Background to CASA

The Common and Shared Assessment for children and young people is one of the elements in the delivery of integrated frontline services and consists of the following:

  • A common process to enable practitioners to undertake a Common Assessment, facilitating early identification of need and providing evidence to support a coordinated action plan for earlier intervention, support and appropriate service provision. Merton's CASA Process Flow Chart outlines this process
  • Standard CASA templates which are used to record the assessment

supported in Merton by

to help decide who would benefit from a Common and Shared Assessment.

In 2013, Merton introduced the Common and Shared Assessment (CASA) to replace the Common Assessment Framework (CAF): this is Merton’s tool for early help assessment at MWBM Universal Level (blue), as well as for coordinating the less complex early help provision (green) at MWBM Enhanced Level.  One difference of CASA from that of former CAF use is that, for the more complex early help cases (amber) at MWBM Enhanced Level, coordination is now undertaken by a Social Worker using Children Social Care’s Single Assessment as tool.

Implementation of the CASA continues to help agencies meet the obligations set by Sections 10 and 11 of the Children Act 2004, which creates a duty on all agencies to co-operate to improve well-being and make arrangements to safeguard and promote the welfare of children up to the age of 18, (or up to 25 for children with disabilities). OFSTED inspects the effectiveness and coherence of all assessment arrangements, including that for early help, across children’s services in local areas.

The Common and Shared Assessment is designed to help practitioners draw conclusions about the level of additional need identified as a result of their contact with a child or young person. It aims to help workers by guiding through their information gathering process, and subsequent assessment analysis of this, in order to ‘grade’ the needs they have identified and decide whether this can be addressed within their own agency, or will need a joint action plan involving one or more other agencies. By adopting a single agreed record sharing process which remains consistent with the former national CAF, the CASA facilitates integrated working across all agencies, as well as across all borders, while also reducing duplication and unnecessary intrusion into family life

The key Common and Shared Assessment (CASA) aims are:

  • A standard approach to assessing a child or young person’s needs for support and how this should be met. CASA provides a common framework for initial needs assessment that can be used by the whole children’s workforce for any child or young person in need of support.
  • Assessment to support earlier intervention - The CASA aims to enable practitioners whose job involves working with children and young people to be alert to their general well-being so as to identify additional needs earlier and provide early help before things ever need reach crisis point.
  • Improve joint working and communication between practitioners by helping to embed a common language of assessment, need and a more consistent view as to the appropriate response. When used by all agencies, it will help aid consistency and understanding towards more effective working. It is particularly suitable for use in universal services (such as early childhood services, schools and universal health care) to tackle problems before they become serious.
  • Support the sharing of information – The CASA aims to enable a picture of a child or young person’s needs and strengths to be built up over time and, with appropriate consent (unless there are exceptional circumstances), shared among professionals. It enables information to follow the child, such as when they change schools or move home (subject to controls to protect confidentiality). The CASA aims to provide an evidence based, non-bureaucratic ‘whole child’ assessment, drawing on good practice, and enabling the practitioner to make a decision about how far they themselves can meet the needs and who else needs to be involved.
  • Rationalise assessments – CASA aims to improve the coordination and consistency between assessments, leading to fewer and shorter specialist assessments. It will also inform decisions about whether further specialist assessment is required or, where necessary, provide information to contribute to this. Some children (such as those with complex disabilities and SEN) will appropriately be known to a wide range of agencies. The issue is how the multiple professional inputs and assessment arrangements can best be co-ordinated or integrated to avoid duplication wherever possible.
  • Better referrals – CASA aims to enable better, more evidence-based referrals to targeted and specialist services where appropriate. For non-case holding practitioners with child protection concerns, Merton’s dedicated Child Protection form may be more appropriate for referrals to Merton MASH. However, where already available, the more holistic information provided on a CASA can always be used to either replace or support the above dedicated Child Protection Referral form.  By allowing the CASA, as an early assessment tool, to dovetail with existing specialist and/or statutory assessments, this in turn leads both to a rationalisation of assessments and to an improvement in the quality of referrals between services.

The Principles underlying the approach to the CASA are:

  • A process supported by a standard form – The CASA process offers the opportunity to have a discussion with a child, young person and/or their parents/carers, to identify and agree needs and strengths. The CASA form provides a standard template to record the outcomes from the discussion, which can be shared with others so that support can be provided as early and effectively as possible. The CASA is not about the filling in of forms – the forms just support the process and are a means to an end – not an end in themselves.
  • Holistic – The CASA looks at the whole child, not just from the perspective of the policy focus and statutory obligations of a particular service. Each child or young person is different and unique and their needs and strengths should be considered as such. The CASA is not intended to impinge on professional practice, but rather to ensure that a sufficiently wide view is consistently taken, and that the language, process and output of assessment is more easily accessible to practitioners from other agencies, as well as to children, young people and their families themselves.
  • Focused on strengths as well as needs and understands the role of parents/carers and a wide range of family and environmental factors on child development. Merton CASA format particularly encourages the recording of strengths as well as needs. It is important that this is reflected in the use of language. e.g. ‘She attends school regularly, which is a really positive move forward, but needs support to get there on time’ rather than ‘Her punctuality is poor’.
  • Empowering for families and a joint process as it is completed in partnership with children, young people and/or families at all stages, where possible enabling them to take the lead, and ensuring they have a copy of all the relevant records.
  • Completing a CASA cannot guarantee service provision (especially those involving another agency) since resources for services are finite though, if not available, alternative sources of support to meet the child’s identified need would continue to be sought. Practitioners cannot make recommendations for the delivery of a service from another agency but they can consult with them and ensure all relevant information for such referral is shared on the CASA form. Referee and referrer work together throughout to ensure appropriate support is gained towards ensuring positive outcomes for the child or young person. Gaps between needs and responses are monitored and fed into Merton commissioning and strategy discussions (see MWBM: CASA Quality Assurance Section).
  • Plain simple English – The CASA is not a complex or specialist assessment and does not need technical terms. Everyday English is all that is needed. As well as being understood by all other practitioners, it should also be easily understandable by the child or young person and /or their parent or carer. The Common Assessment will be carried out with, and copied to, the young person, child or their family. Additional support may need to be provided where literacy and or language skills prevent access to the CASA records. It will also be important to provide copies of the CASA and relevant documents in accessible formats; this could include Braille for those with visual impairments or ‘easy read’ formats for those with learning disabilities. It might also be appropriate to provide translation services and BSL interpreters.
  • Free from jargon and with acronyms explained – Jargon should be avoided. Practitioners will need to check that certain terms they use as a matter of course are not considered to be jargon by others. Acronyms should be avoided but where they are used should be explained the first time they are referred to.
  • Phrased in collaborative and positive terms – Practitioners should use language that emphasises the CASA as a collaborative process – for example assessment is ‘with’ not ‘on’ children, young people and their families. Practitioners should always use supportive terms rather than judgemental or blaming terms, for example ‘We can work together to help him improve his behaviour’ rather than ‘He has a behaviour problem that must to be sorted out’.