The Pan London CAF (Common Assessment Framework) Protocol

The Pan London CAF Protocol 2009 represents an agreement between all London local authorities and partners delivering children’s services, which aims to reinforce fundamental Early Help principles of being alert to promoting a child or young person’s well being...

  • by having a standard national approach and process for ...
  • early, holistic, identification of a child or young person’s additional needs, leading to ...
  • multi-agency consultation and engagement, as appropriate, to ...
  • assess and evaluate information gathered, leading to ...
  • agreed actions, with timescales, of a ...
  • solution focused response, which ...
  • involves and empowers the child or young person (and their family where appropriate) throughout, helped by ...
  • consistent recording process to an agreed format which promotes ...
  • use of a common non-specialist language which everybody can understand and ...
  • facilitates effective information sharing across all agencies whether universal, specialist or statutory by ...
  • replacing or interfacing directly with agency specific assessment recording formats ...

in situations where some responses may need to be accessed via services not in their authority of residence. The Pan London CAF Protocol agrees cross-border standards of responses to all children, young people and families with identified additional needs in these cross-border situations.

The Pan London CAF Protocol details systems and processes to support the delivery of cross borough wrap around services for mobile children and young people. It aims to enable organisations to trigger service delivery across authority boundaries.

Mobile Children and Young People

  • There may be times when a Common Assessment has been initiated in respect of a child or young person that might involve practitioners delivering services across geographical boundaries, e.g. a child lives in one local authority area but attends school or nursery or uses health or leisure services in a different local authority area.
  • There may also be occasions when a Common Assessment is initiated by a practitioner in one authority and the child/young person moves to another area part way through the process.

Gaps in collaboration, information sharing, and the lack of synchronicity in the Common Assessment models used within the Children’s sector in different local authorities (with different approaches to thresholds, processes and quality) can lead to children and young people experiencing a poor journey through the plethora of services, with them no longer being at the heart of the engagement or intervention. For those already socially excluded, mobility can worsen the effects of their exclusion.

The principles of this protocol apply to any Early Help assessment frameworks in use in different local authorities: Merton already incorporated these principles in it’s Multi Agency Practitioner Handbook, the Merton Child and Young Person Well Being Model (MWBM), which now includes the Common and Shared Assessment (CASA) as Early Help assessment tool in Merton - )replacing CAF since April 2013).

Benefits arising out of the The Pan London CAF Protocol

The Implementation of the Protocol aims to ensure that:

  • the experience of mobile children and young people in respect of the Common Assessment process will be the same as for those where all services are delivered by the same authority
  • all practitioners working with children and young people in London will understand
    • how to engage with the Common Assessment process for mobile children, and
    • how to access cross border services

Practice and Principles underlying The Pan London CAF Protocol

An overarching aim of The Pan London CAF Protocol is the need to ensure a level of consistency during the Common Assessment process in response to Early Help needs. It is recognised that there will be different priorities, particularly around commissioning, service development and service provision, in different areas. However, in applying best practice Common Assessment principles, a child’s address should never be a barrier to a Common Assessment being initiated by any practitioner working to achieve positive outcomes for children, young people and their families.

Pan London CAF Protocol - Practice Standard 1

  • Cross Border Common Assessment checks: When a practitioner decides to initiate a Common Assessment they need to find out if one already exists (or if the child is known to statutory services). This could require checks to be made with several other authorities. A recommended process is that the local lead Early Help contact or team should undertake this task - in Merton this will be the Central CASA Team. Practitioners should not find the Common Assessment process more unwieldy for mobile children than for local children.
  • Initiating Authority’s Common Assessment form: When a practitioner undertakes a Common Assessment they should use the Common Assessment form provided by the authority that they are working / based in, regardless of where the child lives. Other services (in any local authority) should be happy to accept the form irrespective of the local version they use.
  • Cross Border Support Services: When a practitioner in one local authority identifies a cross-border issue, they may need support to identify appropriate services available in different authorities. They will contact the local lead Early Help contact in their own local authority (Central CASA Team in Merton) who will liaise with their counterpart in the other local authority to facilitate the process. Practitioners should not be expected to do this themselves. Once the initial contact has been established it may then be appropriate for practitioners from different local authorities to communicate directly with each other.

The development of effective specialist support packages for mobile pupils may frequently require authorities to negotiate support delivered in or by home authorities in partnership with the school of the mobile pupil.

  • The home authority would usually be called on to provide specialist services that are not accessible in the host authority. For example, funding for some specialist services will be restricted to the resident population or to where the family is registered with GP, such as CAMHS Tier 2 or above.
  • Or adopting a family based approach as most appropriate to supporting the child or young person to improve their outcomes may require cross border working.

There should be continued liaison as required between the practitioners from the two authorities for the duration of the Common Assessment episode.

Thresholds and funding for services vary so expectations of children, young people and parents need to be managed.

All services involved with the child should agree who is to be the Lead Coordinator. This could be from any service and does not have to be from the home authority.

Cross Border Common Assessment Flowchart.

Pan London CAF Protocol - Practice Standard 2

The London Continuum diagram for this Pan London CAF Protocol acts as the overarching guide to identifying additional needs for out-of-authority children, young people and families. MWBM Continuum readily maps with the London Continuum, and is the framework used by Merton practitioners.

Pan London CAF Protocol - Practice Standard 3

A Common Assessment should always be the primary tool used for out-of-authority children prior to specialist assessments. However, where discrepancies arise in local practice for cases of Child Protection, then practitioners must follow the London Child Protection Procedures.

Pan London CAF Protocol - Practice Standard 4

Systems and processes for securely sharing information across authority boundaries and services need to be clearly and consistently understood and adopted by practitioners. MWBM section on Secure Exchange offers an agreed good practice guide for sharing information securely with partner agencies and across authority boundaries.

Pan London CAF Protocol - Practice Standard 5

In signing up to the Pan London CAF Protocol all London authorities have agreed to abide by the DCSF Guidance on Information Sharing for Managers and Practitioners (Oct 2008). This applies to sharing information across all borders and services, and is outlined in MWBM section on Information Sharing.

Pan London CAF Protocol - Practice Standard 6

The use and application of the Common Assessment needs to be underpinned by a robust Quality Assurance Framework - ensuring that the Common Assessment is applied to a high and consistent standard in all environments. The Pan London CAF Quality Assurance Framework has been adapted for MWBM as outlined in MWBM - CASA Quality Assurance section.