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. 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.

The professional may use a number of tools during their conversation with you to make sure that the assessment includes the views of the child/young person and family. These are examples of the tools:

If it becomes clear that you do need extra help, the next step is that with your agreement the worker will make a CAF referral using the Suffolk Children and Young People's Portal. The portal is a secure space where the public and professionals complete and submit various forms relating to children and families in Suffolk, directly to the relevant children's services at the County Council.

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 referral 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 there are several 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 (caf.admin@suffolk.gov.uk). It is useful to include some personal details in your email and to explain some of the difficulties your child is experiencing.

Making a CAF referral as a parent/carer

If you've not been able to access support through your child's educational setting or from a health professional to make a CAF referral, as their parent or carer you can make the referral yourself using the Suffolk Children and Young People’s Portal. The Children and Young People’s Portal is a secure space where you complete and submit various forms relating to children and families in Suffolk, directly to the relevant children's services at the County Council.

The first time you complete a form you will be prompted to create a new portal account. Registering for an account is quick and easy, and you only need to do it once. To ensure the information you submit is secure, you will be required to log into this account every time you access the portal.

When you submit an CAF referral through the portal, it will be considered by the CAF Triage team who will recommend the next steps. They review all CAF assessments to make sure that the information is complete and that the assessment clearly explains the child/young person’s needs. 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 the County Council's Early Help Service.

Go through to the Children and Young People’s Portal to submit a CAF referral.

Further support including a user guide and walk through videos are available on the portal overview page.

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.

Go to the Local Safeguarding Board website for guidance about the referral process and to access the multi-agency referral (MARF) form.