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Recording Policy and Guidelines


Recording is an integral part of professional practice. Recording provides a focus upon which decisions can be made and provides evidence upon which decisions have been made. All activity about, or on behalf of, the service user should be reflected in the case file.

‘Good case recording is important to demonstrate the accountability of staff…it helps to focus the work of staff and supports effective partnerships with service users and carers. It ensures there is a documented account of the responsible authority’s involvement with individual service users, families and carers and assists with continuity when workers are unavailable or change’.

DfE, The Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations - Volume 2: Care Planning, Placement and Case Review


Case Records and Retention Procedure

Access to Records / Subject Access Requests Procedure

Confidentiality Policy Procedure


This chapter was amended in May 2020 to reflect the Ofsted Twitter Blog of 24/7/19 by Yvette Stanley, Ofsted's National Director for Social Care. The Blog highlights feedback from a number of inspections and explores what good recording should look like. (Ofsted: developments in children’s social care – What makes an effective case record?)


  1. Records Must be Kept on all Children 
  2. The Design of Records and Forms Must be Approved
  3. Children and their Families Must be Informed about their Records
  4. The Practitioner Primarily Involved Should Complete the Record
  5. All Relevant Information about Children and their Families Must be Recorded
  6. Children and their Families should be Involved in the Recording Process
  7. Information about Children/their Families should Normally be Shared with them
  8. Managers must Ensure that Confidential Information is Identified
  9. Records Must be Kept up to Date
  10. Records Must be Written Clearly using Plain Language and Avoid Prejudice
  11. Records Must be Accurate and Adequate
  12. Managers Must Oversee, Monitor and Review Records
  13. Records Should be Kept Securely
  14. Removal of Records Must be an Exceptional Occurrence
  15. Records of Visits
  16. Child Seen Observation
  17. Records of E-mails
  18. Chronologies
  19. Use of Computers at Home

1. Records Must be Kept on all Children

The child's record is an important source of information for them as well as a tool for planning actions and interventions. It provides information about the sequence of events which brought about Children's Social Care's intervention into their life and provides an explanation for the reasons why important decisions were made in the child's and/or family's life. The case record can be key to helping a child understand themselves and their past – especially where the child was unable to live with their parent/other long term carer.

Each child must have his or her own electronic case record from the point of referral to case closure; audio, video and digital recordings may also be kept.

Where paper files are also kept, information held in electronic records must accurately reflect the corresponding information recorded within paper files.

Records held on paper may extend to more than one volume. Where more than one volume exists, the dates covered by each volume must be clearly recorded on the front cover.

All records, irrespective of whether they are physical or electronic, should be securely kept and electronic messaging (e.g. e-mails) should also be sent in a secure and safe way so as to preserve their confidential and professional nature, (see Section 14, Records Should be Kept Securely).

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 in 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.

2. The Design of Records and Forms Must be Approved

Records and forms must be designed to fit their purpose and used consistently across the organisation. The design should be flexible and promote ready distinction between historical and current information and not rigidly seek to reflect a presumed social work ‘workflow’.

A manager must approve the design of all records and forms before coming into use.

3. Children and their Families Must be Informed about their Records

Children and their families should be told what types of information/data is contained in their case records.

In particular, they should be helped to understand what data is collected on them, how it is used, who it might be shared with and how long it will be kept for. The most common way to provide information to Data Subjects on what data is collected and how it is used is through a Privacy Notice. Privacy Notices must be easily accessible to children, young people and their families, and should be part of the induction pack given to any new staff members.

See: Confidentiality Policy and Access to Records / Subject Access Requests Procedure.

Where children have been adopted, see also Adopt North East Policies, Procedures and Guidance for Staff.

Information must be provided in a form that children and their families will understand - in their preferred language or method of communication. An interpreter will be provided if needed.

4. The Practitioner Primarily Involved Should Complete the Record

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 which person provided the information being recorded. Preferably the originator should read the record to ensure its accuracy.

Records of decisions must show who made any decision as well as the basis on which it was made.

See also: Section 10, Records Must be Written Clearly using Plain Language and Avoid Prejudice and Section 11, Records Must be Accurate and Adequate.

5. All Relevant Information about Children and their Families must be Recorded

Every child's case record must hold details of the child's full name, date of birth and any identification number.

