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3.4.11 Needs Assessment Tool

Last Modified: 16-Oct-2019 Review Date: 04-Jan-2021


​To guide child protection workers (CPWs) in using the Needs Assessment Tool (NAT) for children in the CEO's care.

Note: CEO refers to the Chief Executive Officer of the Department of Communities (the Department).

Practice Requirements
  • All children in out-of-home care, including those on a negotiated placement agreement, must have an approved NAT when entering care and a care arrangement is required.
  • The NAT must be reviewed and updated by CPWs either:
    • annually, and/or
    • when there are significant changes in the child's needs.
  • If the NAT is for an Aboriginal child you must consult with the district Aboriginal practice leader (APL).
  • When completed, forward to the APL for endorsement (if it is for an Aboriginal child), and then to your team leader - the NAT must be approved by a team leader.
  • Where a child is moved to another care arrangement and a Care Arrangement Referral is required, you must review the NAT and update it if there are significant changes to the child's needs.
  • When completing the NAT, you must refer to relevant information (such as the case plan, provisional care plan/care plan, health assessment reports and education records) and discuss the child's needs with members of the care team (parents, carers, other relatives, the child and other professionals) as appropriate.​
Process Maps

  • Completing the Needs Assessment in the Needs Assessment Tool


  • Overview
  • Gathering information to complete the NAT
  • Completion of the NAT
  • Information sharing
  • Consulting with CSO staff for the NAT
  • Annual review
  • Overview

    ​The NAT is a case management tool to assist CPWs and the child's care team to consistently identify and assess the complex and changing needs of children in the CEO's care across the dimensions of care. A completed NAT will provide the care team and other relevant partner agencies with readily accessible information to assist with care planning, case management and care arrangement decisions.

    Completion of the NAT is a streamlined, standardised process for all children in the CEO's care, to inform:

    • care arrangement matching
    • annual care planning
    • day-to-day planning
    • safety planning
    • identification and provision of services and supports for the child and their carer, and
    • permanency planning (including when planning reunification and contact).

    Benefits of the NAT are outlined below:




    Informed capture and cost quotes to support the cultural needs and continuity of connection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in care, particularly those out of country.

    Informed care planning decisions.

    Informed placement referrals and cost quotes for high needs referrals.

    Consistent capture of children's safety and care needs, over time.

    Care Team

    A checklist of needs to consider when working with a child.

    A standard measure of complexity and need for all children in care at a point in time (whole cohort).

    A mechanism to track a child's progress over time in terms of their needs.

    An aid to monitor case worker knowledge of caseloads and assessment skills.

    A holistic view of the required services and resources, across a number of dimensions e.g. geography, age and cultural background.

    Out-of-home Care System

    Identify and track trends in the complexity of needs of children in care within a district or cohort to inform future service design

    Provide evidence to support funding applications and allocation with Department of Treasury.

    Provide districts with a mechanism to identify individual or groups of children resources needs and review accordingly.​


    Gathering information to complete the NAT

    ​Child protection workers should obtain information and/or consult those who may have information about the child's behaviours and needs during the previous 12 months. This includes:

    • the child (where age and capacity permits)
    • relevant family members, including parents and those who may have cared for or supported the child
    • the child's carer(s)
    • specialist internal staff, such as an Aboriginal practice leader; education officer, or psychologist, and
    • service providers who are involved with the child including the child's school, health provider and/or community sector organisations (CSO's).

    When gathering information from the child or family, CPWs should do so sensitively and respectfully, and explain the NAT process and rationale for undertaking the assessment.

    Child protection workers should also utilise other written information relevant to the behaviours and needs of the child. This includes internal and external documents (where relevant) from the previous 12 months such as:

    • Child Safety Investigations
    • medical assessments, treatment, disability or health plans
    • school reports and documented education plan
    • Signs of Safety documentation such as Assessment and Case Planning forms and safety plans
    • Viewpoint and Quarterly Care Reports
    • annual care plan
    • culture and identity plan
    • carer reports that describe the child's behaviours and needs
    • reports from other Department divisions and government agencies such as Disability Services, the Department of Corrective Services, and the National Disability Insurance Agency, and
    • any other relevant documentation about a child's needs.

    Completion of the NAT

    ​The NAT must be completed when a child enters the CEO's care and must be reviewed on an annual basis or when there are significant changes in a child's needs.

