For legal professionals and Social Services

Mum and sonSymbol Family Support Services offer a variety of assessments to provide instructing parties with as many options as possible for accessing our service, suitable for parents in a variety of situations.

All assessments are completed with a report complying with the April 2008 Practice Direction in respect of experts issued by the President of the Family Division of the High Court. Members of the Assessment Team are available for professionals meetings and are experienced in giving evidence in court.

Absolutely delighted with progress. Very impressed by level of support from Symbol – all working together for the welfare of the children. Absolutely satisfied by everything I’ve read – it is right.
Judge C., Family Court

Please pass on our thanks to [Assessment Team member] for attending yesterday. This was much appreciated. My colleague who attended yesterday was very complimentary about how she gave evidence.
J L, Solicitor, April 2011

For more details of our assessments and placements click on the links below or download our brochure.

Safeguarding Placements:

Short term placements, without assessment as an alternative to mother and baby foster care. more

Paper Based Assessments:

Rapidly advising parties, as far as is possible on the basis of paperwork, if a Symbol assessment is appropriate for their client and if so which type or types of assessment should be considered. more

Preliminary Assessments

Providing clear recommendations concerning the appropriateness of further assessment. Preliminary assessments are undertaken whilst families remain in their current residence/s. more

Full Parenting Assessments

Structured in accordance with our Letter of Instruction and the individual needs of families, full parenting assessments can be undertaken on a community or residential basis, over a 6 week period. more

Parents Only Assessments

Where parents and children have already been separated we are able to initially assess children within their current placements whilst parents attend a Symbol Centre on a residential basis. more

Semi- Supported or Transitionary assessments

Community or residential assessments in which the level of support likely to be available to the family, after assessment, at home is replicated by Symbol. more

Psychological assessments and Cognitive Psychometric Assessment

Undertaken within a parenting assessment or as an isolated piece of work. more

Safeguarding Placements:

Safeguarding placements do not provide an assessment but do provide full supervision of children, accommodation for families, detailed records and observations, Day to day support is provided to families for purposes of safeguarding. Safeguarding placements are made, initially, for 7 days.

Where assessment is later added to a safeguarding placement (for an additional fee) the information collected to date will inform the opinions later reached during the assessment.

Safeguarding placements can also be utilised after an assessment has concluded. Return to top

Paper Based Assessments

Whilst paper based assessments do not replace our full preliminary assessments as a detailed means of assessing the suitability of families for further assessment they do provide our initial view. Paper based assessments may be useful where funding or time constraints do not allow for a preliminary assessment or where parties are in agreement about the need for further assessment but would like to have an opinion on the form that assessment should take.

Dependent on the specific nature of the instruction, the paper based report will be written against our own criteria as used in Preliminary Assessments, based on the full bundle of information supplied to us.

We do not normally attend court where we have only undertaken a Paper Based assessment as we have only reviewed information provided by others and therefore have no new evidence.

Please contact Head Office for details of our current timescales for this service. Return to top

Preliminary Assessments

We offer a Preliminary Assessment, which advises parties as to the suitability of further detailed assessment and whether such assessments should, in our opinion, be undertaken in a residential or community setting. Approximately 60% of our Preliminary Assessments result in us offering further assessment.

Where a child is in foster care or living with their parents in the community we provide a:
Community Preliminary Assessment:

A Preliminary assessment will usually be undertaken by two members of the Symbol Assessment Team and will include the following:

  • Review of the filed documents pertaining to the family.
  • Interview with the parent or parents.
  • Observation of a parent(s) contact with their child/children.
  • Possible interview with Foster Carer
  • Discussion of the case and formulation of an opinion at an Assessment Team meeting
  • Full report against the following criteria as they are applicable to the parents:
    • The presence of a learning disability that has the potential affect a person’s ability to parent adequately;
    • Whether a person has already received specialist intervention;
    • Whether a person has undergone any other form of assessment utilising full and accurate information concerning the person’s learning style, ability and deficits;
    • Whether we are able to offer anything over and above that which has been offered to date and whether a person would benefit from the assessment and teaching strategies we have developed;
    • The presence of other factors which may reduce a person’s potential to parent, for example additional disability, ill health, mental health need, number of children to be cared for or the availability of appropriate housing;
    • A person’s ability to work with the professional network;
    • The presence of disruptive personal networks;
    • An individual’s personal history and experiences of being parented;
    • The length of any separation of parent and child/ren and the prejudicial effect of this on any permanent placement;
    • The requirement for, and availability of, appropriate long-term support.
    • Whether the parents has had access to a full and fair assessment of their parenting potential;
    • The parent’s potential to care for their child in the long term.
  • Responses to specific questions agreed with instructing parties

We normally report on Community Preliminary Assessments within 4 weeks of an instruction being confirmed but may be able to agree an earlier filing date where required, please contact our Head Office.

A Community Preliminary Assessment may be combined with a Cognitive Assessment undertaken by a member of our psychology team.

