Social workers use standardised instruments such as questionnaires or tests to assess a client's needs.

These instruments may measure the client's behaviour, mental state, her support systems and resources. The tests are utilised for psychosocial assessments, determining mental health disorders and to assess what services or types of support the client may need.

Assessing the Needs of the Elderly

A social worker who works with seniors may ask a client to complete an assessment known as the SF-36 or administer it to a client. It is a questionnaire that assesses the client's health status from the client's point of view. This standardised instrument will measure how a client functions on a day-to-day basis and determine whether a health issue may be impeding the client's task performance or social skills. Thirty-six questions will reveal any limitations in physical abilities, any social impediments, physical pain, overall mental health, internal conflicts and general stress levels. This instrument would help a social worker assess the client's needs and help him to develop a treatment program for the client.

Safety and Risk Assessment in Child Welfare

Social workers who work for child protection agencies often use risk assessment tools to determine if a child is at risk of harm. One standardised instrument used in child welfare is known at "The CAT," The Comprehensive Assessment Tool.

The first part of the CAT is a Response Determination Assessment which is used when someone reports that a child may be at risk of harm. The Emergency Response Assessment tool is then utilised followed by The Continuing Services and Case Closure Assessment tools. These assessments may be used at case planning meetings. The Placement tool is completed when interviewing the child, parents and foster parents.

Mental Health Assessments

Social workers who work in psychiatric hospitals and for mental health clinics often use standardised instruments to diagnose mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety and personality disorders.

Assessment tools help to identify symptoms so that a clinical social worker can develop an effective treatment approach for a client. The PHQ-9, for example, is an assessment tool used as a symptom rating scale for depression.

Hospital Social Work Standardized Instruments

A social worker who works at a hospital may administer an Admission Assessment Tool to help identify hospital patients who are in need of social work support services. The Social Work Admission Assessment Tool or "SWAAT" identifies patients who will most likely have complex discharge-planning needs. Once identified, a hospital social worker can provide an early and thorough social work evaluation so that the patient's discharge needs will be met effectively.