The Common Assessment Framework (CAF) was developed as part of the Every Child Matters initiative and is a key part of delivering frontline services that are integrated and focused around the needs of children and young people. The CAF is a standardised approach to conducting an assessment of a child's additional needs and deciding how those needs should be met. It can be used by practitioners across children's services in England.
The CAF will promote more effective, earlier identification of additional needs, particularly in universal services. It is intended to provide a simple process for a holistic assessment of a child's needs and strengths, taking account of the role of parents, carers and environmental factors on their development. Practitioners will then be better placed to agree, with the child and family, about what support is appropriate. The CAF will also help to improve integrated working by promoting co-ordinated service provision.
Q: What is the Common Assessment Framework (CAF)?
A: The CAF is a shared assessment tool for use across all children’s services and all local
areas in England. It aims to help early identification of need and promote co-ordinated
Q: What does the Common Assessment Framework consist of?
A: 1. A simple pre-assessment checklist to help practitioners decide who would benefit from
a common assessment.
2. A three-step process (prepare, discuss, deliver) for undertaking a common
assessment, to help practitioners gather and understand information about the needs
and strengths of the child, based on discussions with the child, their family and other
practitioners as appropriate.
3. A standard form to help practitioners record, and, where appropriate, share with
others, the findings from the assessment in terms that are helpful in working with the
family to find a response to unmet needs.
Q: Why do we need common assessments?
A: There are four important reasons:
• To give all practitioners working with children and young people a holistic tool for
identifying a child’s needs before they reach crisis point and a shared language for
discussing and addressing them.
• To ensure important needs are not overlooked and reduce the scale of assessments
that some children and young people undergo.
• To provide a common structure to record information and facilitate information sharing
• To provide evidence to facilitate requests to involve other agencies, reducing
unnecessary referrals and enabling specialist services to focus their resources where
they are most needed.
Q: What will the common assessment involve?
A: The assessment process encourages practitioners to consider the needs of the child or
young person in three key areas (‘domains’):
Development of child, baby or young person
- general health
- physical development
- speech, language and communications development
• Emotional and social development
• Behavioural development
• Identity, including self-esteem, self-image and social presentation
• Family and social relationships
• Self-care skills and independence
- understanding, reasoning and problem solving
- participation in learning, education and employment
- progress and achievement in learning
Parents and carers
• Basic care, ensuring safety and protection
• Emotional warmth and stability
• Guidance, boundaries and stimulation
Family and environmental factors
• Family history, functioning and well-being
• Wider family
• Housing, employment and financial considerations
• Social & community factors and resources, including education
The CAF has been developed by combining the underlying model of the Framework for
the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families with the main elements used in
other assessment frameworks.
Q: Which children and young people is CAF for?
A: Most children will not need a CAF. CAF is for children and young people with additional
needs. These are children and young people who, according to the judgement of
practitioners, require extra support to help them achieve the five Every Child Matters
- being healthy
- staying safe
- enjoying and achieving
- making a positive contribution
- achieving economic well-being
Q: Who will carry out the assessment?
A: It is expected that the majority of common assessments will be undertaken or arranged by
practitioners in universal services such as early years settings (for example children’s
centres), schools and health settings. These services are best equipped to identify
possible needs in their early stages. Common assessments, particularly in the context of
extended schools, will help schools tackle, along with other services, a broader range of
social and behavioural issues acting as a barrier to learning and attainment. Similarly, in
health, common assessments will help midwives and health visitors take a broad view of
the issues affecting unborn and new born infants, as part of the national child health
promotion programme; practitioners will apply these principles to older children and young
people in other settings, such as health drop-ins in schools and further education
colleges. The police will also have an important role in identifying children with additional
needs and arranging for common assessments.
However all practitioners working with children and young people should have an
awareness of the CAF and either know how to complete a common assessment
themselves or know how to arrange to have one carried out. Everyone working with
children should be aware of the sorts of situations that indicate the need for a common
Q: When should a common assessment be carried out?
