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Common Assessment Framework (CAF)

This page explains the common assessment framework and how to complete an assessment for a Dorset child/young person.

What is a Common Assessment Framework (CAF)?

It's a process that brings together a range of professionals to work with children, young people and families who need extra support.

If you're already working with a child or young person and their family - and you all agree that a wider range of support is required - the CAF can help you bring together different professionals and create an action plan to make sure the family gets all the help they need. It's a voluntary process, and consent must be given by the child and/or family concerned. Please note that without written consent, a CAF cannot be undertaken - it is your duty to make families aware of how their data will be shared and used. By starting the online assessment, you are confirming that you have written consent from the child/family.

Is a common assessment needed?

Sometimes it can be difficult to know when a problem can be dealt with by your own organisation, or whether other agencies should be brought in.

Your first port of call should be to look at the Dorset Safeguarding Children Board's Threshold Tool. It will help you identify issues at an early stage and make sure families receive the right support at the right time, which will hopefully stop problems from escalating. The tool helps you set goals with the family, track progress and decide when a common assessment, or a referral to children's social care, is needed. If at any stage, you feel there is a significant risk or likelihood of significant harm, you should be talking to the integrated duty team for advice.

The common assessment process

If you and the family agree that help from other agencies is the best way forward, you should start the common assessment process. It can be completed by any professional and involves these three steps:

Step 1: Gather information and identify what support is needed

The online common assessment form will help you record all your information, gather your thoughts - as well as the family's - and outline the particular areas of support you think are needed.

Login support

Complete common assessment form

Step 2:  Create a Team Around the Family (TAF) and an action plan

You then need to arrange a meeting between all the relevant professionals and the family concerned (known as a Team Around the Family - TAF) to agree a plan of action and who is responsible for specific areas of work. You will also need to decide who will be the lead professional, as they will co-ordinate the work and act as the main contact. The action plan is then followed to give the family all the support they need and prevent further problems from occurring. Read more about the role of lead professionals and TAF.

Step 3:  Make sure the plan is working

The online plan should be reviewed regularly to make sure the family is making good progress and see if any changes need to be made. Once everyone is confident that both the child and family are on the right track, goals are being met and future problems are unlikely to occur, you can then consider whether a TAF is still needed. If the TAF is not needed, then you should complete the closure and outcome summary.

Advice and guidance

We hope the threshold tool and  training will help you make sure a child receives the right support at the right time.

Future developments

We are also planning to form a multi-agency group for you to tell us how Dorset 's CAF process can be improved, so we can make sure we give you a relevant set of guidance and tools that are easy to use.

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