Using evaluation tools and standardised measures in assessment

A practitioner's perspective on additional information-gathering

NSPCC practitioner

Service evaluation questionnaires and standardised measures can be used as an additional information-gathering tool during assessment.

Vicki Hollis spoke to Jennifer Allotey, from the NSPCC’s Turn the Page service, to get a practitioner's perspective on how effective these measures are.

She discusses whether they help or hinder the assessment of a child or young person, if they ever uncover additional information, and how service users react when asked to complete them.

Q. What do you think of evaluation tools (such as questionnaires) and standardised measures as a way of gathering information during assessment?

I’ve found the measures can assist with gathering information that you may not get in an assessment: some are very detailed and elicit information that may not have been covered otherwise. 

They allow for a level of direct questioning that wouldn’t usually be used and can complement other techniques used in the assessment.

Q. Have you ever gained information from a parent or child/young person that you might not have been aware of if the service user hadn’t completed the evaluation/standardised measure?

When a parent was completing the Child Sexual Behaviour Inventory (CSBI) for a Turn the Page case, she shared significant additional information that was not previously known about the child’s sexual behaviour.

This was a direct result of the questions acting as a memory prompt - it was information she’d forgotten about and hadn’t realised how relevant it was.

We explored this information and it provided us with evidence that the concerning sexual behaviour of the child was more longstanding than we thought at the point of referral.

Q. What impact did this additional evidence have on the progression and direction of the case?

The additional information added to the concerns we had about this family. It led to the local authority agreeing with our view that the case should be managed under a Child Protection Plan rather than a Child in Need Plan.

It also impacted on the agreement of the mother to implement the Support and Safety Plan, which she had been reluctant to adhere to previously.

Q. Has the use of evaluation tools or standardised measures ever hindered your assessment of a child/young person?

I’ve experienced children becoming frustrated with the Trauma Symptom Checklist for Children (TSCC). It’s usually due to the number of questions, or when the questions have been so relevant that they caused distress or anger - but that has actually been helpful in the assessment of the child.

I’ve never done an assessment that has been affected negatively by completing the measures - or that a child has been significantly impacted by filling in the measures.

Q. What are the limitations of using evaluation/standardised measures during assessment?

The only real limitations are the measures being time consuming and sometimes frustrating for people to fill in.

The measures alone would tell you very little about a child/family but they are not used in isolation so this hasn’t been a concern.

Going forward, it would be helpful if the outcome of the measures can be interpreted and made available to practitioners to inform the assessment.

Q. How do children/young people and parents/carers react to completing these measures?

Generally, I’ve found that parents and young people are okay with completing them.

There are lots of measures within the Change for Good evaluation [being used to evaluate one part of the Turn the Page intervention] and young people have expressed their frustration at the number of forms to fill in. But, with a little encouragement, they have completed them.

Parents/young people with literacy problems require more time and support to complete the measures - this is an obvious pitfall when there is a large amount of written information.

Some of the measures, such as those used in the Change for Good evaluation, include quite intrusive questions on the specifics of sexual behaviour. Some parents/young people think that this suggests they have done all the things listed. This can lead to them expressing their shock at the questions and annoyance at having to complete the measures.

Q.  What would you say to a practitioner who has reservations about using an evaluation/standardised measure with a service user?

Being familiar with the measure is helpful so you know exactly what you’re asking a parent or child to complete.

I’d also remind practitioners that they won’t be interpreting the measure themselves so they don’t need an in-depth understanding of the scoring, etc.

If a brief explanation of the measure is given to the service user, they tend to be fine with completing it. But if a child or parent doesn’t want to complete an evaluation measure, always remember that this is their choice: it is not compulsory.

Like this blog?

Let us know which blog you've read, what you think, share information you have on the topic or seek advice. 

Get in touch

Impact and evidence insights

Each week we’ll be posting insights from professionals about evaluation methods, issues and experiences in child abuse services and prevention. 
Read our blogs

Impact and evidence

Find out how we evaluate and research the impact we’re making in protecting children, get tips and tools for researchers and access resources.
Impact and evidence