Step-up / Step-down procedure (Children in Need and CAF)
The Common Assessment is an assessment of the child/young person within the context of the family and community. It provides the opportunity for practitioners and the family to gain a better initial understanding of the child/young person’s needs. It is not a referral.
The Common Assessment Framework (CAF):
- helps identify the child or young person’s needs
- provides structure for recording information
- can support referrals to other services
- provides a common form of assessment which will be familiar across children and young people’s services
- reduces duplication for practitioners
- reduces multiple assessments for young people and their families
- can be shared with consent.
Using the CAF has many benefits:
- It will support better understanding and communication amongst practitioners. This will help embed a shared language across agencies and services.
- A coordinated response to prevent the duplication of assessments and to improve outcomes for children and young people.
- It will support action as soon as additional needs are identified and speed up service delivery.
- Reduce the number of services who are asking families the same questions.
- A tool to encourage services to work harmoniously together sharing vital assessment information to provide more efficient and better quality services.
- A tool to promote early identification of additional needs and reduce the number of children and young people being referred for specialist assessment. However, where such assessments are required, the availability of the CAF will support this work by providing good quality background of information.
The CAF includes a simple pre-assessment checklist to help practitioners identify children who would benefit from a common assessment, along with an assessment form. It is used by practitioners in a wide range of settings and circumstances. It provides agencies with the same standard baseline assessment from which more specialist assessments can be developed and will replace the numerous basic assessments which currently exist in and between services.
Suffolk Children's Trust Partnership has endorsed the use of CAF as the baseline assessment framework to be used by all children and young people's service providers.
- If you are not sure what the child or young person's needs are.
- If you or the parent think that the child or young person has unmet additional needs your service cannot meet and are not sure how they can be met.
- If it is likely that the child or young person's needs can only be met by two or more agencies working together.
- Where anyone who knows the child has identified an unmet need and early intervention will avoid a problem becoming worse.
- When the child or young person's needs are known and are being met by your service.
- When you fully understand the child's additional needs and they can be met by referral to a single agency.
- When the child's needs are already being addressed by a specialist agency such as Social Care or Youth Offending Service.
- When the child's 'health and development is being significantly impaired' and is therefore a child 'in need'.
- When you believe a child is suffering, or at risk of, "significant harm."*
*make an immediate referral to Children’s Social Care services
The CAF aims to enable and support good practice in information sharing about the needs of children and young people as part of preventative services. In doing so, all sharing (and storing) of information should be done lawfully and comply with the Data Protection Act 1998.
Practitioners are not expected to read the Data Protection Act 1998 as all relevant information is available in the Information Sharing guide available on the Department for Education Information Sharing website.
CAF must be shared in a secure manner. Electronic versions of the CAF can be sent to other practitioners where there are secure email links. Where secure email links do not exist, other forms of transfer must be used, e.g. confidential fax, or signed-for post.
The CAF is a voluntary assessment process and, as such, a child or young person and/or their parent/carer must give their consent at the start of the process for the assessment to take place in the full knowledge of what will happen to this information (e.g.. how it will be stored, who will have access to it).
Once the assessment has been undertaken, the child or young person and/or their parent/carer must again give their consent for the information to be stored and shared with other services, preferably through signing the CAF form in the appropriate place on the final version of the assessment.
The Fraser Competency is used to consider the ability of children and young people under the age of 16 to give informed consent. It originally addressed the question of the rights of children and young people under the age of 16 to consent to treatment on their own behalf and was reviewed by the courts in 1985 in connection with contraception (The Fraser Ruling).
In 1986 the case of Gillick v West Norfolk and Wisbech Area Health Authority, the House of Lords reviewed the issue of consent with regard to young people under the age of 16, and ruled that they could give valid consent to medical treatment as long as they have sufficient understanding and intelligence to appreciate fully what is proposed, and are capable of expressing their own wishes. Lord Scarman identified the principle that parental rights yield to the young person's rights to make their own decision when they reach a sufficient understanding and intelligence to be capable of making up their own minds on such matters.
This principle has been extended beyond consent to medical treatment and has been used in subsequent legislation, for example the Children Act 1989.
Refusal to give consent
Where a parent or young person refuses to give consent to share information with a particular service or agency, information must not be shared unless one of the following applies - failure to share information will result in:
- harm to the child/young person
- a crime being committed
- a crime not being detected.
The withholding of consent itself may, on occasion, constitute a concern. In such circumstances, the practitioner will need to make a judgment as to whether the withholding of consent, coupled with the original concern, increases the level of need/risk to the extent that the requirement to override consent is necessary.
It may be necessary to refer to interagency safeguarding procedures for information on working with resistant families.
More information about information sharing, national guidelines is available from the Department for Education website.
Completed Common Assessment Framework (CAF) forms can be sent by secure email to the CAF Admin team. If you have a Suffolk County Council email address (for example: firstname.lastname@example.org) you can attach the completed form to an email and send it to email@example.com
If you do not have a Suffolk County Council email address, you will either need to request a secure and encrypted email from CAF Admin, or post the completed assessment to CAF Admin using the following method:
The CAF assessment should be double enveloped, and sent by Royal Mail Recorded 'Sign For' mail to:
Suffolk County Council
4 Egerton Road
Suffolk IP1 5PF
NB) The inner envelope must state, ‘Addressee Only’
The Step-up policy details how a child or young person supported through the Common Assessment Framework (CAF) process will continue to receive support as needs escalate to require children's social care intervention. It also explains the role of members of the Team Around the Child (TAC) as children's social care takes on the lead role with a child or young person.
The Step-up Step-down procedure describes how a Team Around the Child can be engaged by Children's Social Care when they are bringing their support to an end.
The following leaflets are available on the CWDC website:
- The Common Assessment Framework - a guide for practitioners (PDF, 3.5MB)
- The Common Assessment Framework - a guide for managers (PDF, 2.2MB)
- The Team around the Child (TAC) and the lead professional - a guide for practitioners (PDF, 1.7MB)
- The Team around the Child (TAC) and the lead professional - a guide for managers (PDF, 2MB)
Information sharing: guidance for practitioners and managers - Department for Education website
Suffolk County Council
- CAF - Welcome to a new way of helping children and young people (Leaflet for children and young people)
- CAF - Welcome to a new way of helping children and young people (Leaflet for parents and carers)
Children's Workforce Development Council (CWDC)
- Explaining CAF: helping you explain the Common Assessment Framework to young people (PDF, 1.1 MB)
- Leaflet on CAF and the Lead Professional for young people (PDF, 1.7MB)
Department for Education
- The Common Assessment Framework for children and young people: supporting tools
- Guide to definitions used in the CAF form