A tool used by Bristol Council’s children’s services builds on the potential of the common assessment framework by measuring the progress of early intervention work, writes Molly Garboden. (Pictured: Bristol Council commissioning manager Alison Findlay)
The mixed success of the common assessment framework (CAF) across the country could be due to councils not using it to its potential if Bristol Council’s experience is anything to go by.
The council has started using it, not only as an early intervention method, but also to provide feedback on which services have had the greatest impact on children and young people achieving goals.
It has developed a distance travelled tool (DTT) which is used alongside the CAF and records the progress of a case according to the needs of the child or young person and the services found to be most effective.
Although it has been in place for just 18 months, Annie Hudson, Bristol’s director of children’s services, says the tool has “already given us a positive picture about early intervention and prevention.
“Looking to the future, we know things are going to be tougher and the DTT is serving as a review of how we can become more efficient.”
Alison Findlay, Bristol’s area preventions commissioning manager, says many first CAF assessments are inaccurate and the tool was developed to measure the distance travelled between the assessment at the first review and the end of the intervention.
“We introduced the CAF in Bristol, and found that, although it’s a great tool for gathering information, it doesn’t provide any measures of the impact of the work that comes out of it,” says Findlay. “The DTT allows us to analyse services and show with hard data what has been the most effective.”
The DTT consists of a scoring system that can be applied to each of the 19 domains of the CAF. Service users rate their personal progress and then the effectiveness of services on scales ranging from zero to four. The system was developed by the Bristol children and young people’s services with charity Action for Children.
Scores are discussed with the child, young person or family when the CAF is initiated, before each three-monthly review meeting and at the close of a case. The lead professional re-scores each domain with the child, young person or family and they are used as the basis for discussion.
Another benefit is that children and young people can measure their progress and achievement. “We put the ratings data into the form of a wheel chart, which enables the young people to see their own progress,” says Findlay. “It helps them not focus on the things that have just happened. It gives a more measured approach, showing that, just because something’s gone wrong this week, it doesn’t mean that good things haven’t been happening as well. It provides that boost of longer term perspective, which can be difficult for some children and young people to grasp on their own.”
The tool is useful on a city-wide level, Findlay says, with data raising questions about why there has been greater improvement in some parts than others and between CAF domains.
Findlay points out that the tool is not technically difficult to design or deliver but Bristol has worked with the software designers to tailor it to its needs. Offering training and support to practitioners has also been key and they have learned to moderate at agreed intervals to ensure that scoring is consistent.
Child or young person
0 No issues (evidence that the child or young person is achieving outcomes without support)
1 Minor issues (evidence that the child or young person needs occasional support to consistently achieve outcomes)
2 Moderate issues (evidence that the child or young person needs regular support to achieve outcomes)
3 Significant issues (evidence there is still a serious impact on the child or young person’s well-being)
4 Critical and complex issues (evidence of continued and extreme impact on the child or young person’s well-being despite support)
0 No issues (evidence the young person has no issues with services)
1 Minor issues (evidence the service user has minor concerns, ie access to services)
2 Moderate issues (evidence the service user is having consistent problems with services)
3 Significant issues (evidence of lack of engagement with services)
4 Critical and complex issues (evidence of serious lack of engagement with services)
This article is published in the 22 July issue of Community Care magazine under the heading Framework aid goes the distance