The Common Assessment Framework for children and young people: A guide for practitioners

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What the resource is:

This resource is a guide to the Common Assessment Framework (CAF) which has been designed to be used by all practitioners who work with children and young people. The CAF itself seeks to give a common approach for use by all children's services and in all local areas to support with the identification of children's needs. This resource offers guidance to indicate when a common assessment should be completed, and by whom, along with guidance on how a good assessment can be carried out. The document also relates the CAF to integrated working, and other specialist assessments which may be carried out in relation to children's needs. There is detailed guidance on how to carry out a common assessment, though the resource makes clear that anyone who completes one must have received appropriate training. The final two sections draw attention to the issue of confidentiality and consent for a common assessment, as well as providing a useful guide to definitions of key terms. Annex E is an exemplar CAF form. This guidance replaces the Common Assessment Framework for children and young people: practitioners' guide published by the then DfES in 2006 and reprinted in September 2007. It remains non-statutory guidance.


The aims of the resource:

This resource is a guide for practitioners to the issues connected with completing a common assessment. The CAF is designed to allow early intervention to identify and support the additional needs of children and young people and to promote a co-ordinated provision to meet these needs. The new guidance has been updated to reflect policy developments, and revised after consultation with the children and young people's workforce. It "seeks to link together the processes and tools... to show how collectively they provide a package of support to help practitioners and managers implement integrated working in their practice" (p5). This resource aims to clarify the processes for completing a common assessment, provide guidance and case studies for practitioners who may be using the CAF, and looks at the ways in which this process can be integrated with other services provided for children and young people.


Key findings or focus:

The guidance aims to show the way in which the CAF is part of an integrated frontline service for children and young people, as a method of addressing needs before they become serious. The link between the CAF and ECM is demonstrated along with the link to other needs and services which are available to support children and young people.


The guidance within this resource is divided into eight key sections:

1) About the CAF for children and young people

This section sets the CAF in context within the "continuum of needs and services" and highlights some of the needs which may trigger a common assessment. These may include poor attendance, exclusion or teenage pregnancy.


2) Who will do a CAF and when?

The guidance explains the role of a common assessment as a method of identifying the needs of children and young people, and working with them and their families to record the identification and assessment of needs and identify any actions which are needed. The training and CRB checks of those who will be carrying out the common assessment are also explained, as well as the role of a pre-assessment checklist to determine if a common assessment is the right course of action. The guidance also offers advice about what steps should be taken before a common assessment can take place.


3) What makes a good assessment?

This section of the guidance considers how to ensure that a common assessment is a quality process and a quality product considering issues such as transparency, clarity and accuracy. It also provides a diagram to highlight the ways in which the common assessment forms the basis for the resulting action plan and guidance to ensure that this is completed successfully.


4) CAF and integrated working

Guidance is provided to explain the stages of an integrated assessment, clarifying the ways in which this can lead to the formation of a team around the child or young person. An explanation is given about the way in which that integrated approach flows throughout the support given to the child and the use of Contact Point and National eCAF as ways to use IT to support effective information sharing. There are useful links here to other guidance from the DCSF and CWDC (Children's Workforce Development Council) in relation to integrated working.


5) The common assessment and specialist assessments

The fifth section of guidance focuses on the way in which the common assessment is holistic in nature and links to specialist assessment. It may be carried out as part of regular checks at milestones of development or assessment for children with special educational needs. There is also guidance provided to show how the CAF could be used to inform specialist assessment which may be taking place. The resource also clarifies why a common assessment may still be necessary when specialist services are already involved with a child or young person.


6) How to do a common assessment

Detailed guidance is provided about the four-step process involved in the CAF. The four stages are: identifying needs early and seeking consent, assessing the needs, delivering integrated services, and reviewing progress. The process of assessing the needs of the young person is supported with detailed guidance, using a step-by-step guide to completing the form, with pages from the form included as exemplars. 


7) Information sharing, consent and confidentiality

This section provides guidance about the way in which information from any common assessment can be shared, and the linked issue of confidentiality. There is also clarification about how to seek consent to begin the process, and from whom, and what consent is required to store information gathered from the common assessment.


8) Annexes and resources

The final section of guidance provides information about the policy context, and links with the ECM agenda, outcomes and aims.  Many of the key words within the CAF and the guidance are included in the guide to definitions and an exemplar copy of the form is included.


Case studies are included to highlight the ways in which the CAF can be used and the responses from practitioners who have already used this framework. These case studies focus on a school, the voluntary sector, the voice of the child in the CAF process, targeted youth support, health, and early years' provision.


The quality, authority and credibility of the resource from your subject perspective in relation to ITE:

This resource provides a very clear and concise introduction and guidance to all aspects to the CAF, though it does stress throughout that a practitioner would need to receive training in order to complete a common assessment. It may be therefore that this resource would be more useful to people as a support document once they have received this training.


It does, however, provide a useful overview of integrated working with children and young people, and guidance for intervention with children and young people with additional needs.


The implications for ITE tutors/mentors:

This resource, in its entirety, would probably not be a useful document within an ITE course as practitioners need to be trained to complete a common assessment. It may, however, prove some use to trainees to further their understandings of the implications of the ECM agenda.


The relevance to ITE students:

Whilst it is unlikely that a trainee or NQT would complete a common assessment, this resource could be useful for an ITE student to help to understand the strategy for early identification and support for children and young people with additional needs. It also provides a useful summary of the five strands of the ECM framework and the link between this and other areas, such as Child Protection and SEN. The guide to definitions may also be useful for clarification on important terms within the professional role of a teacher, such as emotional development and learning.


Reviewed by:
Amy Whittall



Related Resources

The following might be useful to read in conjunction with this resource:

CWDC (2009) Coordinating and delivering integrated services for children and young people: The Team Around the Child (TAC) and the lead professional: A guide for practitioners.

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Children’s Workforce Development Council

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