Councils are shying away from implementing the common assessment framework (CAF) because in some areas it has resulted in increased referrals to already beleagued care services.
Errol Albert, a former social worker and now consultant from iMPOWER working with councils to implement prevention strategies, told a fringe session at the National Children's and Adults Service conference in Harrogate that many of the councils he had worked with had been "panicked" by the number of children in need picked up by the CAF.
"The problem is that with increased awareness on how to recognise need, particularly around neglect, the knock-on effect is that referrals go up. Councils need to ensure their referral and initial assessment processes are functioning well to address this issue. CAF is great but the rest of the system just isn't geared up to deal with what's coming out of the CAF process."
He said that because the CAF was not a statutory requirement, authorities could decide whether or not they wanted to use it.
"Unfortunately there also isn't any research or guidance yet on what statutory assessment procedures local authorities can ditch if they use the CAF. The whole purpose of the CAF was to try and reduce the assessment burden and get greater inter-agency working but that's not happening at the moment."
Sue Rossiter, chief executive of the National Foundation for Educational Research, told the session that research was needed on the scale of the increase although some councils had recorded rises as much as 30% even before the Baby Peter case hit the headlines in November 2008.
"The impact of CAF and greater integration between chidlren's services does seem to be bigger caseloads," she said.
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