Social work assessments are an art and a science.

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The assessment took place after an initial referral from social services that Mrs P was entitled to day-care at the Apna Ghar daycentre. A NHS single adult overview was provided which I referred to, however the agency has to carry out there own assessment to gain a broader understanding of the services users needs in order to facilitate appropriate care for them. I liased with my line manager and social services for additional information before evaluating it all and arranging a home visit to carry out the contact assessment.

Mrs P is a very vulnerable elderly lady with severe physical and emotional needs, which consist of depression, social isolation, communication and poor mobility. Mrs P is also fed through a peg and is on various medications. Mrs P cannot communicate at all due to a major stroke.

Mrs P’s daughter in law is her main carer however she is no longer able to provide care for Mrs P, as she has five children and is having great difficulty in caring for both an managing the household. Therefore a referral was made to the day centre. Due to Mrs P’s communication problems she is unable to communicate her needs, wishes and feelings. Consequently the assessment and care plan were carried out with the family.

Assessment is a key element in social work practice and without it practitioners would be left to react to situations and intervene in an unplanned and disorganised way. The Oxford English dictionary 2002 defines assessment as “ The process of judging or valuing the worth of something”.

Assessment is a skilled activity carried out by someone who is competent to judge between things of different value. One thing this definition leaves out is the human and interactive context, which feature in social work assessments.

The debate about whether assessments are of art or science has caused several conflicts. However a balanced approach suggests that social work assessments are an art and a science.

               “Assessment has to partake of scientific theoretical, artistic, ethical

                  and practical elements, something which has long been recognised

                  by practitioners, and regarded as traditional in social work and all

                  the helping profession”.

                                                       (Clifford 1998:233)

The purpose of why assessments are undertaken is to reach conclusions that explain, predict and evaluate in order to suggest intervening methods. Therefore they should be focused and factual. It should also be a needs led approach, which looks at what is needed to make a difference rather than looking at what is available.

There are over 110 different pieces of legislation regarding social work therefore there are a variety of assessments. There are also various different models of assessment and various different approaches. There is no right or wrong model/approach and each one should be used accordingly with the individual users circumstances and needs. Smale and Tusan (1993) identify the following three models.

The procedural model. With this model a checklist is most likely used. Social workers undertake agency duties by gathering information to see whether the service user meets the criteria for services.

The questioning model. Here the social worker holds the expertise and follows a format of questions, listening and processing answers.

The exchange model. An exchange model will be used in my assessment.

This model acknowledges that the service users are the experts on their circumstances and problems, with an emphasis on exchanging information and ideas in order to make a difference and finding alternative ways of approaching situations. Social workers follow what the individual is saying rather than interrupting. This is more empowering and there is more chance of the individuals needs being met. Smale et al 1994 considers the exchange model the desirable one.

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           “ Routine service led assessments are the antithesis of an empowering

               approach to assessment and care management”                                                                                                                       ...

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The descriptions of the assessment types are good, but give an example of an assessment to go with each. What would a community care assessment come under? It isn