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Releasing the potential of Looked After Children


Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire

What is the SDQ?

Since April 2008 all local authorities in England have been required to provide information on the psychological and emotional health of children in care, and specifically emotional and behavioural difficulties. This information needs to be collected using a Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ). This is a widely used tool for assessing a child's emotional wellbeing, looking at the likelihood of problems being already present or of developing in the future.

All children or young people aged between 4 and 16 years old inclusive must have a questionnaire completed by their main carer and should be aligned to the health assessment. The request to complete the SDQ will be made directly to the parent/carer at the time the letter of appointment is sent to them by the VSK nursing team. The allocated Social Worker will be asked to complete the form in respect of young people aged below 17 years who are living independently.

The questionnaire asks the carer to read various statements and then judge how well it describes the young person living with them. The answers are given by ticking one of 3 to 4 boxes for each question. On average this should take the carer no more than 10 minutes to complete.

An Administrative officer within the VSK will input the information from the SDQ onto a national computer database which analyses the data and produces a total score. The score will then be input by this person on to ICS. If the score is identified as being of concern (as per the SDQ guidance) triangulation will be requested which will result in the VSK Administrative Officer contacting the school to request completion of the teachers questionnaire. Notification will also be sent to the child's social worker with a request for the young person's questionnaire to be completed if they are aged 11 years or over.

A triangulated approach provides a more rounded picture of the young person and enables a decision to be made about what if any further services they may need to address the difficulties identified.

The SDQ information will be considered within the health assessment by the Children in Care Specialist Nurse. The health assessment, health plan with recommendations, the SDQ form and score will be sent to the social worker.


Click here to view the Initial SDQ Questionnaire;  Click here for the current Guidance for Social Workers or for the DFE guidance see here.