAG 2000), Social Services Bill for Wales which includes the Direct Payment Act 1996, and NHS and Community Care Act 1990. Social workers must also be mindful as to which area of Wales they are working in because of the resources available to rural areas so they need to know what services are available and what will be available in budgets.
With all the above information concerning assessments, I have come to the conclusion they can only help if they are carried out using the correct methods. The involvement of the service user is vital to identify their needs of support and if social workers work in partnership with the service user the process will be much easier to undertake and will be much more effective for the service user. I also feel think that if service users are involved with their own assessment and have been able to give their own goals to achieve they would be much more likely to give consent to an assessment being carried out from the beginning.
(Coulshed and Orme cited in Martin, 2010 p7),Social Work Assessment, Exeter: Learning Matters
Egan, G (2007) The skilled helper: A problem-management and opportunity development approach to helping. 8th ed. London: Thomson Learning
(Smale, et al cited in Martin, 2010 p51), Social Work Assessment, Exeter: Learning Matters