Approaches to assessments

Assessments can take different forms depending on how the person wants to express their personal views, needs and requirements. Because of the sensitive and complex issues at play, the default assumption should that at least one face-to-face meeting will be required for a transition assessment of a young carer. However, there is no one approach that will always be appropriate, and sometimes a young carer may prefer a telephone or supported self-assessment.

Forms (paper or online) for some people can be off-putting, cause anxiety to those completing them and, if completed incorrectly, take more time to process than if a face-to-face assessment had been arranged. Young carers may find standard adult assessment forms to be written in professional jargon and so be difficult to understand. Barnardo’s Young Carers team in Liverpool has designed a young person friendly form. Although it covers all of the areas detailed in an adult assessment, the young carers assessment form uses a more 'plain English' question format.

It may be possible to offer a mix of approaches where basic information is collected online to support a more targeted face-to-face discussion on an individual’s support needs (either with the person they care for or in a separate meeting if this feels more comfortable for the carer).

Any approach to online assessment should also consider very carefully how to ensure that any default assumptions that caring must continue will be challenged to encourage aspirations about the future.

A young carer may feel more at ease speaking to a single person rather than a roomful of different practitioners, particularly if there is one practitioner who they already trust. Local authorities should consider formally designating a named person to coordinate transition assessment and planning across different agencies. Such a person is often referred to as a ‘key worker’. It will also be important to ensure that any practitioner who has been able to develop a good relationship with the young carer prior to transition is involved in the transition wherever possible, both to help the young carer feel comfortable and to ensure that knowledge about the broader situation is not lost.

A whole-family approach [2] to assessment can help to identify the individual needs, aspirations and goals of each family member as well as collective strengths, resources and mutual desired outcomes. Family assessments are a good opportunity for practitioners to work together to identify the impact of caring on a carer and the support that they would like to receive in the future.

Transition can have a significant effect on other family members and it is important to review how family members’ needs change as a result. Local authorities must assess whether an adult carer’s needs for support might increase, and provide any information, advice or support planning required in relation to any identified needs.

Assessments for the young carer and person cared for can be combined if appropriate and timely. However, where assessments are combined it is important that each individual has a chance to have a private conversation with the assessor in case there are areas they wish to identify and explore separately. A ‘tell us once’ approach to coordinating assessments is less stressful for carers. A designated key worker can be helpful as they can be a single point of contact for the family and help to integrate services.

It is important that local authority assessors check whether any other organisations or services have completed an assessment, for example adult social care and children’s services or the NHS. Local authorities can work with another organisation, such as the NHS, to carry out an assessment if the person agrees to this taking place. Working together will avoid duplication of information, help to coordinate more effective support and develop a plan that works for everyone within the family. Such an approach can be particularly important to those who are moving from children’s to adult services.

Emma’s story

Over several meetings with her case worker, Emma realised that she wanted to become a paramedic but because she had missed a lot of schooling she would have to go to college to gain qualifications. She also decided that she wanted to continue caring but in a limited capacity and needed CAMHS to receive help for her depression and anxiety. These points were included in her transitions assessment.

Emma said that because of the time she had spent away from school and the issues that caused her to not attend, she felt anxious. A project worker supported her to access education. This support was provided over a five- to six-month period. The aim of this piece of work was to help Emma to identify triggers for her anxiety at the times when she was actually experiencing it and to help her to use the strategies that she had developed.

The transitions plan included re-referral to CAMHS, attending the local college and building up her confidence and self-esteem.

To further develop her skills and confidence, Emma became involved in a wide range of consultation events for the Young Carers service. She has continued to be a key member of a team of young carers, who mentor other young people and this has helped to build her confidence.

On turning 16, Emma’s involvement with the alternative educational provision ended and she was preparing to move on to college. Due to the work completed with Emma she was prepared for this move. Emma’s project worker supported her to complete voluntary work in a shop prior to starting college. She also supported her through the application processes and attended her enrolment with her at college. Furthermore, close links were made between her project worker and student support (inclusion support officer) at the college to support Emma to continue studying.

When Emma disclosed that she was struggling with low mood and that she had used self-harm as a coping strategy for managing her mood, the college and the Young Carers service were able to support Emma with her involvement with CAMHS following this disclosure. These links enabled Emma to access the young carers bursary that the college offered to remove any financial barriers that could have an impact on her attendance.