QAF frequently asked questions

QAF refresh

To ensure the QAF remains user-friendly we have prepared some examples of good practice & corresponding FAQs:

Using & evaluating the QAF

Is there an electronic version of the QAF available?

Staffordshire joint commissioning unit has developed an electronic QAF, which is currently being used in the West Midlands. Staffordshire have kindly stated that is free to use and share.

Is the scoring cumulative?

In order to score an A grade, you must demonstrate that you have met the minimum standards at level C and that your service takes in level B requirements and level A.

How useful is an overall score?

The scoring allows services and contracts teams to assess areas for improvement and to give an idea of where the service is. Using the scoring system is not mandatory.

How will you ensure that there is consistency in scoring levels A, B & C?

The implementation of the QAF is non-mandatory; authorities may choose to use it differently. However, page 5 of the QAF guidance provides a list of bullet points that demonstrate level A, B & C services. These should be used by contracts teams and providers to establish the level of the service.

Some authorities will only review one objective at a time, will they provide an overall score?

The scoring sheet allows an overall score for each objective that culminates in an overall service score if all objectives are scored.

How will the evidence examples at levels A & B be used?

The examples on the QAF core objectives form provide some examples. However they are only designed to be examples; if a provider carried out the examples they can be used however the examples are not designed to be a checklist. Therefore other examples can also be used.

Is there any guidance for cross-authority working?

There is no guidance available. However, there are examples of areas that are looking to have a cross-authority recognition of QAF levels. Check with your local authorities to see whether they are doing this.

How should evidence be submitted?

The Word form can be used to enter narrative concerning the standard. To demonstrate meeting standard A or B refer to the bullet points on page 5 of the guidance and assess whether the service meets these requirements. The Excel form should be used to submit scores.

Is there any guidance on what questions to ask clients & staff to validate against the QAF refresh?

Where the QAF states "Staff confirm or Clients confirm?", administering authorities should develop client & staff questions in relation to the desk top evidence submitted. More detailed suggestions are provided.

How will Sitra consult regarding updates?

We will approach members in regard to updates and welcome any comments from providers or commissioners.

C1.1 Assessment & Support Planning

Do support plans have to be written?

Support plans need to be recorded. However, a number of types of support plans can be produced, such as written support plans.

Do you have any examples of good support plans?

Support plans should be developed by providers in conjunction with clients to decide what works best for their clients. All support plans should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic & Time bound).

Stonham and St Mungo's have kindly shared their support planning tools:

NB all examples have been supplied by providers and commissioners of services. They are examples of practice and are to be used for reference. All documents are covered by copyright and are not to be reproduced without the authorisation of the submitting organisation. If you wish to use any of the information, please contact the noted organisation. 

Where these examples of practice have received an A grade in the QAF, decisions were made by the Administering Authority. The receipt of level A was based on a number of factors; the paper submission of evidence, interviews with clients and staff and service visits. NB the document did not achieve level A of the QAF, rather it was the implementation of the documentary evidence that demonstrated the deliverance of a level A service.

How do you work with a client where you idenitify a risk but they do not perceive a risk e.g. self harm?

It is important that providers allow clients to take appropriate risks. However, if the provider identifes a risk that is unrecognised by the client, then the client should be given the opportunity to state why they disagree. Additionally, any risk identified should be managed.

What is a person-centred plan?

In Using the QAF, person-centred plans are defined as follows:

"Person-centred planning has been most visible in social care services for people with learning disabilities, where a number of different care / support planning tools have been developed. Its underlying principles, however  independence, choice, control, equality and inclusion - are applicable to a much wider range of services. A person-centred approach regards the client as the expert on their own experience. It acknowledges and makes use of their strengths, values, aspirations, and preferences. The support plan that results may not be a document but a visual or oral plan such as a drawing, mind map or DVD that encapsulates what the person wants for themselves and how the service is supporting them to achieve this."

The Department of Health publication "Valuing People: A New Strategy for Learning Disability" for the 21st Century provides an explanation of how to produce a person-centred plan, the principles of which can be adapted for any client group.

C1.2 Security, Health & Safety

For very low-level support services, is there a need to provide out-of-hours contact information?

