What is a Common Assessment Framework / CAF?
The Common Assessment Framework (CAF), it is a standardised document / assessment that is used across various agencies to identify a young child’s needs and plan a co-ordinated approach to meet those needs.
A CAF is usually used when a child requires additional support. It can be driven by the parent or anyone working with the child, in our case it was suggested by our health visitor, she also completed the assessment and form.
Who completes the CAF?
It is usually a joint effort, in my case the Health Visitor took the lead, she went through the document with me and filled it in on paper, she then took it away to complete electronically. Having said that we had direct input on the form from speech and language and nursery. In a later update of our CAF we included statements from letters by our paediatrician. As the CAF is an electronic document it is easily updated when necessary, it is good to update it before including it as evidence for support applications.
In our case the assessment was completed as the form was filled out, there was no separate assessment session, it was all done together. My son was too young when we completed the CAF but my understanding is that children that are able to are encouraged to input into the document.
What does the CAF include?
The initial section of the document / assessment begins by taking basic information:
Identifying details: this is basic information such as the child’s name, date of birth, telephone number and ethnicity. It asks if your child is disabled, you can still answer yes and say you are going through the diagnosis process if you have not got it yet.
- Assessment information: who is involved, basic details of the parents or carers e.g. names and contact details, there is a box to explain the family situation – who are they living with do they have siblings etc.
- Details of the person or people completing the assessment / document and details of the lead professional – this may be agreed once the assessment is completed (see below – What happens once the CAF is completed).
Services working with the child: here you should include all services or agencies that are working with your child- it may start off as a small list but as you move forward is likely to grow, this is very helpful to ensure you are all working together and no one is wasting time duplicating work. The list may include doctors, social workers, health visitors, speech and language, occupational therapists, teachers or nursery workers and outreach workers for example from the local children’s centre.
The next section of the document is the assessment summary: strengths and needs, this is the most important section and the hardest. You should include information that is useful and relevant for people working with your child, the better the information provided the more accurate the support will be. If there are sections of the document that are not relevant or ask for information you don’t have this can be left blank. The assessment summary includes the following:
- Development of unborn baby, infant, child or young person:
- general health
- physical development
- speech, language and communication
- emotional and social development
- behavioural development
- identity, self-esteem, self-image and social presentation
- family and social relationships
- self-care skills and independence
- understanding, reasoning and problem solving
- participation in learning, education and employment
- progress and achievement in learning
- Parents and care:
- basic care, ensuring safety and protection
- emotional warmth and stability
- guidance, boundaries and stimulation.
- Family and environmental:
- family history, functioning and well-being
- wider family; housing, employment and financial considerations
- social and community elements and resources, including education
It is quite daunting when you are faced with a long detailed form however you know your child best so your input is vital. It is very hard to list out the things your child cannot do but it is important to share this so they get the right support. It is also good to highlight your child’s strengths as it will help people working with your child to understand what motivates them or what they might enjoy doing. Take time to consider what you want included in the assessment and discuss it with people who know your child well. I found it really hard to list my son’s weaknesses and yes I did cry but it also helped me to accept them and move on to helping him.
The next section of the document is the conclusions, solutions and actions, here you list out the main aims you and your child have for example:
- To provide specialist and intensive support on speech, language and communication.
- To provide continued 1:1 support for X in order to help him meet his full potential both educationally, personally and socially.
Take advice from the professionals who you are working with your child on what the aims should be, but make sure they take you in the direction you want, these will be the focus of the support you receive for your child.
The document then includes some conclusions, what changes are wanted? And how can the change happen? One example of a next step required may be to apply for an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP). The document then lists desired outcomes which will be reviewed at later team around the child (TAC) meetings, you can also set a review date in the document.
The CAF includes a comment from the child if appropriate and the parent or carer, this is followed by a consent statement to allow the document to be stored and shared appropriately. The end of the document is the review section which is used to record your review, again this usually takes place through team around the child meetings.
Do I have to complete a CAF?
No, a CAF is voluntary and you do not have to complete one. The purpose of a CAF is to provide a joined up approach to support provided for your family. It is a good way to pull together information that will be required to access support, it will save you having to provide the same information to different people working with your child. The CAF will only be shared with the people or organisations that you agree it can be shared with (however, as with most things if a child is at risk of harm or to prevent a crime it could be shared without your knowledge).
The council and health visitors wanted us to complete the document as it makes it easier for them to access support with the information provided in the CAF, they were very helpful in getting it completed and I found it useful to be able to share it with people working with my son.
What happens once the CAF is completed?
Once the document is completed it will be shared (with your consent) with people who are working with your child across different agencies and settings for example: Nursery / school, Health Visitors, speech and language and the council.
A ‘team around the child’ (TAC) meeting will be held to discuss what support is required and the CAF is used to support or evidence those needs.
A lead professional will be agreed (you should get a say on who this is), this is the person who co-ordinates the team around the child meetings and the requests for support, in our case it was the special educational needs coordinator (SENCO) at our nursery. It is the lead professional’s responsibility to support you and ensure you are involved to access the support that is required for your child.
Following the TAC meeting an action plan would be put in place- it may include things like getting access to funding for additional support at nursery or having speech and language attend nursery to discuss the child’s needs with staff. Essentially you should have a series of actions that will be followed up at a review meeting which should be held 8-12 weeks later.
What is the CAF used for?
The CAF is a document that can now be shared with people who work with your child, for example nursery or school, it will provide detailed information that should assist those working with your child to understand them and their needs better.
The form is great supporting evidence when applying for support, we used ours to support our application for 1:1 support at nursery, to support our disability living allowance (DLA) application and to support our request for an EHCP. The document also helped to shape and direct our TAC meetings. It is also very useful to have a document that includes a review as this means that you will follow up on your targets and it is easier to evidence actions that need to be taken.
I personally have found it useful to complete the common assessment framework and had very supportive professionals that assisted me to complete it.