Assessment is at the heart of all good social work practice. It covers a spectrum of activities, from observation and judgments made within the context of an initial encounter through to more formal and complex frameworks of assessment. Its purpose is to enhance understanding of the service user’s situation, helping workers to identify areas for potential change that will assist the development of a rationale for future intervention. In this respect, assessment and how it is carried out will be influenced by a number of factors, including who initiated the request, the nature of the prevailing concerns, the agency’s policies and procedures and, last but not least, the worker’s approach. This latter area will influence not only what is considered important in the service users’ situation but also how they might contribute to the assessment process. Effective assessment needs workers to balance a number of competing and often conflicting demands in order that they obtain an understanding of service users and their situation.
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