    Examples of where a review may be required include:

    • the child's needs have changed substantially. For example, the child's presentation has significantly deteriorated at school and/or in the care arrangement that requires an urgent review of their levels of need(s), or
    • the child's needs remain the same but the level of services required to meet the child's need(s) have significantly increased. For example, a child moves into a new care arrangement and the carer has to transport the child considerably further to services, or important equipment and aids are required that will require a substantial review of the assessed cost needs in the NAT, or
    • the child's needs assessment levels change significantly on a regular basis. For example, management of the child's health needs now requires frequent hospital visits.

    The NAT is integrated in the Child Information Portal. Over the course of the year, relevant information placed on the Child Information Portal may be added to the NAT. For example:

    • to rectify incorrect information recorded
    • changing from an 'unknown' level of need to an identified level of need, or
    • update information about the needs of the child such as when health care assessments become available.

    The annual review also allows the NAT to be updated with information from other care planning documents such as the care plan, education plan and culture and identity plan.

    Child protection workers should be familiar with the dimensions of care, the child's individual needs and be able to complete the NAT as accurately as possible. The completion of the NAT and subsequent review should be consistent with information about the child's needs in other documents such as care plans and Signs of Safety Assessment and Case Planning forms.

    When completing the NAT in Assist CPWs should:

    1. Click on the list of predefined categories (drop down boxes).
    2. Select the box that best matches their assessment of the child's need at the time of completion (these range from not relevant to significant).
    3. Type a summary of the evidence for the assessment category decisions under each dimension of care. This may include the information source, consultation(s), recommendation(s) and rationale. It is important workers give examples of patterns of behaviour and how they impact on the child’s life, at home, at school and in the wider community.

    Child protection workers should refer to Completing the Needs Assessment Tool (NAT) – Guidance for child protection workers and care team members (in related resources).  The information in the Guidance aligns with the drop down categories in the NAT and provides example indicators to assist workers to identify and assess a child's needs.

    Child protection workers should describe the behaviours of a child and the impact of these behaviours. Child protection workers should not apply labels to these behaviours (e.g. autism or FASD) unless the child has been formally assessed with a particular condition or disorder. This is important to prevent the child from being excluded or restricted from accessing particular services.

    The NAT must be approved by the team leader and once approved it automatically populates into the Child Information Portal and Care Arrangement Referral. The NAT and Care Arrangement Referral are also published to Objective as standalone documents.

    Upon approval of the NAT in Assist, a NAT level (number) will be displayed and a NAT report is generated. This information is created for every child according to their last approved NAT. For NAT level descriptions see Needs Assessment Tool (NAT) Level Descriptors (in related resources). 


    Information sharing

    ​NAT information can and should only be shared with people who have a role in supporting and planning around the child's needs such as the care team (includes the care arrangement provider and other relevant service providers).

    Family and other care team members should be advised of any changes to NAT information and the child's assessed levels of need when updated. 

    CSOs will receive the NAT report for each child they provide a care arrangement for. This will be provided by the CPW after intake to allow them to make appropriate arrangements for the child. The rationale and evidence behind a particular NAT level classification is provided when supplying the NAT report. CSOs will also receive information regarding the NAT levels for the cohort of children in care arrangements with their organisation.


    Consulting with CSO staff for the NAT

    The Department is committed to working in partnership with CSOs to ensure NATs accurately reflect and record the needs of the child.

    The CSO responsible for placing a child must be involved in completing the NAT for that child. Options for consulting with a CSO may include:

    • Asking CSOs to complete the NAT questions for each child they provide a care arrangement for, with supporting evidence/comments to help inform the final assessment.
    • Completing the NAT during a care team meeting or care plan meeting where the CSO is present.
    • Asking CSOs to provide information regarding particular behaviours/needs that can inform the NAT.
    • Utilising monthly reports, contract review documents and correspondence throughout the year.

    If there is disagreement between the CSO and the Department surrounding the NAT levels of a particular child, the CSO should raise this with the CPW. If unsatisfied with the response, the CSO should then contact the team leader or relevant assistant district director. The Department can then provide an additional rationale for the assigning of a NAT level for that child.


    Annual review

    The information entered into the NAT represents a 'snapshot' of the child's needs as assessed by CPWs at a particular point in time. These needs may change over time and other information could become available where the NAT will need to be updated. At a minimum CPWs must review and update the NAT on an annual basis and resubmit to the team leader for approval.

    To complete the review, CPWs should consult relevant people as needed and utilise information from appropriate documentation about the child's needs.​​