Carrying Out a Parent Assessment Manual (PAMS)?

Why Instruct a Social Worker Expert Witness To Carry Out a Parent Assessment Manual (PAMS)?

Social workers regularly use a wide variety of tools and assessment methods to understand the needs of the children they represent, including the Parent Assessment Manual (PAMS). The purpose of PAMS is to assess the needs of vulnerable families, including parents with learning disabilities. Based on the information gathered during a PAMS assessment and the professional conclusions reached, social workers can then put in place the necessary interventions to help vulnerable parents and children.

While PAMS is extremely useful and effective, it must be used by social work professionals with relevant skills and experience; often referred to as ‘advanced practitioners’. In this article, we take a closer look at the purpose of PAMS, the information it provides, and why you might instruct a social worker expert witness with expertise in PAMS assessments.

Parent Assessment Manual (PAMS)

When might a PAMS assessment be carried out?

Social workers typically perform a PAMS assessment if a local authority has reason to believe a child is at risk of significant harm, whether physically, emotionally, sexually, or due to neglect. Moreover, PAMS is used where a parent or carer of a child has certain learning needs, and there is a need to assess and determine the extent to which the parent or carer is able to meet the needs of the child or children.

PAMS is understood and recognised by the family Courts, meaning that the evidence it produces can be used when making decisions in court cases (e.g. where they need to make a decision on who should have parental responsibility).

In comparison to many other social work assessments that are entirely standardised and subjective, PAMS is quantitative and evidence-based, allowing social workers to take a broader picture of a parent’s ability to care for their child.

What is involved in a PAMS assessment?

The PAMS assessment looks at a number of dimensions of parenting, including:

  • childcare and development
  • behaviour management
  • independent living skills
  • safety and hygiene
  • parent’s health
  • relationships and support
  • and the impact of the environment and community on parenting.

Social workers carrying out a PAMS assessment use different methods to assess parents and carers, including discussion, observation, written tasks, practical tasks and visual aids. Each parenting skill assessed by the social worker is considered in terms of the parent’s knowledge, ability, and how often they apply the skill in caring for their child. PAMS assessments can be carried out using specialist software or special paper-based forms.

Why might a social worker expert witness be asked to carry out a PAMS assessment?

There are several reasons that an independent social worker expert witness may be asked to work on a PAMS assessment. As outlined above, they may be asked to carry out a PAMS assessment where a local authority lacks the resources to complete the necessary work in a timely manner. Where concerns have been raised about the welfare of a child who is being looked after by a parent or carer with learning disabilities, carrying out a timely assessment may be essential to ensure their safety and well-being.

An independent social workers expert witness may also be asked to review the contents of an existing PAMS assessment to determine if it was completed competently and if the recommendations within the report were followed up and actioned appropriately. Where there are doubts regarding whether a PAMS assessment was performed correctly, an expert witness may be asked to repeat the process.

Social worker expert witnesses may also be instructed to provide a professional opinion on a PAMS assessment and write an expert witness report. An expert witness report will normally draw on other details and information relevant to the case to provide a complete picture. This is important because PAMS does not provide clear measurements and cut-off criteria as to whether the parenting or care being provided is sufficient and, therefore, requires a high level of experience to make a professional judgement.

Where the parenting matter is to be considered by a family Court, depending on the circumstances of the case, a social worker expert witness may be asked to carry out a PAMS assessment before or during proceedings. Where possible, PAMS should be undertaken before court proceedings to allow sufficient time to complete the assessment and provide the required information to the Court.

Final words

PAMS provides an extremely effective tool when working with and assessing parents and carers with learning disabilities where there are child protection concerns. If used by an experienced practitioner, it can be used to ensure parents and carers have the skills and resources they need to care for their child/ren effectively or to make other decisions if they lack the capacity to do so. Social worker expert witnesses can play a key role at any stage where a PAMS assessment is required, whether before or during court proceedings. An expert witness report that draws on a PAMS assessment and combines this with other relevant information can be instrumental in making recommendations that then ensure the best interests of the parent and child are protected.

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