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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.