CAF process leads to better outcomes - but challenges remain
15 April 2010
‘[the CAF] makes you think about the bigger picture...the most important thing is that the parents are there...with the CAF it’s great that everyone is around the table, everyone knows what is going on at every stage.’
‘Before [the CAF] with all the other agencies we were always going around the houses. I hoped it wasn’t going to be the same, luckily enough it’s been brilliant.’
The common assessment framework - CAF - process can support improved outcomes for children, young people and their families by ensuring that they receive appropriate and timely support, according to new research from the Local Authority Research Consortium (LARC). But challenges remain - more needs to be done to support early intervention and prevention, by embedding CAF processes in the work of integrated teams to deliver sustained improvements.
The research reflects the collective findings from projects in the 24 authorities that were part of the second project from LARC.
The CAF supports improved outcomes for children, young people and families by:
engaging them as equal partners in the process
ensuring consistency of the lead professional support, which helps families and professionals work together better
integrating all of the elements of the CAF process
ensuring multi-agency working and information sharing, which improves understanding of need and service provision
developing a better understanding of children and young people’s needs at the earliest possible stage.
Although the process was not always straightforward and the exact mechanism that led to an outcome not always clear, these five factors featured strongly in relation to successes in all 24 LAs.
The importance of engagement
‘I was glad that if there was a problem that I could go to her... she’s just so easy and she’s willing to give you all the information and help that you need... it just makes it so much easier when you're talking to someone and they’re not looking down at you or judging you.’
'He’s much better in terms of his behaviour... and now academically he’s moving forward. [CAF] has made a big difference.'
Families: All 24 authorities reported the importance of engaging children, young people and families fully in CAF episodes. The benefits included parents understanding their child’s needs, improved skills and parenting techniques, improved relationships between families and professionals and new opportunities for multi-agency professionals to work with parents.
However, the LAs identified a number of challenges, including trying to engage parents in the process when they were reluctant to talk to children's services departments.
Schools: involvement in CAF varied from partial to full engagement. Schools involved in the process gained a full understanding of the issues facing pupils outside the school setting and the support interventions put in place for them helped to improve pupils’ behaviour, attendance and willingness to learn.
The main challenges for schools related to the fact that the CAF process was seen by some senior leaders or staff as an ‘add on’ to the daily work of the school, with time, capacity and resource issues.
What makes the CAF work?
It is the combined features of the CAF process that lead to improved outcomes. Taken in isolation, each of its elements - holistic assessment, TAC model and meetings, lead professional role, engagement with families - has its own strengths (and weaknesses), but the strength of the combined aspects appears to be much greater.
However, there were examples of inconsistencies and confusion about the CAF process and there is a need for national support to uniformly implement and embed it and investigate its long term impact.
Where next for the CAF?
LARC2 suggests that, two years on from the first LARC report in May 2008, more progress has been made towards integrated ways of working. Recommendations relate to improving clarity around the CAF process at local and national level and its place in supporting early intervention.
NFER’s Geoff Gee said: "LARC members are already seeing benefits from engaging in this research as they develop their understanding of how to improve local practice. The summary report, published by NFER on behalf of LARC this week, adds to the emerging national picture of progress in developing the role of CAF in integrated working."
For more information contact Gail Goodwin, NFER Media and Communications Manager, on 01753 637159, email@example.com
Notes for editors
The local authority research consortium (LARC), established in 2007, is a group of local authorities using and conducting research to evaluate progress, to inform practice, share findings and make recommendations locally and nationally. Their work is supported by NFER, Research in Practice and the IDeA.
This summary reports the collective findings of the 24 authorities involved in the LARC2 project, which explored the effective integration between targeted and universal services looking at outcomes for children, young people and families using the Common Assessment Framework as a proxy.
Work on LARC3 is underway with the aim of reporting on value for money issues around the use of CAF in integrated working in autumn 2010.