Thursday, 15 December 2011

Bye, bye eCAF

I was pleased to read in Children and Young People Now that the Government has decided to scrap the eCAF system – a national electronic database of so-called ‘common assessments’.

I was never convinced by the Common Assessment Framework, an approach to assessing children in need which meant more than 300,000 child care workers could complete a complex and bureaucratic form setting out concerns about a particular child.

Common assessment was designed by bureaucrats, politicians and by committees. If the same approach had been taken to designing a mobile phone it would weigh two kilograms and have a battery life of 10 minutes! And worst of all the truly dreadful form pushes those completing the assessment to make judgements that they may often not be in a position to make. So the quality of the assessments is likely to be highly variable.

I have never seen a scientifically conducted audit of the quality of common assessments. Nor have I ever seen persuasive evidence of their effectiveness, although the last government did not hold back from singing their praises, based on little or no evidence. I think that they are a poorly thought out idea that has had its day.

So I have no compunction at all in welcoming the abolition of the electronic database that was designed to hold the assessments. Not only does such a system risk widening access to sources of data that are far from being dependable, it actively risks breaches of security that might damage the interests of children and young people and their families.