Where parents would face separation from their children during the timescales of a Community Preliminary assessment Symbol is able to offer a

Residential Preliminary Assessment.

Typically parents and babies enter a residential Preliminary Assessment direct from hospital maternity services and therefore avoid leaving the hospital without their child, without having had the appropriate consideration for assessment.

Families are resident at  our Family Centre Newington Manor in Kent for a four week Preliminary Assessment which concludes with a Professionals Meeting outlining our recommendations for further assessment. A full written report is available two weeks after completion of the assessment.
Where a Preliminary Assessment recommends a full residential assessment a family’s stay in the Centre need not be interrupted. Return to top

Full Parenting Assessments

Full parenting assessments are provided on both community and residential basis. In determining which is most appropriate we consider the needs of each individual family and their supporting services. Ensuring appropriate safeguarding of the child or children is paramount but we also consider factors including potential disruption of children and the need to assess parents over 24 hour periods.
We are able to be highly flexible in combining elements of our services; some families begin their time with us on a residential basis and we complete our assessment once they return home, others come in for a residential period to be assessed in relation to concerns that remain after having had some community based assessment whilst still others have a community assessment combined with over night stays or extended contact sessions in our residential centre.

The rehabilitation of clients, with their children, in the community, is considered a successful outcome of a parenting assessment. This has been the outcome for 39% of the families who have had a full Symbol parenting assessment from 2006-2011. We also consider an assessment successful when a parent, with support, decides to end a placement and put the needs of their child over their own. From 2006-11 this has been the outcome of 19% of our full parenting assessments. Return to top

Community or Peripatetic Assessments

A Community Assessment aims to provide an opinion as to the abilities of a parent or parents to care for their child or children in the long term and to make firm recommendations for the future of the children; detailed evidence on which we base our opinion is provided.

Community assessments are usually undertaken with the parents remaining in their home in the community, the children may be in the care of the Local Authority and observed as part of the contact that they have with their parents, or they may be resident at home with their parents.

The length of a community assessment and the exact nature of the process to be undertaken is determined by the findings of our preliminary assessment, and the letter of instruction, however community assessments are normally provided within either 4 weeks, with a final report, or 6 weeks, with reports being provided at week 3 and week 6.

Where we have not undertaken a preliminary assessment, we undertake an initial assessment for planning purposes before embarking on the full community assessment, should we conclude that an assessment of this nature is not appropriate we advise the parties immediately.

A member of the Assessment Team is designated to plan and lead each Community Assessment. The plan, supplied to parties, indicates the duration of the assessment, the number and types of appointments that need to take place, the filing date of the report and the cost.

A community based assessment may take place over a period from 4 to 16 weeks and may involve the following as appropriate:

  • Full review of all documentation supplied;
  • A series of interviews undertaken with the parent(s). These may be individual and/or joint interviews;
  • Observations of contact of the children with their parents as part of the children’s normal contact schedule. On occasions we may ask for a contact session to be extended to enable us to spend longer with the family;
  • Interviews with others, such as foster carers, school teachers, health visitors and social workers;
  • Interviews with other adults resident with the parents;
  • Specialist assessment in one or more of the following areas: Speech and Language Therapy, Psychological, Cognitive, Cognitive Behaviour, and Occupational Therapy;
  • Support hours provided to the family on a weekly basis to test potential package for short and long-term support;
  • Interim and Final professionals meetings dependent on the length of assessment;
  • Meetings of the Symbol Assessment Team to discuss the progression of the assessment and formulate a team opinion.

A detailed report, prepared by the multi-disciplinary assessment team, is filed at mid point and at the completion of the Community Assessment. The file date is agreed at the point of instruction, but is generally two weeks after the completion of the work with the family. Return to top

Residential Assessments

Symbol operates a residential centre at Newington Manor, Newington , Kent .

In 2014 our residential family centre in Kent achieved once again an Outstanding rating from Ofsted.

Staff at Symbol are really, really helpful

We provide a positive, warm and nurturing environment where families can experience the value of family life, mix alongside other families going through the same process and begin to understand their role in parenting their children. We assess each parent’s ability to understand the needs of their children and to begin to meet those needs. Where families have to face difficult issues and choices within their own family life, our team is on hand to work through this process and to assist them in placing the needs of their children first.

We read full documentation concerning a family and undertake a Preliminary assessment where required. Where at all possible clients visit the Centre.
We gather Information concerning a child / or children’s routines, likes, dislikes and personal care needs.

On Admission:
A planning meeting is held with key professionals to share updated and detailed information and to agree the process of the assessment.
Clients are welcomed by the Manager on duty, given assistance to unpack and provided with a Residents Guide and the Statement of Purpose; these are talked through with the client who has the opportunity to ask questions.

Staff are really welcoming. They helped us with our stuff and bags and showed us to our room

Within 3 days of arrival each client is allocated a Key Worker, initial support in connection with arranging finances is provided and clients are shown around the local area and key venues including the GP Surgery, clinic and grocery shops.

