Common Assessment Framework (CAF) information for families

The Common Assessment Framework is a way of working with families that puts your needs at the heart of decisions made about you and your children.

The common assessment process will usually be started because something is worrying you about your child, or is worrying the people who are working with you.

Taking part in the process will help you work with people such as teachers, health staff or other lead professionals to gather, understand and share information about what is happening in your family's life.

The aim is that once all the conversations have taken place, the needs of your family will be at the heart of any decisions made about accessing further information or support in order to get to the right solutions for your child.

Use the tabs below to see an explanation of what happens during a CAF process and the possible outcomes.

Key points of the CAF

If your child needs extra help, the CAF will help them receive the right support at an early stage. Because the CAF is a shared assessment, you and your child will not have to repeat the same details to different workers.

There are two parts to the CAF process. The first part is the assessment conversation with a worker where together you map out what's working well, what you and your child are worried about, and what is causing difficulties. As part of the conversation you will complete a common assessment form. At the end of the conversation and mapping process, you and the worker may agree that they are the best person to work with your family to find a solution to the difficulties. This means that no other service will get involved.

However if it becomes clear that you do need extra help, with your agreement the worker will send the form to the CAF Triage Team. They review all CAF assessments to make sure that the information is complete and that the assessment clearly explains the child/young person’s story. The triage officers will identify the support that you require, which may be further advice on where to get further information and help, or it may be referred as a request for support from Suffolk County Council, Early Help Teams.

The CAF is voluntary – you and your child, or a young person can choose to be involved, and can withdraw at any time. You can also choose which service providers you want your information to be shared with.

The CAF process does not guarantee that a service will be provided, but it does provide evidence of a need for further information and support. The CAF can also help provide evidence where there may be gaps in the provision of services.

Support for your family

If a number of people are providing support for your child they will usually agree to meet all together with you as part of what is called a "family's network meeting."

One of the people attending the meeting may be appointed as a lead professional. The lead professional will become your main contact and coordinate the different services you are involved in.

How to access a CAF

You should first of all discuss that you would like to complete a CAF with the staff in the children's centre or school that your child attends. You could also speak to your GP or health visitor.

If you’re unsure who to talk to or having difficulties identifying a practitioner to complete a CAF with you and your child, please email the CAF Triage team ( It is useful to include some personal details in your email and to explain some of the difficulties your child is experiencing.

We recommend that you use encryption to send your email so that it is sent securely. Find more information about using secure emails.

Further information

For details of local services and support for children, young people and families call the Suffolk Families Information Service on 0345 60 800 33.

People who work in children's services are now following the 'Signs of Safety and Wellbeing' model, which is changing the way that professionals relate to, and communicate with children, young people and families in Suffolk. The mapping conversation which takes place during a CAF is an example of this new approach. Find out more by visiting the Signs of Safety international website.

More information about the common assessment process:

Concerned about a child?

If you are concerned that a child or young person has been significantly harmed or abused or is at risk of being harmed or abused, you must follow the Suffolk Safeguarding Children Board procedures. If you have any concerns about a child, please phone 0808 800 4005.

If you would like to discuss whether the situation you are concerned about should be the subject of a safeguarding referral, please contact the MASH Consultation Line on 0345 606 1499.

The referral process and the multi-agency referral form can be found along with further guidance on the Safeguarding Board website.