Children's care professionals

Common assessment framework

The common assessment framework (CAF) is a shared assessment and planning framework for use across all children's services and all local areas in England.

It is a tool that will help in the early identification and assessment of children and young people's additional needs and promote co-ordinated service provision to meet them. It provides a framework for reaching a shared understanding with families and other practitioners about a child or young person's needs and how these can be met.

CAF in this context is the 4-step process outlined in national guidance for managers and practitioners:

  • step 1 - identify needs early
  • step 2 - assess those needs
  • step 3 - deliver integrated services using integrated processes such as 'Team around the child' and 'Lead professional'
  • step 4 - review progress

In Thurrock, practitioners across a range of services have engaged in the CAF process with children, young people and their families and many are producing high quality assessments leading to more effective service provision and better outcomes for children, young people and their families.

Educational providers have noted that completing the common assessment provides a holistic picture of a child or young person's needs and supports their understanding of how the varied factors in the child's home and/or environment are contributing to the current situation.

Parents and carers have reported that use of the CAF and in particular the process of sharing expectations and plans of action has helped them understand what is being proposed. However, the tool still remains under utilised and is a fundamental principle of targeted early intervention.

When practitioners discuss CAF, they sometimes mean the assessment or the form or both. The CAF has 4 components:

  • a pre-assessment checklist to help decide who would benefit from a common assessment
  • a process to enable practitioners to undertake a common assessment and then act on the result
  • a standard form to record the assessment
  • a delivery plan and review form

The assessment itself covers 3 domains:

  • development of the child or young person
  • parents and carers
  • family and environment

The CAF is aimed at children and young people with additional needs who have needs that are not being met by their current service provision. We have provided some examples of the kinds of needs that may be targeted by practitioners working with children and young people, although this is not exhaustive. Thurrock Children's Services recommends that a CAF is carried out for children who experience issues falling within level 2 and above.

There are other targeted groups where universal service practitioners may find themselves recording the assessment, intervention and progress children and young people have made on a CAF form. This may not need to be shared with anyone else unless further support is requested because interventions are not having the desired effect.

Thurrock's CAF form may be downloaded below.