Clients prepare a Placement Agreement with their key worker within 7 days of arrival.

An detailed assessment schedule is prepared within seven days of arrival; baseline results are shared at a Multi-Disciplinary Team meeting and a schedule of specialist assessments with, for example, the clinical psychologist, speech and language therapist and occupational therapist ,drawn up.
Findings concerning the agreed assessment areas are reviewed weekly at the Multi-Disciplinary meeting.

Families attend the local health clinic for fortnightly checks with the health visiting team.

Parents are reviewed weekly and children’s needs reviewed on a daily basis. Any concerns are reported to the key worker without delay. Family key workers prepare a noted report on each child in their care.
If at any point the team are concerned as to the progress of the family or the occurrence of concerning incidents, the Multi-Disciplinary Team will be called to meet and concerns formulated and shared. An early discharge will be considered.


An interim report is available at week 3 of the 6 week assessment and a final report, with recommendations at week 6. interim and final review meetings are held.

Final reports include the following information:

  • Qualifications and experience of the authors
  • Key dates in the assessment process
  • Summary of the Assessment process
  • Family composition
  • Results of the Assessment of ‘the child’
    • Assessment of ‘the child’s’ Developmental Progress
    • Assessment of ‘the child’s’ Attachment to their caregiver
  • Results of the Family Assessment (completed for both parents if present and assessed)
    • The individual’s Co-operation and Engagement in the Assessment Process
    • The compliance of ‘the individual’s with the requirements of the professional network
    • The Individual’s level of self control
    • The Individual’s Aptitude for Learning and consolidation of that learning within the Assessment period
    • The individual’s Level of Vulnerability
    • The individual’s capacity to make and maintain constructive relationships
    • The individual’s capacity to participate in reciprocal relationships and demonstrate empathy within relationships with others
    • The individual’s potential to learn and sustain new repertoires of behaviour
  • Answers to questions posed in the Letter of instruction
  • Conclusion
  • Recommendations
  • Appendices, including as applicable Weekly Summaries and Contact records (where appropriate)


Assessments are usually completed within 6 weeks. Return to top

Parents Only Assessments

A significant percentage of families (21%) are referred for full assessment after the separation of parents and children. A review of assessments undertaken with this group of clients suggests that, for many, there is no case to be made for the child or children to be disrupted from their foster care or extended family placement to join their parents at the Centre initially. In some cases it may be appropriate for children to be admitted to the Centre at a later date if the initial assessment of their parents indicates a likely positive outcome to the assessment as a whole.

This type of assessment is relevant where the information we require for the initial assessment can be gained through assessing the parent on their own and through contact sessions (held either at the existing venue or on our premises). We are able to assess the parent in terms of factors such as:

  • Psychological functioning
  • Personality assessment
  • Social adaptation and adjustment
  • Daily living skills
  • Impact of personal history
  • Networks and relationships
  • Ability to access and accept long term support
  • Attachment and bonding between parent and child
  • An assessment of the children’s needs and match with parental capacity

This type of assessment programme is available within separate designated accommodation at our Newington Manor unit  or, where parents do not require 24 hour supervision or where we do not require assessment data over a 24 hour residential period, within Symbol community based accommodation in Kent. In this latter case we undertake a community assessment of the adults with the accommodation element funded as a separate facility. Such an assessment may be arranged on a 5 or 7 day a week basis. The provision of accommodation is designed to assist parties instructing us in the effective use of resources in terms of travel, and on occasions to provide required accommodation, Parents attend our Centre on a visiting basis and are also assessed within the accommodation provided. Return to top

Semi- Supported or Transitionary assessments

Symbol is able to assess parent’s capacity to parent their children replicating the support which may be available to them in the community. Families are placed in designated, separate accommodation on the site at Newington Manor, or within Symbol community based accommodation, provided with scheduled and “Pop in” visits and supported to access community resources. Should families require additional support Symbol staff are available 24 hours a day.
Whilst families can enter our Centre directly for a Semi Supported assessment it is most often used for families who have previously undertaken a full assessment with us. Return to top

Psychological Assessments and Cognitive Psychometric Assessment

Our Consultant Clinical Psychologist can be involved in all full Residential or Community assessments and can additionally be able to undertake Cognitive and Psychological assessments in isolation.

Cognitive Assessments
The intellectual ability of a person is assessed based upon the results gained from the administration of a standardised psychometric instrument, the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, IV Edition.

This assessment provides the reader with details of a person’s verbal intellectual quotient, performance skills (i.e. Non verbal IQ) and an overall IQ score. Is calculated.

The narrative places the scores within an overall banding of ability and provides summary information as to the impact and implication of the assessed level of ability upon a person’s functional abilities and acquisition of new skills.

Each Cognitive Assessment is accompanied by an interview with the psychological team to confirm that the person’s functional performance is in line with the assessed level of ability.

Psychological Assessments

This assessment includes

  • Interview with our Consultant Clinical Psychologist.
  • Review of available documentation
  • Cognitive assessment

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