Information for professionals

Residential assessment services

Framework of assessment

Residential assessments are highly beneficial for families in which the parents need for intensive and round the clock support in order to learn and develop the skills necessary for child care, for example, young parents, parents who have been in care themselves, or parents with a range of learning difficulties. For these families, parenting and residential pyschological assessment can provide professionals with information about the parent’s capacity to engage with support, their capacity to take in and implement advice and support, and the prognosis for their capacity to meet their child’s needs in the long term. 

Where concerns have been raised about a child's welfare or a parent's capacity to provide safe and appropriate care, Orchard House social work led parenting assessments provide clear analysis of:

  • The child's development, their mental health and their emotional/psychological needs
  • The parent’s ability to meet both the physical and emotional needs of their child
  • Practical skills such as budgeting
  • Relationships and interactions between parent and child, including an analysis of attachment if requested
  • The wider family functioning
  • The parent’s understanding of professionals’ concerns
  • The likely ability of the parents to protect the child from harm
  • The parent’s capacity for durable and sustained change
  • The levels of risks and resilience for that family
  • Recommendations of what support each member of the family might need
  • The long term prognosis for change

Multi-disciplinary team expertise

Residential parenting assessments are led by skilled Senior Social Workers, with the support of an experienced Family Support Team of dedicated and highly trained staff. Orchard House also benefits from very close working relationships with a highly experienced multi-disciplinary team of Clinical Psychologists and an Educational Psychologist, with access to both Psychiatric and Paediatric Consultants. This allows Orchard House to meet the needs of a range of children and families and to provide assessments that are comprehensive and informed. We have the resources and expertise to provide a tailored, social work led assessment for each family, including psychological input, and assessments in the community, through contact, or in a residential setting. The format and structure of each assessment is developed through discussions between the family, the local authority, Orchard House professionals and the children's Guardian.

Referrals accepted

We assess:

  • Both mothers and fathers, either separately or together
  • Families where abuse or maltreatment is alleged, suspected, or known to have occurred
  • Parents who are considered to pose a risk to children, including Non-Accidental Injuries & Fabricated or Induced Illness
  • Parents with mental health problems
  • Parents who have a Learning Disability / significant learning difficulties*
  • Parents with histories of being exposed to abuse and maltreatment
  • Parents who have been placed in care in their own childhoods
  • Vulnerable young and teenage parents
  • Parents who misuse alcohol and / or substances
  • Parents where domestic violence is present / suspected
  • Families for whom English is an additional language
  • Families with limited mobility

In some parents, there are significant psychological impediments to parenting. A psychological assessment considers the functioning of the parent in terms of their personality, mental health, cognitive capacity and any experiences of trauma and/or abuse. We then provide clear and concise indications of the capacity of the parent to make and sustain change, to any assessment of risk regarding the parent's behaviour and, if indicated, the therapeutic needs of the parent.

*Please note, we do not conduct PAMS assessments as standalone reports, although we use some of the tools in the context of our broader assessments.

Safeguarding children and families

Our residential parenting assessments provide an exceptional and unparalleled level of safeguarding for children whilst assessments of a parent’s capacity to provide full-time, primary care are made.

The level of direct observation by the highly experienced assessment team and the indirect observation via audio-visual CCTV allows a high level of risk to be managed safely, for example, for families where non-accidental injuries may have occurred, or where the risk of immediate harm to the child is high.

The level of monitoring and supervision of a child is variable depending on the needs of the family and is agreed by all parties involved prior to any changes in the assessment, unless the immediate safety of the child depends upon it being increased immediately.

We work flexibly and creatively with families, to minimise intrusion whilst ensuring safeguarding and informing the assessment. Families are provided with robust support during their assessment, which varies depending on their specific needs and abilities, with a view to reducing as the assessment progresses.


Orchard House uses high specification CCTV, which includes audio and night-vision cameras, to provide 24-hour monitoring. Cameras are located in the bedroom and all communal areas, including the garden. There are no cameras in en-suite facilities; therefore children are not permitted in these areas. CCTV recording is continuous and may be played back at a later date if required. Footage is used to record and document any incidents of safeguarding concern, though also as a therapeutic tool (e.g. to increase insight into concerns raised or to illustrate examples of positive interaction). Footage can be downloaded to support evidence presented in a parenting report. Due to the amount of memory required to store such a format, footage is stored for up to seven-days, unless specifically saved.

