#9 The Common Assessment Framework (CAF)The CAF is a central feature of the 'Every Child Matters' agenda. It is an in-depth, personal assessment tool to be used on children by practitioners in any agency with which a child has contact. It facilitates information-sharing by introducing a standardised set of assessment criteria for agencies that have, up until now, had their own different ‘in-house’ assessment procedures.
The government estimates that around one-third of the child population is in need of additional services at any given time. Where it appears to a practitioner that a child has needs that are beyond the scope of that particular agency, or that the child is not ‘progressing’ towards the ‘five outcomes’ - the performance indicators set down in ‘Every Child Matters’ - it is expected that a Common Assessment will be carried out and an indicator placed on the Children’s Index that this has been done. It will be decided at local level which practitioners in each agency are to be trained to use the CAF.
The full framework can be seen here - do look at it to get an understanding of the questions asked. You will probably notice the similarity between the CAF and other assessment tools such as APIR, ONSET, ASSET etc. It’s also along the same lines as a social services assessment of ‘need’.
The practitioner’s guide (which you should also read) advises practitioners that:
“Wherever possible, you should base the discussion and your comments on evidence, not just opinion. Evidence would be what you have seen, what the child has said and what the family members have said. Opinions should be recorded and marked accordingly (for example ‘Michael said he thinks his dad is an alcoholic’)..”It's hard to see how practitioners can stick to 'evidence' when they are meant to find out whether a child has 'stable' or 'negative' relationships, is 'creative', is developing a 'positive separation from family', has self-control and 'positive attitudes', and whether parents provide appropriate clothing and a 'stable, affectionate, stimulating family environment', 'effective and appropriate discipline' and avoid 'over-protection'. These types of question imply that there is an accepted standard, while in fact it is the practitioner's own opinion that is sought.
The practitioner’s guide also raises the issue of consent in section 5, stressing that a CAF should be voluntary on the part of the parent/child, and that information should not normally be shared without consent; however, there are circumstances in which lack of consent can be overridden. This section asserts that a child aged over 12 can generally be expected to have the capacity to consent. It is not clear what the legal basis is for this assertion, nor for recording ‘opinion’ about parents in their absence, but we will be dealing with these issues soon.