A: A common assessment can be done at any time – on unborn babies, new babies, and
children or young people. It is designed for use when:
• There is concern about how well a child (or unborn baby) or young person is
progressing (this includes particularly vulnerable children and young people such as
persistent truants and young runaways)
• Their needs are unclear, or broader than a service can address on its own
• A common assessment would help identify the needs, and provide a basis for
getting other services involved
The pre-assessment checklist can be used to help identify if a common assessment
should be completed. The decision about whether to do an assessment should be made jointly with the child and or parent. Children should always be encouraged to discuss the assessment with their parents. If the child is old enough and competent to understand, they may make their
Q: Is it the intention of Government that all CAF forms should be exactly the same across the
UK or would it be possible to make some local adjustments?
A: The development of the CAF form involved relevant government departments as well as
practitioners, local authority managers and other stakeholders and has been cleared by
Ministers -it is preferred that no changes are made to the form although the addition of the
local logo is permissible.
Q: What is the process that should be followed to carry out a common
A: Step 1: Preparation
This involves recognising potential needs and then discussing the situation with the child,
involving parents or carers unless this is not appropriate. The practitioner may talk to their
manager, colleagues, or others – possibly those already involved with the child. It is
important to find out whether a common assessment already exists. After reviewing the
existing information a practitioner decides whether to undertake a common assessment
with the agreement of the child and or family as appropriate.
Step 2: Discussion
This involves completing the assessment with the child and family, making use of
information already gathered from the child, family or other practitioners, and completing a
consent statement. At the end of the discussion the practitioner should understand better
the child’s strengths, needs, and what can be done to help.
Step 3: Delivery
This involves agreeing actions that the practitioner’s service or the family can deliver, and
considering what may be needed from other services. According to local practice,
decisions may be made through meetings with other practitioners and the family, and the
appointment of one practitioner as lead professional where integrated support is required.
Note: the CAF does not give a practitioner the ability to guarantee a service from another
organisation without consulting that organisation.
Q: Will the CAF produce records of unnecessary information about children and their
A: The CAF is about trying to understand a child’s needs in a holistic way, rather than
through lots of different assessments that are not linked. This is in order to provide them
with a quality service. It is not about information gathering for its own sake. Common
assessment, in line with established good practice for assessment, will operate with the
full knowledge and involvement of the child or young person or their parent or carer.
Q: What are the benefits of a CAF?
A: Potential benefits include:
• Quicker service provision to children and families - as a result of more appropriate
referrals to specialist services
• Better service provision to children, young people and families - due to the CAF
looking at the whole child rather than the needs of the child from the perspective of
one particular agency
• Less repetition and duplication for children, young people and families - due to the
CAF information being shared, with consent, between practitioners
• Better understanding and more effective communication amongst practitioners -
due to the promotion of a common language around the CAF
• Timesaving for practitioners - who will be able to build on existing CAF information
rather than collecting it themselves from scratch
Q: What is the CAF’s relationship with specialist assessments?
A: CAF will replace the assessment aspects of the Connexions Framework for Assessment,
Planning and Review. Other assessments such as universal checks and targeted
assessments (for children in need; those with special educational needs etc.) will remain in
However, the CAF may be appropriate to be used before, or in conjunction with a
specialist assessment to help understand and articulate the full range of a child’s needs. It
can help ensure that the referral to a specialist service is relevant and can build up a
comprehensive picture of needs, rather than a series of partial snapshots.
Q: What is the relationship between the CAF, the lead professional and information sharing?
A: The CAF, the lead professional and information sharing are all essential for the effective
provision of integrated services to children and families;
• The CAF provides a process for identifying needs and bringing services together to
meet those needs more swiftly and effectively
• Where a range of needs are identified that require an integrated response, the lead
professional co-ordinates these actions and acts as a single point of contact for the
child and family
• Effective information sharing then helps practitioners work together to deliver a
coherent and relevant service to the child and family
Q: Can a parent or carer initiate a CAF?
A: If a parent or carer would like to initiate a CAF, they should discuss this with someone
currently providing a service to them. This may be a health visitor, a doctor, or someone
Local services are responsible for determining how they use CAF, and there is no
entitlement to receive one on demand. If, after talking to a practitioner, the individual
wanted to discuss further what is happening locally, they would need to contact their local
authority’s children’s services department.