Research and analysis

Systematic review of models of analysing significant harm

Report looking to identify and evaluate the role of available tools for assessing data about the likelihood of significant harm to children.



Section 47 of the Children Act 1989 places a duty on local authorities to make enquiries where it is suspected that a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm, to enable it to decide whether it should take any action to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child. The framework for assessing such children is set out in chapter 5 of Working together to safeguard children.

Evidence from a range of sources has identified that although practitioners are good at gathering information about children and families, they find it challenging analysing complex information in order to make judgments about whether a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm. This is consistent with recent research highlighting the poor accuracy of much decision-making in the child protection field.

There is also increasing consensus about the need to move toward the development of structured professional judgement in which professional decision-making is supported by the use of standardised tools.

This research report presents the findings of a review of the assessment framework. The aim of this review was to identify, critically appraise, and evaluate the potential role of all available tools for assessing/analysing data about the likelihood of significant harm to children.

Please note that amendments to the original report are now available to download.

Published 29 March 2012