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Assessment or referral tool: the unintended consequences of a dual purpose common assessment framework formThe Common Assessment Framework (CAF) was designed to facilitate early intervention through multi-agency working and the active involvement of families. The underlying principle was to move away from a risk-focused, needs-led or service-led culture to assess need and match needs to identified services. It was anticipated that services and assessments would become more evidence-based, and a common language between professionals and agencies would evolve. Taking a social constructionist approach this study explored professionals’ experiences of the use of the Common Assessment Framework form. Forty-one professionals from four different local authorities and a variety of agencies took part in semi-structured interviews. Data were analyzed utilizing thematic analysis. Findings suggest the unintended consequences of the use of the CAF were influenced by local authority policy. As the local authorities adopted the policy of utilizing the CAF as a referral mechanism, rather than to assess needs, profes-sionals unintentionally perceived the CAF form as a referral tool, to refer families to existing service provision. Further to this, professionals referred to the CAF form itself, as a ‘means to an end’, implying that this was a step that had to be overcome in order to access services.
The Common Assessment Framework form 9 years on: a creative processLegislation within England states that local authorities should provide services for all those families in need. However, research has identified that regardless of the introduction of strategies to identify need and enhance family support, ongoing barriers to services adhere. Taking a social constructionist approach, this study explored professionals' experiences of the use of the Common Assessment Framework form. Data were collected in four different local authorities in two phases. Forty‐one professionals from a variety of agencies took part in semi‐structured interviews. Data were analyzed thematically. Findings demonstrate that the professionals experienced difficulties in working through the Common Assessment Framework process, for example, in completing the form and engaging families. This situation led to the more experienced and knowledgeable professionals utilising creative ways to successfully navigate the ‘referral process’. Such creative working practices included the terminology used to complete the form and how the process was ‘sold’ to parents, so that they could be in a better position to engage parents and complete the Common Assessment Framework form. Because of this, more experienced professionals seem to be able to accelerate the referral process in order to access much needed support services for children and young people.