LSCBLocal Safeguarding Children Board Northamptonshire

New Early Help Assessment replaces CAF

Northamptonshire County Council and its partners are making a transition from Common Assessment Framework to Early Help Assessment. The transition period for moving from the Common Assessment Framework (CAF) to the new Early Help Assessment (EHA) runs from 1 June to 30 October 2015.

What is Early Help Assessment or EHA?

EHA is a simple way to help identify needs of children and families and make a plan to meet those needs. It is designed to be a shared tool which can be used by all agencies in Northamptonshire who are delivering early help. It is a standardised approach so that all children and families have the same experience of exploring their needs, strengths and challenges.

EHA replaces the Common Assessment Framework (CAF). EHA principles are the same as the CAF, but because it is more simple and straightforward it should be much easier for you and families to use.

The EHA is a fundamental part of Northamptonshire’s early help pathway – you can find this here

Why are we making this change?

You told us that while the principle of a CAF is sound, the process of completing one is time consuming and complex. Northamptonshire’s CAF paperwork is often not user friendly and the various ‘asks’ for recording are cumbersome. As a result, the number of CAFs in Northamptonshire remains stubbornly low.

This is a challenge to all of us, as we need to get services and interventions to families when they need them and before needs escalate. This is preventable, and we want the new EHA to help stop this happening.

We have listened carefully to this feedback, and have designed a new process and form to better meet your needs. A multi-agency group of partners worked together on the new EHA form. They looked at what worked well with the current CAF, and reviewed example of EHAs from high performing early help local areas across the country. The result is the new EHA form available here:

Nationally, many local areas have already made the transition from CAF to EHA, and we have taken the time to learn ‘what works’ before starting this process here in Northamptonshire.

We have tested the EHA with a range of partners to make sure it works before it is launched. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and constructive.

When is this change happening?

The new EHA is going live from 1 June 2015. But we know that making a change will take time. There will be a transition period from 1 June to 30 October 2015 so we all have time to get used to the new system.

When should I start using the EHA?

All new assessments started from 1 June 2015 should be done on the new EHA form. Any existing CAFs can continue on the old paperwork for now but all families should be moved to the EHA system by 30 October 2015. 

The CAF form and action plan will no longer be available online from 1 June 2015.

Who will use the EHA?

All professionals working with children, young people and families should be able to use and complete an EHA. 

Who is the EHA for?

The EHA can be used to support children and young people between 0–19 years, including unborn babies and can also be used with consent up to the age of 24 where a young person has a learning difficulty or disability.

It does not replace any social care assessment or EHC processes for children with disabilities or additional needs.

Where can I find the EHA?

You can find the EHA, the EHA handbook and all associated documents online at

Any colleagues without web access should contact the Early Help Support Service for copies 0300 126 1000 (option 1 then option 2) or email

What’s different about EHA?

The main differences you will see between the EHA and the CAF are:

  • It is shorter – it should take you less time to complete
  • It is more straightforward – because it is an easier form, this means we can get services and interventions to families quicker
  • It is for the family
  • It is conversational – instead of a rigid set of questions, it allows you and the family to explore issues together
  • It is strengths based – the form allows you and a family to work out what they do well as well as their challenges
  • It is focussed on ‘change’ – by being solution focussed, it allows you and the family to really pinpoint what will make a difference in their lives

What EHA paperwork is there?

There is:

  1. The EHA form
  2. An EHA action plan
  3. An EHA review form
  4. An EHA closure form

You should never need any more than those four pieces of paper.

How much of the EHA is available to complete online?

All forms relating to the EHA are available to download at . Submitting forms will all be managed through an online form which is available via the link.

Do I still need to submit an EHA like I submitted a CAF?

Yes, but only the EHA and action plan. You told us having to start a CAF intent and then log a CAF didn’t work for you. We listened to this, and made changes to better meet your needs. From 1 June 2015 all you have to do is submit your EHA and any action plan that comes out of it. You should also submit an EHA closure form when you finish working with the family.

Do I still need consent to do an EHA like I did with the CAF?

Yes, you do need written consent from the family or the young person.

What about Team around the Family?

The Team around the Family process continues and you can still make use of it when you need other professionals and services to help you help a family.

What about the Complex Case Process?

The Complex Case Process continues and you can still make use of it if an early help assessment or work with the family seems to be ‘stuck’.

What about safeguarding procedures?

As always, if you are concerned that a child is suffering, or is at risk of suffering, significant harm, you must follow your organisations safeguarding procedures and contact the MASH on 0300 216 1000 (option 1 then option 3). Doing an EHA is not sufficient in these circumstances.

What training or further information on the EHA will be available?

There is an EHA handbook available that walks step by step through the process. This is available here

EHA clinics will be held in each locality during June, July and September 2015. These will be run by you local Early Help Coordinator. Further details will be sent to you shortly.
You can also request a clinic session for groups of staff. Email to put in a request.

If you need help, advice, information or guidance at any time about the EHA or any part of the early help system, you can contact the Early Help Support Service on 0300 126 1000 (option 1 then option 2) or email  

Last updated: 02 June 2015

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