Care should be undertaken to ensure the spelling of names is accurate and where possible, evidenced e.g. birth certificate. In some instances, key information may change and it is important the record should identify the current circumstances of the child / family.

Other professionals and partner agencies providing information/reports should be made aware that information provided by them may well be included on the child’s file and that this could be accessed by them.

5.1 The Basic Record

  • Names and details of everyone who lives in the family home with the child, identifying the person who has Parental Responsibility;
  • Where the child does not live at their home, the details of the Placement / arrangements and the legal status of the child;
  • Names and details of anyone particularly close to the child with whom they have a lot of contact;
  • Information about the child and /or family’s communication needs;
  • A record of managers’ decisions and reasons for making them;
  • Details of arrangements for contact;
  • Details and, where appropriate, copies of any Orders made on the child;
  • Copies of reports provided during court proceedings, including specialist assessments, the Children’s Guardian, etc.;
  • Additional information about educational progress and where the child is Looked After, the PEP;
  • Where a child has Special Educational Needs or Learning Disability, copies of any relevant information, including the Education, Health and Care Plan;
  • Appropriate information about the child’s health, and where the child is Looked After, a copy of the Health Plan and Assessment;
  • Details of any arrangements for the responsible authority’s functions to be undertaken by a private provider, e.g. an independent fostering agency or provider of social work services;
  • Copies of all documents used to seek information, provide information or record views given to the authority in the course of planning and reviewing the child’s case and review reports;
  • Record of visits and contacts by all practitioners as well as by the allocated practitioner.

5.2 Recording Visits

Each visit should be recorded to include:

  • The venue of the visit;
  • Who was present;
  • The purpose of the Visit;
  • Identify whether an interpreter was used;
  • Whether the child was seen (and if not why this was the case);
  • Information exchanged;
  • A succinct narrative of the nature of the discussion;
  • Any views the child expressed, noting for children who have communication difficulties, what support was available and/or how these views were gleaned;
  • Any views of the Parent/Carer expressed;
  • Identify whether there has been any significant change of circumstances for the child/or family, particularly membership of the household;
  • The quality of the relationship between the social worker and the child;
  • An analysis and evaluation of the outcome of the visit, commenting within the context of the Plan and the Review Recommendations;
  • Failed appointments and visits where there was no response should also be included, together with any actions required under the Children’s Social Care Services procedure guidance.

5.3 Other Key Records

The record must also include a risk assessment, transfer/closing summary (where appropriate) and a properly maintained Chronology - See also: Guidance on Compiling a Chronology.

All other relevant contacts with children, their families, colleagues, professionals or other significant people must be recorded in the same way, i.e. who was present or seen, the relevant discussions, actions or decisions taken and by whom, and the reasons for decisions. This includes conversations, phone calls, visits, letters, emails, decisions made by Agency Decision Makers/Panels, assessments and reports. The options that have been considered and the child and the family's preferred choices and the reasons why an option has been chosen if agreement could not be reached. (Note: care should be undertaken to ensure a breach of the Data Protection Act 2018 does not occur through the inclusion of information about others via reports and emails, etc.)

The child's record should also include relevant and appropriate copies of material from other, separate records / files that are kept, whilst ensuring that such records remain separate and that neither confidentiality nor the Data Protection Act are breached. It is recognised that a certain amount of cross-referencing with siblings is inevitable and desirable, but again, care should be taken in respect of sibling information that becomes available on the record.

5.4 Important Characteristics of the Record

The record should be structured and maintained in a way that:

  • The decision-making process is clear;
  • That the views of the child, carers and/or those with Parental Responsibility can be found and related to the decision-making that has been made together with the responsible authority’s actions;
  • That any material temporarily placed in the record that belongs to the child should be noted as such so that it can be returned to the child when required / appropriate;
  • Recording should be made of the Review meeting’s recommendations / outcomes that are trying to be achieved with a child and their family, key tasks, by whom and timescales;
  • The recording of interventions and actions should seek to identify which ‘Recommendation’ or Outcome they relate to;
  • The recording should seek a proportionate balance to reflect positive and negative aspects of a child or family’s life;
  • The structure of the recording should readily distinguish between current and historical events.

