Common Assessment Framework (CAF) information for professionals

Information, guidance and resources to support practitioners working with children, young people and families in the CAF process.

The CAF is used by practitioners in a wide range of settings and circumstances.  It helps to identify early intervention services which will focus on improving life outcomes for the child or young person.

It provides agencies with the same standard baseline assessment from which more specialist assessments can be developed. For guidance about how the CAF framework and policy works visit the Local Safeguarding Children Board website.

When to use the CAF

You should use the assessment part of the CAF to help identify needs at an early stage. It is designed for use when:

  • you are worried about how well a child or young person is progressing
  • a child or young person or their parent/carer raises a concern with you
  • the child or young person’s needs are unclear
  • it is likely that the child or young person's needs can only be met by two or more agencies working together.
  • the assessor is seeking to have a conversation that could lead to the identification of how to help the family by providing further information, advice, and guidance without the need for referral to Suffolk County Council, Early Help.

Returning a completed common assessment form

Complete this part of the assessment where there are outcomes you are going to need help to achieve.

Request for service from Early Help

If you send your assessment to Suffolk County Council (SCC) Children and Young People’s Services it will be considered by the CAF Triage Team who will recommend next steps.

If further information is needed a triage officer will be in contact with the assessor directly. Please reply to the triage team as soon as possible to avoid delay. If the triage team do not hear back from you within 10 working days we may not be able to proceed with your assessment.

The triage officers will also still contact you with further advice if it is not appropriate for the SCC Early Help or Health and Children’s Centre Teams to support the plan.

You should not use the CAF when:

  • the child or young person's needs are known and are being met by your service
  • you fully understand the child's additional needs and they can be met by referral to a single agency
  • the child's needs are already being addressed by a specialist agency such as Social Care or Youth Offending Service
  • the child's 'health and development is being significantly impaired' and is therefore a child 'in need'
  • you believe a child is suffering, or is at risk of "significant harm"



Seeking consent and sharing information

The CAF is a voluntary assessment process.

A child or young person and/or their parent or carer must give their consent at the start of the process in the full knowledge of what will happen to this information.

Once the assessment has been undertaken, the child or young person and/or their parent or carer must give their consent again for the information to be stored and shared with other services.

The Fraser Competency is used to consider the ability of children and young people under the age of 16 to give informed consent. 

Refusal to give consent

If a parent or young person refuses consent with a particular service or agency, information must not be shared unless not sharing information will result in:

  • harm to the child/young person
  • a crime being committed
  • a crime not being detected

The withholding of consent may cause a concern.

In such circumstances the practitioner will need to make a judgement 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 inter-agency safeguarding procedures for information on working with resistant families.

Information sharing

The CAF supports good practice in information sharing about the needs of children and young people as part of preventative services.

Therefore all sharing and storing of information complies with the Data Protection Act 1998.

All relevant information is available in the Information Sharing guide on the Department for Education website.

Returning a completed common assessment form

The completed CAF form should be sent in one of the following three ways. Please make sure to include the hand-written signed consent sheet (clear, scanned copies if using email), and the CAF form.

1.  Our preferred method: via email, using appropriate encryption to more information about using secure emails.

2.  Use your own Government Secure Intranet (GSI) email domain service. GSI domains include:


3.   If you cannot use one of the two email methods above, please send it by post to: CAF Administration, Suffolk County Council, 3rd Floor, Landmark House, 4 Egerton Road, Ipswich IP1 5PF

  • Important - The CAF form should be double-enveloped and the inner envelope must state "addressee only". Please send by Royal Mail Recorded 'Signed For' delivery

For more information, please contact CAF Admin directly on: 01473 263210

For queries regarding completing CAFs and submitting at this stage, please phone the number above and ask to speak to the Triage Team.

Resources for professionals

There are many resources available for practitioners, including:

The transfer of cases 'step-up step-down' policy (PDF, 189KB) details:

  • how a child or young person supported through the CAF process will continue to receive support as needs escalate to require children's social care intervention
  • the role of practitioners who are part of the family's network meeting as children's social care takes on the lead role with a child or young person
  • how a the family's network meeting model can be engaged by children's social care when they are bringing their support to an end

Signs of Safety and Wellbeing

The family's network meeting has been designed to enable the family and professionals to agree outcomes that the client/young person/family want to achieve. This follows 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.