What is assessment?

The Scottish Executive Framework offers this definition of assessment:

An ongoing process of gathering information, structuring it and making sense of it, in order to inform decisions about the actions necessary to maximise children's potential. Getting It Right For Every Child (2005)

Assessment is a process, not a one-off event. So assessment is just as likely to be continuous, as carried out within an episode in a child's life.

Assessment is led and supported by professionals who are involved in working with children and those who care for them. It identifies and builds on strengths, whilst taking account of risks and needs. It assumes the sharing of information where the law, practice and policy allows or requires it.

The child or young person, their parents or carers and other significant people will be involved in the process. Together, they may consider the significance of the information about the child and their family circumstances and decide on future action.

Assessment can be undertaken for different reasons. In making an assessment it is important to be clear about its purpose, since this will influence content, the emphasis attributed to various factors, the subsequent analysis of the information gathered and the action planned.

A Framework for assessment

Parents and professionals are continuously engaged in assessment in their interactions with children. They are always drawing on information to judge the most appropriate responses to needs and behaviour. Every conscious action should be supported by assessment that suits the situation, however brief, simple or informal.

Any child and her family will be involved in all sorts of assessments during her childhood and adolescence. These assessments will vary widely in style, focus and objectives. We want them to contribute to a coherent narrative of a child's life.

The Integrated Assessment Framework follows the earlier Department of Health Framework in the sense of applying an 'ecological approach' to forming an understanding with a child.

Visually, this is based upon a triangle. There are three general domains visible within this approach:

  1. The child's developmental needs
  2. Parents' or caregivers' capacities to respond appropriately
  3. Wider family and environmental factors

The Origins of the Integrated Assessment Framework

The Integrated Assessment Framework (IAF) was devised by the Scottish Executive's, Assessment Working Group chaired by Professor Norma Baldwin. The IAF is the cornerstone of Scottish children's services policy – whether the services are health, education, welfare or youth justice – the approach is 'child-centred' above all else.

The Scottish Executive therefore sees the IAF as supporting a wide range of current policy developments designed to promote greater integration around the child.

These include: