Residential Assessments

Jamma Umoja operates two residential family centres in London. Both are registered with OFSTED who are the regulatory authority.

The centres can accommodate any size or composition of family and will accept referrals from couples with children as well as single mothers or fathers.

Residential Assessments are normally of twelve-week duration and operate in a phased manner with regular reviews where decisions to promote the welfare of children can be made.

Both our centres are subject to rigorous health and safety policies and practices which are overseen and audited by external health and safety professionals. Although we have a no illegal drugs or alcohol prohibition policy, we will accept parents who are trying to abstain, who need help and are willing to accept such help.

The two centres are managed by the same management team and staff do regularly transfer between units to ensure that the service provided is consistent.





We have recently been asked by a group of local authorities to take families into residence where financial agreement has only been offered for 6 weeks and court timetabling has been based around this.

We are seeing this new development as a subcategory of our existing Integrated Phased Assessments and it does not alter the general principles regarding timescales needed to offer a full assessment.

We recognise that Commissioners and Service Managers are seeking a commitment from Jamma Umoja to be flexible and therefore where prognosis is very poor to consider termination of placement or where prognosis is very promising conversely to consider a transition into the community at the midway stage or prior to the completion of the 12 week period.

We are clear that in assessment terms we are not able to offer the depth of work in 6 weeks what we could offer in 12, and that families’ opportunities may be potentially curtailed.

However, in the context of the new PLO arrangements, very tight court timetables and severe public funding constraints we recognise the need to work collaboratively and to think creatively for the sake of the child who otherwise might not get this chance at all. In six weeks what we would offer are:

  • clear prognostic indicators
  • recommendations as to whether work should continue or not
  • whether the case could move into the community and whether this should be to another resource eg parent and child fostering, service users own home, supported accommodation

In these cases, there would be a Planning Meeting and reviews would need to be held at 2 weeks and 5 weeks.

A draft Letter of Instruction would need to be sent with the relevant documentation at the point of admission to enable work to start immediately.


An initial period of assessment to test viability is sometimes requested /directed before a full assessment proceeds; reasons for this may include:

  • The parent is ambivalent about being assessed
  • There have been other children removed / previous assessments recently in previous / current proceedings and the professionals / court oppose full assessment at this stage and / or want to proceed cautiously
  • A child has been in foster care for some while and the court / professionals wish to avoid unnecessary disruption

Viability assessments may be carried out:

  • In the community with the children at home / in a care setting
  • In residence with the child with the parent / or without the child in residence but involving extensive contact

Duration: would usually be 2 – 4 weeks

If the child is in residence the period of viability may count towards the duration of the full assessment.

Criteria in a viability assessment for further assessment:

The criteria for continuing on to a full assessment will consider prognosis but this is not the only determining factor. Families with very complex needs are unlikely to make significant changes in the first two weeks and it is therefore too early to offer likely prognosis at this stage.

Key factors are:

Engagement – Have they accepted the assessment process? Are they co-operating with staff? Are they attending key work sessions, calling for observations, beginning to take on advice, going to groups etc?

Safeguarding – Is it possible to keep the child(ren) safe (this may involve extra resources)? If extra resources are needed is it envisioned that these resources can be reduced within a reasonable timescale? Are these parents placing their child(ren) other children and residents at risk? Are they co-operating sufficiently with staff to ensure JU can safeguard the child(ren)?

Commitment – Is the parent committed to continuing in the process and to parenting their child in the future?

Working Agreement: If there has been a working agreement have they generally adhered to this or has there been a serious breach?

Appropriate Resource – is Jamma Umoja the appropriate resource for this family?

If there is positive confirmation of the above factors it is likely Jamma Umoja would recommend moving to the next phase.


We offer comprehensive parenting assessments, using multi-disciplinary staff groups which generally run for 12 weeks.


Assessments may sometimes need to be longer, usually 16 weeks e.g. where children are in a split sibling group and there needs to be a more gradual introduction, where parent(s) have a cognitive disability and may need longer ‘learning time’, where parents have recently suffered an acute mental health episode and need more recovery time, where parents have drug and alcohol difficulties.

We are very conscious that our funding is coming from the public purse but occasionally there are also exceptionally lengthy programmes where a service user needs time outside the prescribed assessment through age, eg young parents looked after, through complex circumstances and we are able to provide programmes for more protracted periods.

Our assessment protocol is based on the Department of Health Framework for Assessment, and outcomes are based on good enough parenting. Jamma Umoja also incorporates other micro-assessment tools to focus on the particular needs of each family.

In a residential assessment the family would usually be living at the centre full time.  However, sometimes where there are concerns about one of the parents they may not be resident but come in for specific sessions. The term ‘parent’ is used throughout the document to broadly refer to the adult caregivers in the family – clearly some of them may not be a biological parent.


Jamma Umoja is required by regulation to make a risk assessment of all adults and children entering assessment. A proforma is completed which makes an assessment of risk at point of entry. This will be revised at each review and / or if there is a significant incident. This is essential to safeguarding children and vulnerable adults and is a regulatory requirement. In order to facilitate this JU is reliant on the LA from the outset providing as much information as possible to inform the evaluation of risk to protect children and vulnerable adults, particularly written information.

Multi-disciplinary risk assessment including an initial parenting assessment.

However, Jamma Umoja is also able to offer a formal multi-disciplinary risk assessment including an initial parenting assessment.

This programme is most frequently used for non-resident parents where there are serious concerns regarding risk. This is usually in relation to complex needs which could include concerns regarding actual or potential risks relating to Domestic Abuse/Mental Ill Health including psychological difficulties/Learning Disabilities/Substance Misuse history/ etc.

The parent might be an individual seeking a placement with their child as a sole carer where there is a history of concerns and could be done as a community based package with them coming to the centre for Groups, Direct Work and Contact – this would include Key Work sessions, groups, and parenting work (in sessions and at contact).

In our experience it is more usually a partner / parent of a child where one parent is already about to be admitted or is already in residence. A typical scenario is that the mother moves in with the child but the father is assessed in tandem whilst non-resident to consider whether he can be admitted. The risk assessment will offer outcomes about the potential for admission or whether there are alternative assessments indicated (eg if parents are no longer in a relationship) and what (if any) protective strategies might be required.

Sometimes the risk assessment might conclude that the risks are too great for this parent to be admitted  or occasionally even to be involved in the child’s life at this time – recommendations about contact would be included if the latter was the case.

A programme model we have regularly used is:

  • Assessed Contact x 3 per week for minimum 1 ½ hours
  • Key work sessions – individual and joint
  • Assessment by Dual Diagnosis Practitioner over 2/3 sessions
  • Assessment by Psychologist looking particularly at forensic issues and risk factors

The duration is typically 6 weeks

A report is then provided by the social work staff incorporating the DDP’s findings and a stand alone Psychological report.


Sometimes there is a need to do an urgent and brief risk assessment because little is known about the parent / or there are particular concerns but the parents area couple and need to be assessed jointly as a matter of urgency. This could be carried out over a period of a few days by our Consultant Psychologist Alan Finer and our Dual Diagnosis Practitioner Duma Siso and a verbal report offered initially and a written report as a follow up.


Pre-residential assessment

It may be appropriate to shift the location of assessment and conduct the work in phases. Thus for example work could begin in the community, continue in residence and follow the family into the community.

Typically work may commence with a family prior to admission, with their children at home or possibly elsewhere eg. with a family member or in social care setting.

This might take the form of:

  • A ‘viability’ assessment to consider whether further assessment should be offered.
  • A ‘phased’ assessment where the clear intention is to proceed from community to residential using the initial period for preparation.

Preparation work is particularly relevant if the children have been looked after for a while. This might apply to a parent is coming out of a drug rehab or prison where contact has been going well and there are plans to place their children with them in a residential parenting assessment.

It may also apply to a young pregnant woman who would benefit from starting the work with staff to build trust and skills prior to birth, particularly if they are psychologically vulnerable and or have cognitive difficulties. This work could happen with them coming into the centre and in their home.

In residence

In addition to mixed assessments ie community/residential, there may be a need to phase assessments within residence.

This is often the case when there are older children already in foster care and a new baby. The parent(s) may be admitted with the new baby, with other children coming for contact and being introduced at a later stage – or not – depending on progress. This is particularly important where there are two parents and the male parent may not be the biological parent of the older children.

Sometimes there are two parents but only one is in residence, for instance because the non-resident parent has not engaged with the local authority / presents high risks etc. This may involve some initial assessment with the non-resident parent with a view to them being admitted, or a ‘concurrent assessment’ of the non-resident parent if they are not in a relationship. Sometimes the non-resident parent is contesting the position and also seeking to have care of the child, though more usually they are offering a ‘backstop position’ if the resident parent is not considered to be able to meet the children’s needs. There is scope to be flexible where the children are concerned. At times one parent has left and the other parent has joined.

There is also scope to be flexible to offer a programme of key work sessions, contact and groups to the non-resident parent. If the resident parent is evaluated as having a poor prognosis there is also scope for potentially ending their assessment early and substituting the non-resident carer in residence – of course with careful planning.