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How do practitioners in the early years use the Common Assessment framework: an evaluation

1 November 2007 - 28 March 2008

Researcher/s: Professor Brahm Norwich

Co-investigators: Professor Elizabeth Wood

Research partners: Devon County Council

Funding awarded to Exeter £ 3,450

Sponsor(s): Children's Workforce Development Council (CWDC)

About the research

The Every Child Matters (DfES, 2003), and the National Service Framework (DoH, 2003) policy agendas have brought inter-professional collaboration to the fore of Children’s Services in the UK. The recent development of the Common Assessment Framework (CAF) is a central part of the Every Child Matters strategy and the National Service Framework. The CAF is a shared assessment tool that aims to provide a standardised approach for use across all children’s services, thus supporting coordinated provision. This study investigated practitioners’ past experiences and future expectations of using the CAF, in Early Years Children’s Centres across Devon. Ten practitioners and five centre managers were interviewed. Participants were asked to rate their agreement on a likert scale with a series of statements on inter-professional working in the CAF process, and these responses were used to explore feelings about and experiences of the process. Perceived strengths of the process included: benefits for families, such as empowerment, improved communication and understanding; and benefits for practitioners such as facilitating good practice in inter-agency working, and aiding professional learning. Anxieties expressed by participants about the process included: increased workload; use of technology; and the need for strategic support. Three key learning points that arose from the study included the need to change “hearts and minds” of all practitioners at all levels of involvement; the need for earlier involvement of all relevant agencies in the process; and the need for a better understanding of other professionals’ roles.