Section 1, Recording Practice was updated in March 2019 to take account of Judge Greensmith's comments in the case of M and N (Children: Local authority gathering, preserving and disclosing evidence) around good practice in relation to note-taking and record-keeping, and disclosure of relevant evidence to all parties.
Derby City Council uses a Strengths Based Approach for all work with children and families.
- Recording Practice
- Children and Families Involvement in their Records
- Oversight, Retention and Security of Records
- Hazard Warning Guidance
1. Recording Practice
All staff must have read and comply with Council policies in relation to data protection (including the UK General Data Protection Regulations / UK GDPR) and information governance.
Each child must have their own electronic case record from the point of referral to case closure. Audio, video and digital recordings may also be kept. Original documents and contemporaneous notes must be retained and kept securely, with a scanned copy saved on to the child's file. The existence and location of the paper record should be noted on the file.
The child's case record will usually be developed from notes taken in the course of a visit or interview, and these may be used directly, or as a result of such information being used to prepare a report or court statement. The Family Court, in the case of RE M and N (Children) (Local authority gathering, preserving and disclosing evidence) advised that social workers/practitioners must make contemporaneous notes which form a coherent, contemporaneous record. The notes should be legible, signed and dated and record persons present during the meeting/conversation in question. The notes should be detailed and accurately attribute descriptions, actions and views etc. In some instances, sketches/diagrams may be helpful in establishing the veracity of explanations given, e.g. with regard to how injuries were sustained, etc.
Note: These original notes might need to be disclosed in a court.
The current electronic recording system must be used fully and exclusively, so that the system is used to record all contacts and activity in the right place. Staff must not use "shortcuts" or save blank forms, and must not develop alternative forms or use documents as an alternative to in-system processes where available.
The practitioner primarily involved, that is the person who directly observes or witnesses the event that is being recorded, or who has participated in the meeting/conversation, must complete records. Where this is not possible and records are completed or updated by other people, it must be clear from the record who provided the information being recorded. Records of decisions must show who made any decision, as well as the basis on which it has been made.
Records should be updated from detailed notes made contemporaneously following a visit or interview; as various information becomes available, or as decisions or actions are taken as soon as practicable or, at the latest, within 24 hours. Where records are made or updated late or after the event, the fact must be stated as a 'Late Entry' in the record, If a worker is significantly behind in their recording they should discuss with their manager at the earliest opportunity in order that a plan to catch up can be agreed.
Records must be written concisely, in plain English, and must not contain any expressions that might give offence to any individual or group of people on the basis of race, culture, religion, age, disability, gender / gender identity or sexual orientation. Use of technical or professional terms and abbreviations must be kept to a minimum; and if there is likely to be any doubt of their meaning, they must be defined or explained. Pejorative or judgemental language must be avoided.
Care must be taken to ensure that information contained in records is relevant and accurate, and is sufficient to meet legislative responsibilities and the requirements of these procedures. Every effort must be made to ensure records are factually correct. Any errors which are identified must be corrected immediately.Records must distinguish clearly between assessments, judgments and decisions. Records must also distinguish between first hand information and information obtained from third parties. Records must reflect the distinction between fact and opinion. Although it is admissible to record opinion, it must be recorded as such and not presented as factual.
2. Children and their Families Involvement in their Records
Children and their families have a right to be informed about the records kept on them, the reasons why these records are kept and their rights to confidentiality and of access to their records.
Information obtained about children and their families and any reports produced should be shared with them unless:
- Sharing the information would be likely to result in serious harm to the child or another person; or
- The information was given in the expectation that it would not be disclosed; or
- The information relates to a third party who expressly indicated the information should not be disclosed.
Where information is obtained and recorded which should not be shared with the child concerned for one of the above reasons, it should be clearly identified as such and the reasons recorded.
Where children have been adopted, see also Access to Birth Records and Adoption Case Records Procedure.
Information should, where possible be provided in a form that children and their families will understand - in their preferred language or method of communication. An interpreter should be provided if needed.
Children and their families must be routinely involved in the process of gathering and recording information about them. They should feel they are part of the recording process. They should be asked to provide information, express their own views and wishes and to contribute to assessments, reports and to the formulation of plans.
3. Oversight, Retention and Security of Records
The overall responsibility for ensuring all records are maintained appropriately rests with line managers and the allocated practitioner, although the responsibility can be delegated to other staff as appropriate.
The line manager should routinely check samples of records to ensure they are up to date and maintained as required and, if not, that deficiencies are rectified as soon as practicable.
All records held on children must be kept securely in line with Council policy.
Where records are moved to a new location (physical or electronic), the date of transfer should be clearly recorded.
The member of staff responsible for the case at the time it is closed is responsible for ensuring that the file to be retained is complete and in good order.
Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA)
As of November 2015, all records relating to child protection, safeguarding and the provision of services to children must be retained, pending the conclusion of this national inquiry. This supersedes all other guidance relating to the retention and destruction of records, and applies to all Council records relating to children's services (see Letter to Local Authorities for further information).
For the Council Policy on documents not directly associated with services to children, please see Derby City Council Record Retention Schedule.
4. Hazard Warning GUIDANCE
The Hazard warning facility within LCS is intended to record any incidents or situations that are judged to present a risk to a child or adult, including staff. Once a Hazard has been recorded against a person a warning indicator on LCS will be displayed on the person's main demographics. Hazards are recorded in the 'Risks' section of LCS.
Responsibility for recording
Child Protection Managers, workers, team managers, Deputy Heads of Service and Heads of Service, are to ensure that Hazards are recorded where appropriate either directly or through a delegated source.
Recording of Hazards involving Alleged or Convicted Offenders
Role of Child Protection Managers
It will be the responsibility of the appropriate Child Protection Manager to ensure that any situation which meets the following is assigned a hazard/Alert indicator:
- (Cp) Cautioned (Risk To Children);
- (Cp) Convicted (Risk To Children);
- Substantiated LADO;
- Persons subject to sexual offences orders;
- Persons subjected to Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA).
A record must be created for the person (if one does not already exist) and, details of the incident noted in the Risks table.
The recording of Hazards not involving alleged Offenders
Role of Staff
If a worker experiences an event which they feel constitutes an unacceptable risk to themselves or to a child/young person, then the circumstances surrounding the incident should be discussed with their line manager. The manager should then consider the details of the worker's account and decide whether the situation warrants the criteria for a Hazard to be recorded against the liable person's record. The manager may wish to give some consideration to Freedom of Information and access to records, ensuring that any Hazards recorded to the systems are reasonable and are periodically reviewed to check they need to remain active.
Hazards should also be recorded when individuals are known to have harmed a child.Category to consider:
- Alleged Perpetrator of Domestic Abuse;
- History of removal of a child from their care;
- Children subject to a Child Protection Plan;
- History of self- harming;
- Violent / threatening behaviour.
Recording and linking of Hazards
In cases where a relative or close associate of a child/young person is seen as the person presenting the Hazard then a warning indicator should be attached to both the offending subject's record and the child's working record. With the full details of the concerns recorded in the Risks Field of the offending person's record. The Important Information Field on the child's record can be used to signpost to the adult record. The Relationship/Related Hazard can also be used to link the two records, ensuring that anyone viewing the child's record, wishing to see details of the Hazard can do so by clicking the Related Hazard button on the Relationship screen.
Reports can be produced by the Performance and Information section enabling responsible managers to review the current suitability of the person associated with the warning. Any changes in the person's circumstances might require the responsible service to review the record with a view to reassessing the validity for the Hazards indicator.