You could be forgiven for missing the announcement that the national eCAF database is going live, made in a written ministerial statement yesterday:
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.
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.