Levels of support and monitoring

The specific nature and format of the support / monitoring will be decided by the Orchard House Assessing Social Worker in liaison with our Safeguarding Manager, the LA Social Worker, and the Guardian. The decision will be informed by the Referral / Risk Assessment Forms and other information made available to us. The decision will then be communicated to the LA Commissioning Team

Intensive Assessment

Orchard House recognises that Intensive Assessment is required in some cases (e.g. where risk is either unknown or there is an identified risk of harm, where compensatory parenting is required, or to support transition into the assessment). Intensive Assessments can include a variety of staff input; this might include direct in-person or real-time CCTV monitoring, or significant input at specific times (e.g. bath time, mealtimes, during a specific play session, bottle making) from a dedicated Family Support Worker. This can also include intensive evidence-based psychological interventions.

Standard Assessment

A Standard Assessment allows families to have greater independence to demonstrate their parenting skills – it is our aim to progress all families to this level as soon as possible. Families may initially start on this level where parents demonstrate consistently strong basic care and identified risks are known to be low. Family Support Workers are still available 24/7 to provide families with the necessary support and appropriate monitoring. Families spend longer periods of time without the need for direct input, though support for specifically identified parenting tasks can still be provided. Support / Monitoring of each family is not necessarily continuous, though recordings can be played back and footage retained as above.

Cost Implications

Our pricing structure reflects the different levels above. All costs will be clearly communicated with the placing authority commissioners by way of a Commissioning Letter sent following the Planning Meeting. The rationale for any subsequent changes in monitoring (reduced or increased) and any associated cost amendments are discussed in liaison with LA Social Workers and are clearly communicated with the placing authority through an updated Commissioning Letter.

Assessment pathway

Once a referral has been accepted, we liaise closely with the LASW about the family's arrival. This includes information about and preperation for any medical needs of the parent/child after the birth, any long standing conditions, therapeutic needs or any specific safeguarding measures (including drug and alcohol testing) that might need to be in place.

The family are usually accompanied by the LASW on their arrival. The parents, a senior member of the Orchard House team and the LASW have a planning meeting as soon as possible after their arrival. This explains the process of what is expected of both Orchard House and the parents and at the end of the meeting each person present signs a Placement Planning Agreement. The letter of instruction for the assessment is required at this stage.

The first progress meeting is held after 72 hours of the assessment. This follows the Signs of Safety model [what is going well, what are we worried about? what needs to happen?]. A document is drawn up which includes the observations of Orchard House and the views of the parents, and this is shared with all parties. This is repeated once a week throughout the placement (more often if this is required, for example, for a parent with memory difficulties).

Review meetings are held with the LASW and the family either at four, eight and twelve, or at six and twelve weeks. Interim reports are provided, and then a final report before the end of the placement. If an assessment is ended on an emergency basis, a final report will be provided two weeks after the family leave.

How to make a referral

There are two referral routes for a residential parenting assessment with Orchard House:

  • Firstly, if the residential assessment is agreed by all parties then we can liaise directly with the Local Authority and ask them to complete the necessary Referral and Risk Assessment Forms to help us to plan the placement and to robustly address the specific assessment needs.
  • Alternatively, where an assessment is contested, we can undertake a paper-based Viability Assessment of the available papers. Paper-based Viability Assessments are typically completed within 7-10 working days of receipt of the Letter of Instruction and documents, and would not incur a charge. In the event that a parenting assessment is indicated then the Viability Assessment would outline our proposed plan, the nature of the assessment, and specific areas to be focused upon, the timescales, and availability in our response. This would include both residential and community-based assessment as seems most appropriate. We request that all papers to be considered for a paper-based Viability Assessment be sent to our Canon Lodge offices: Orchard House Family Services, Canon Lodge, Canon Street, Taunton, Somerset, TA1 1SW.

If you would like to discuss the viability of an assessment or how we might be able to work with a family, please contact Jon Parish, Operations Manager or Sammy Edwards here.

Please be aware that we require a letter of instruction as well as risk and referral forms prior to the family assessment starting.


In terms of availability we aim to place families for assessment as soon as possible once an assessment has been ordered and the child can be moved. We would encourage you to call us for our latest availability however, please be aware this is often subject to the progress of other family's proceedings.