Friday, March 12, 2010

10 days and counting until eCAF goes live

In a little reported statement from the Minister for Children, Young People and Families, Dawn Primarolo, yesterday, we learn that the latest Nu Labour 'cure it with a database' disaster, the electronic Common Assessment Framework (eCAF), is imminent.
"The Minister for Children, Young People and Families (Dawn Primarolo): I am announcing today progress in the implementation of the National electronic Common Assessment Framework system (National eCAF)
Many children and young people in England need support from a range of services because they have additional needs. The Common Assessment Framework (CAF), which came about as part of the Every Child Matters reforms, plays a crucial part in delivering this for them. The CAF is designed to help practitioners to assess the additional needs of children and young people when they emerge, and to work together to meet them. CAF is used only with the consent of children and young people, or their parents and carers as appropriate. Since its introduction in 2006 thousands of practitioners have been trained in the CAF and are now using it successfully in their day-to-day work.
CAF information is currently recorded using a paper format or on local systems. A new system to electronically enable the CAF, called National eCAF, will be made available from 22 March 2010 to a small group of early adopter organisations who have applied to take part in this scheme. They comprise four local authorities—Birmingham, Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire and Walsall, and two voluntary organisations—Barnardo’s and Kids. Information will be held on National eCAF, as with the CAF, only with the explicit consent of the child or young person, or their parents or carers as appropriate.
The security of National eCAF is of paramount importance. Only authorised, trained practitioners with enhanced Criminal Records Bureau checks will be able to use National eCAF; they will also need a token and a password to access the system.
We have worked closely with professionals and partner organisations on the development of National eCAF to date, and we will continue to do so as we develop the system further, and in the light of the experience of early adopter organisations.
For more information, please visit"
The CAF, remember, is the scheme under which any child in the UK can be labelled "at risk" for not consuming 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day. Whilst at the same time the government presides over a regime where immigrant children can be held in detention centres as long as the paperwork labels them as adults.  There surely has to be an opportunity here to have detained immigrant minors labelled as "at risk" from the authorities?

For a comprehensive insight into the issues with eCAF and its sister database calamity, ContactPoint, see the excellent Action on Rights for Children website and YouTube films.  From Terri Dowty at ARCH:
"If you’re still not sure what a CAF (‘Common Assessment Framework’) is, it’s a personal profiling tool to be used on children and their families when a child needs services. The Practitioners’ guide can be downloaded here (pdf) and we recommend that you scroll down to Annex D on p.71 to get an idea of the kind of information that is sought. That weasel word ‘appropriate’, designed to disguise subjective opinion as non-judgmental, makes 21 appearances, as when a practitioner is invited to consider whether the child has ‘age-appropriate friendships’ and ‘appropriate behaviour’, or whether parents offer ‘appropriate’ sensitivity, warmth, guidance and support.
And, yes, they are planning to put this information on a single, national database.
As for consent, we have been told repeatedly by those working in children’s services that, in practice, if you want services you had better agree to the CAF process. When it comes to who actually gives this ‘consent’, to quote from our research report on the subject:
The Government asserts in guidance that children in England can generally be presumed able to consent to the sharing of their personal and sensitive data from around the age of 12. Many local authorities repeat this advice. It has no basis in English law."

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