The pre-CAF form can be used by practitioners to help them decide whether a full-needs assessment is necessary. It should be used when a

  • practitioner is worried about how well a child or young person is progressing (e.g. concerns about their health, development, welfare, behaviour, progress in learning or any other aspect of their wellbeing)
  • child or young person, or their parent/carer, raises a concern with a practitioner
  • child's or young person's needs are unclear or broader than the practitioner's service can address.

From this first assessment, a decision can be made by the practitioner as to what is then required. It is a professional decision made by the practitioner, for example, whether or not to refer straight to safeguarding or a specialist assessment or whether to action a holistic assessment (the CAF).

Some local areas use the pre-CAF as a referral document to achieve a specialist assessment, while others ignore the pre-CAF.

An understanding by all practitioners of how the system of different assessment processes is actioned locally is necessary in understanding how the CAF process can be used to the best advantage of the child or young person.

If a practitioner decides a full assessment of needs is required, the first step is to agree consent with the child, young person and family.

Once consent is achieved, the CAF form is used to structure conversations about the child, his/her family and environment.

The CAF form covers the following areas of need:

For the unborn, infant child or young person

  • identification
  • ethnicity
  • parents/carers
  • current family and home situation
  • services already working with person
  • health (general, physical, speech and language development)
  • emotional development
  • behavioural development
  • identity, self-esteem, self image and social presentation
  • family and social relationships
  • self-care skills and independence
  • learning (understanding, reasoning and problem solving; participation in learning, education and employment; progress and achievement in learning; aspirations)

Parents and carers

  • basic care, ensuring safety and protection
  • emotional warmth and stability
  • guidance, boundaries and stimulation

Family and environment

  • family history, functioning and wellbeing
  • wider family
  • housing, employment, financial considerations
  • social and community elements and resources, including education

The practitioner then moves on to recording conclusions. This should lead to decisions, with the consent of child/parent, about which other services to contact, share information and set up a team around the child (TAC) with.

A lead professional is agreed between the TAC and child/family.

The TAC then agrees, with the child/family, solutions and an action plan outlining who will do what and when, and review dates.

Some local areas have an electronic version of the CAF form. However, a national electronic-enabled version of the CAF form is being developed.

Note: National eCAF is the electronically enabled version of the CAF form and process.