South West Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures
South West Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures South West Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures

5.5.6 Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter identifies the need to ensure Children In Care undertake a Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire and the process/protocol required.

References

  • Guidance on data collection on the emotional health of looked after children.

RELEVANT CHAPTER

Health Care Assessments and Plans Procedure


Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Who should carry out the Questionnaire?
  3. Contents of the Questionnaire
  4. Permission
  5. Following completion of the Questionnaire
  6. Outcomes of the Questionnaire

    Appendix 1: Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire Flowchart


1. Introduction

This document will outline the procedural steps to be taken when completing the Goodman Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire which is used to assess the emotional wellbeing and mental health of children who have been in care for a year or more.

Evidence suggests that Children in Care are nearly five times more likely to have mental health issues than children who are not in care. In order to deal with this the government introduced the requirement to screen the emotional health and wellbeing of Children in Care and report back to central government on an annual basis. The short behavioural screening tool used to do this is the 'Goodman Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire'.

The questionnaire has five sections that cover details of emotional difficulties, conduct problems, hyperactivity or inattention, friendships and peer groups and pro social behaviour.

The questionnaire has been internationally used and accepted and is considered universally suitable. It is available in alternative languages from Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaires website.

The questionnaire should be completed for all children who have been Looked After for at least 12 months on the 31 March and are aged between 4 and 16 yrs (inclusive) at the date of their latest Health Review Assessment.

This age band will include young people who were under 17 at the time of the questionnaire being completed even though they became 17 between their questionnaire taking place and 31st March.

The questionnaire will be sent out to the main carer a month prior to the Annual Health Review Assessment to enable it to be returned in time to form part of that assessment.


2. Who should carry out the Questionnaire?

  • The main carer, who for most children will be the Foster Carer, must complete the questionnaire;
  • For children and young people in residential care the questionnaire will be completed by their key worker;
  • For young people in independent accommodation their questionnaire will be completed by themselves with support from their Personal Advisor;
  • If a child has changed placements during the course of the year the child's Social Worker will assess which carer is best placed to carry out the questionnaire.


3. Contents of the Questionnaire

The questionnaire provides a number of statements and a judgement must be made by the person completing the questionnaire by ticking one of the three/four boxes. A tick must be placed inside the box. A choice must be made by the person completing the form and if this cannot be done then the child's Social Worker should be contacted for further advice.


4. Permission

The main carer does not require permission from the child to carry out the questionnaire; however, it should be carried out with the child's full knowledge. If the child refuses to allow the questionnaire to be completed, the child's Social Worker should be contacted and if the child still refuses this should be evidenced on the form as the reason for a nil return.

There will be rare occasions where a questionnaire cannot be completed. Examples are as follows but not to be taken as an exhaustive list:

  • No questionnaire returned as child was aged under four or over 17 at date of latest Review Health Assessment;
  • Not possible to complete the questionnaire due to severity of the child's disabilities;
  • Child or young person refuses to allow the questionnaire to be completed.


5. Following completion of the Questionnaire

Once the questionnaire has been completed it must be passed onto the Designated Nurse at the time of the child's Health Review Assessment. The Designated Nurse will take a copy and return the original questionnaire to the Admin Support Manager for the Children in Care Service.

Alternatively it can be returned to the Admin Support Manager for the Children in Care Service in the accompanying addressed envelope. The Admin Support Manager for the Children in Care Service will send a copy of the questionnaire onto the Designated Nurse.

For a child placed out of Plymouth, the questionnaire must be returned to the Admin Support Manager for the Children in Care Service. The Admin Support Manager for the Children in Care Service will send a copy of the questionnaire on to the relevant health professional in time for the Annual Health Review Assessment.

Once the administrator receives the questionnaire it will be processed. Click here (link to follow) to see the full process.


6. Outcomes of the Questionnaire

The questionnaire provides an overall score, which will place the child into one of the three bands as follows:

  1. Normal - This is not a judgement on the child's mental health and wellbeing; rather it refers to the general population of children. Children falling into this band have a range of responses, which would be expected from a group of their peers;
  2. Borderline - Children in this band fall slightly outside the expected range of responses and it is therefore likely that their emotional wellbeing and mental health is under strain;
  3. Abnormal - This refers to the fact that the SDQ score is considerably outside the range of expected responses. It is very likely that the emotional wellbeing and mental health of children in this band will be under considerable pressure. An abnormal SDQ score is not of itself an indicator of an inadequate or inappropriate placement.

The child's Social Worker will review the questionnaire score and if the result places the child within the 'Borderline' banding, the child's Social Worker will use their professional judgement and knowledge of the child to consider what further work may be required. The questionnaire is a screening tool only and further investigation can involve the child's Social Worker:

  • Issuing the Designated Teacher a further questionnaire;
  • Issuing the questionnaire to be completed by the young person if aged 11 or over;
  • Having a discussion with the carer and/or child. Unless this is not appropriate i.e. a very young child or a child who does not have the appropriate understanding;
  • Consulting the team around the child including the Child Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS).

If the results place the child within the 'Abnormal' banding the child's Social Worker is to contact the Children in Care CAMHS team for a consultation and decision on what action is needed.

The child's Social Worker is responsible for sending a copy of all questionnaires to the Children in Care CAMHS team as part of their annual assessment of the emotional wellbeing and mental health of children in care.

Any actions taken must be recorded on the child's CareFirst care record and used to review and update the care plan by the child's Social Worker.


Appendix 1: Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire Flowchart

Click here to view Appendix 1: Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire Flowchart

For further information on recording on CareFirst in relation to this procedure click here (link to follow).

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