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Common Assessment Framework

For the majority of children and young people, high quality universal services will be sufficient to meet their needs and enable them to achieve the five outcomes set out in Every Child Matters.  These services, which are provided for all children - for example through health visitors, early years providers, children's centres, schools, colleges, Connexions and the voluntary sector - have an important contribution to make in promoting well-being and preventing problems.

However, the experiences and circumstances of some children and young people will affect their capacity to thrive and reach their full potential. These children and young people may require support over and above that provided by universal services. This group of children and young people are sometimes called children with additional needs.

The Common Assessment Framework (CAF) 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 assessments of children's additional needs and deciding how these should be met. It is used by practitioners across children's services and it is designed for use with children of all ages.  The CAF promotes more effective, earlier identification of additional needs. It aims to provide a simple process for a holistic assessment of children's needs and strengths; taking account of the roles of parents, carers and environmental factors on their development. Practitioners are then better placed to agree with children and families about appropriate modes of support.

The CAF aims to:

  • To build up a picture of a child's additional needs at an early stage
  • Sharing information between agencies about these children provides a mechanism for planning in collaboration with partners and with the family how to meet identified needs
  • It will enable children to receive preventative and targeted services at the earliest opportunity, and provide appropriate practical solutions with minimum intrusion into family life.  
  • Improve communication and integrated working between practitioners supporting a child or young person (including communication between a young person and adult services)
  • Improve decisions about whether further specialist assessment is required and, if necessary, provide better, more evidence based information to targeted and specialist services to contribute to their assessments


The assessment places the child at the centre of all activity and requires family members to be fully involved in the process.

Services require appropriate consent from family members before undertaking any work using the model.