Today I have been on the second day of a CAF (Common Assessment Framework) course. A CAF, or fCAF (family CAF) as we now have to use enables all of the children’s needs to be addressed in a common forum; one form that pulls together all of the information that you could possibly want. The child (or children) are at the centre of the process and information is collected on everything from their family make up, health issues, behaviour, housing and their aspirations. If a child is too young to contribute themselves then a parent can talk on their behalf.
fCAFs are completed with the full knowledge of the parents – in fact if a parent doesn’t agree then the form can’t be completed. All of the actions on the action plan are agreed with the parents, the targets are/ should be SMART and everyone agrees them. It is a good system, a review date is set normally 6 – 12 weeks in the future.
Today we sat and watched a film about a fictional family (based upon a true story). A 9 year old boy, his 3 year old sister and a baby had moved from their homeless hostel to a new house. Dad had now left, there had been DV, mum was a reformed heroin addict and had been in prison, whilst she was in prison the boy was sexually abused, the mum had recently been diagnosed with MS. The boy was now a young carer and a head teacher reported that he was a happy boy, very sensitive, cried a lot and had anger issues BUT he’d only been in school 2 1/2 days in September. The film was stopped at several points and we had to discuss a variety of things. Many of us thought that the children were being neglected and that actually a fCAF was not the answer at this point but social care advice should be sought. The social workers amongst us said no.
We got to planning 3 of the actions for the boy (with SMART targets!) and I said the child needed to be in school. Health said that education was a minor priority, I said education was a legal requirement and under the UN Convention for Rights of the Child (which Britain has signed) ‘Every child has the right to an education’. Social care people said the child did not have to go to school as he was a protective factor at home and that was more important… The discussion went on.
We watched more film, the conditions for this poor family deteriorated. More people said perhaps actually social care should be called. This was fCAF training so we continued along this route (whilst recommending access to food vouchers, young carers and an increased attendance at school). The form was completed and we watched the end of the film. The people in the film had no (apparent) budgetary restrictions and everyone lived happily ever after.
It would have been interesting (and tragic) to have dealt with this in real life – we are all meant to be doing the best for the child and working as a team is a good way forward but money seems to be a major factor and most agencies seem to have no money. I think we all need to remember that when we do these forms real children from real families with very real problems are involved and despite our different perspectives they are the ones we are trying to help.