All services need to demonstrate what their out-of-hours arrangements are. If a client has no need for out-of-hours support (e.g. a home shopping service) this should be demonstrated in support meeting notes and the support plan.

Providing clients with a list of out-of-hours contacts (e.g. water & gas services, possibly crisis services) is good practice.

C1.3 Safeguarding & Protection

What is the difference between safeguarding and protection?

Safeguarding is everyone's responsibility whilst protection is a statutory responsibility.

Do all services need to safeguard and protect children?

Yes, however the level should be proportionate to the service and the risk identified. The QAF guidance provides four levels of services that work with children:

  1. Services where children are known to live (e.g. women's refuges and teenage parent accommodation)
  2. Services where children may live
  3. Services where children may visit (this is most services)
  4. Services where children neither live nor visit but clients still have access to them

Providers need to show how they would alert the social services if there was a child protection issue and how they would manage it internally. Services are not expected to lead on child protection investigations but should demonstrate their alerting procedure and what is in place to safeguard and protect children.

If there have been no safeguarding issues, how do you prove you have met the standard?

A service will not be penalised for having no safeguarding or protection issues in the inspection period. However, staff and clients need to demonstrate that they understand what safeguarding and protection is and what they would do if an issue arose. A level A or level B service would possibly test the policies and procedures with clients.

How do you evidence professional boundaries?

Services need to demonstrate that staff and clients are aware of what professional boundaries are and how they are kept. For example staff are aware that they cannot give service users money and - if they are in a situation where this may occur - that there are procedures to manage this.

Will the section regarding Safeguarding and Protection for abuse be updated in regards to the new ISA regulations?


Will there be support for Safeguarding training?

Good practice is for authorities to provide free safeguarding training for agencies working in their authorities. Contact your local Safeguarding Children's Board for details of what is provided in your area.

What is the CAF (Common Assessment Framework)?

The Every Child Matters publication states:

The Common Assessment Framework (CAF) is a key part of delivering frontline services that are integrated and focused around the needs of children and young people. The CAF is a standardized approach to conducting an assessment of a child's additional needs and deciding how those needs should be met. It can be used by practitioners across children's services in England.

The CAF will promote more effective, earlier identification of additional needs, particularly within universal services. It is intended to provide a simple process for a holistic assessment of a child's needs and strengths, taking account of the role of parents, carers and environmental factors on their development. Practitioners will then be better placed to agree, with the child and family, about what support is appropriate. The CAF will also help to improve integrated working by promoting co-ordinated service provision.

Any person who is working with a child can request a CAF assessment and lead on it.  For example, a support officer in a teenage parent accommodation service can start a CAF assessment.

C1.4 Fair access, Diversity & Inclusion

If the service caters for a specific group (e.g. BME clients) how do you ensure fair access?

Fair access can be ensured by demonstrating that no group within the referral criteria suffers discrimination. For example, a BME service would need to ensure it provided fair access in terms of age, gender and disability.

How is fair access evidenced if there are gateway arrangements?

The provider should evidence that they are working with the gateway agency and are in receipt of appropriate referrals from them.

What does 'fair exit' mean?

The concept of fair exit is two fold:

  1. Ensuring that there are fair and transparent moves on options
  2. Ensuring that exit from service complies with the law (tenancy law) and good practice

How can fair exit be ensured when there is a split between housing management and support services?

When exiting the service the support provider must ensure that the support element meets fair exit requirements. There should be liaison with the housing management provider regularly, ensuring any proposed terminations of tenancies are discussed.

C1.5 Client Involvement & Empowerment

What is a complaint? E.g. the difference between a complaint from a neighbour and a complaint about the service?

All complaints should be dealt with through the complaints procedure. If a complaint is ambiguous (e.g. with regard to housing management when the provider only gives support) then the provider should support the client to follow the housing management complaint procedure.

How do you ensure that clients are involved?

The Client Involvement and Empowerment standard requires all clients to be given the opportunity to be involved although it is recognised that not all clients wish to be involved. However, all providers should ensure that there are a range of opportunities for client involvement and that they reflect the different matters in which clients wish to be involved.

Does demonstrating clients are involved at board level evidence a level A service?

This would be one piece of evidence. Services also need to demonstrate involvement at levels C (client level) and level B (service level). Providers need to demonstrate how their service also feeds into the clients who sit at board level.