Viability Assessments - Guidance Notes and Screening Tools


This chapter provides guidance for workers completing viability assessments with potential friends and family carers for looked after children.

1. Introduction

This process needs to be commenced at the same time as the PLO.

An initial screening assessment will inform and shorten the viability assessment framework; it aims in 2 or 3 visits to identify placements which are potentially highly vulnerable and therefore unlikely to succeed.

2. Initial Screening

The initial screening considers the likelihood of carers being able to meet the physical and emotional needs of the children, both now and throughout their childhoods. It also looks at whether they will be provided with stability and boundaries and whether they will be safe. Police and medical checks are initiated at the same time as the initial screening.

Guidance is provided regarding the points of discussion and assessment for this. For more information see Viability Assessment - Initial Screening in the Documents Library.

3. Outcome of Initial Screening

The outcome of the viability assessment is shared with the carer, the child's social worker and the children's guardian (if the child is the subject of care proceedings). If the initial screening is negative, a letter will be sent to the carer notifying them of the findings and advising them to seek legal advice if they wish to oppose it.

If it is positive, a full viability assessment will follow. The completed viability assessment will either be presented to Fostering Panel for approval as foster carers or will form the basis of a Special Guardianship Order or Child Arrangements Order report for court. To access the full Viability Assessment Guidance and Templates document please see Documents Library.

In connected carer assessments (Regulation.24) the process will include interviews with personal referees and assessment of support and supervision needs. In exceptional circumstances the assessment can be extended by a further 8 weeks with permission from the relevant manager.

If the child is in care proceedings and the Care Plan is contingent upon the outcome of the assessment, the assessor may be asked to write the viability assessment up in the form of a statement for courts in a shorter timescale. The viability assessment will be shared with the prospective carer (with exception of third party references) and the child's Guardian.

Where the viability assessment uncovers serious potential difficulties the prospective carer/-s might accept the concerns and withdraw or they might challenge the assessment through the Court proceedings and ask for a further period of assessment of their ability to use support to overcome the anticipated difficulties. The viability assessment would then need to be presented to the Court and further course of action decided.

The format for the report has drawn on the Assessment Framework Diagram as well as on the headings from CoramBAAF Form C.

4. Eligibility Criteria for Friends and Family Carers and Other People Connected to A Looked After Child

The qualities and abilities that make a good carer

  1. Long term commitment to the child and ability to put their welfare first, even when it conflicts with loyalty/concern for the birth parents;
  2. Understanding and acceptance of the real reasons which led to the child's removal from the parents' care;
  3. Ability to protect the child from further harm;
  4. Ability to deal with the strain of changing family roles;
  5. Sufficient support network;
  6. Sufficient time and space to devote to everyone in the family;
  7. Capacity to offer warm, stimulating care;
  8. Capacity to understand, adapt to and meet the child's changing needs;
  9. Ability to promote the child's educational and health needs;
  10. Commitment to helping the child develop an understanding of their history and promote a positive identity including their ethnic and cultural identity;
  11. Capacity to be realistic about the possible problems and special needs which the child may present;
  12. Commitment to using training and professional support (foster carers);
  13. Ability to work with professionals and to seek out and accept help (foster carers).

5. Conclusion

The conclusion of the assessment should contain an analysis of the potential fit between the child/children's needs and the prospective carers' capacity to meet them.

Attention must be paid to any serious risk factors and how they might be minimised through appropriate intervention and support.

Testing a family's motivation and ability to change is an important part of the assessment process.

Conclusion should be added to the Summary and outcome for each carer considered.