5.5 Case Summaries

Every three months the case file recording should provide a succinct summary of the work undertaken, specifically linking progress to the Recommendation / Outcomes of the Plan. It therefore promotes accountability, an understanding of progress and continued planning.

It should also highlight fresh issues that have emerged, both strengths as well as concerns, and reflect how these have been dealt with as well as acknowledging the impact (or otherwise) of any new issues on the overall nature of the case.

The Summary helps to bring together the outcomes of all the information and actions with the child / family and reflect / analyse / evaluate upon the progress of the intervention, including the child and family's level of engagement with the intervention.

The Summary, in 'putting the child at the centre' should reflect and have regard to 'what is life like for the child'.

It should also include outcomes of supervision on the case and consider appropriately the local authority's and partner agencies, decision-making and the impact this may have had.

The Case Summary can reflect on Case Reviews and should comment on the focus of work for the forthcoming three months.

6. Children and their Families should be Involved in the Recording Process

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 contribute to assessments, reports and to the formulation of plans.

The child should have the opportunity to have support to be able to do this if needed, through an Advocate and/or through specialist help, e.g. a signer.

It is recommended that any contribution the child may wish to make, any written material, certificates etc. should be included on the record as copies, so that the child retains the original items so that they have their own record of their wishes, progress etc.

Children and their parents must be asked to give their agreement to the sharing of information about them with others. Information should be shared with the consent of the child and family if appropriate and where possible the wishes of those who do not wish confidential information to be shared should be respected. Information can still be shared without consent if it is in the public interest to do so. Information sharing decisions should be based on consideration or the safety and well-being of the person and others who may be affected by the sharing. In such circumstances ensure that the information shared is necessary for the purpose for which it is being shared and shared only with those who need to have it.

7. Information about Children and their Families Should Normally be Shared with them

Information contained in the case record should usually be shared with the Data Subject 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 placed in the 'Restricted from user' section of the child's record and the reasons should be recorded after taking advice from a manager.

See also Access to Records / Subject Access Requests Procedure.

Where children have been adopted, see also Adopt North East Policies, Procedures and Guidance for Staff.

When sharing a record it is important to record who it was shared with and when. The sharing of all decision-making documents such as assessments, care plans, reviews, reports and agreements make it easier for everyone to know what is expected and to work together better.

8. Managers Must Ensure that Confidential Information is Identified

Managers must monitor confidential information held on the 'Restricted from user' section of case records, ensuring that the reason for it being considered confidential is valid; if not, it should be available to be shared with the child.

However, before sharing any such information, the manager must take all reasonable steps to consult the originator and take account of their views and wishes. See also Access to Records / Subject Access Requests Procedure.

9. Records Must be Kept up to Date

Records should be up to date and easily accessible to enable others to deal with issues in the absence of the allocated worker or team manager.

Records should be updated from detailed notes made contemporaneously following a visit or interview; as information becomes available or as decisions or actions are taken as soon as practicable or, at the latest, within 3 days of the event, with the exception of very significant events which require a 24 hour write up.

Where records are made or updated late or after the event, the fact must be stated as a 'Late Entry' in the record, and the date and time of the entry should be included.

10. Records Must be Written Clearly using Plain Language and Avoid Prejudice

Records must be written clearly and concisely, using plain language, and in a way that recognises the right of the child or their parent/carer to access the record (whether whilst the case is active or at some point in the future).

E-mail communication to colleagues and other professionals (that will be included in the record) should always be completed with the same care and attention. Records 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, or sexual orientation.

11. Records Must be Accurate and Adequate

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. Where information is unverified or an opinion, then it should be clearly marked as such.

Every effort must be made to ensure records are factually correct. If a child / young person feels that information in their record is not accurate, they have a right to request that it is rectified. Local authorities have 1 month to respond to any such requests and, if any such request is received, the authority should take reasonable steps to establish if the data is accurate and rectify the record if necessary.

Records must distinguish clearly between facts, opinions, assessments, judgements 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.

The following points should be adopted to ensure that the information is accurate:

  1. Where personal information is supplied by the subject he/she may be required to produce documentary evidence of the facts if this is appropriate. Generally, information received from the subject may be assumed to be accurate;
  2. Where personal information is supplied by a source other than the subject (third party source), wherever possible, the accuracy of such data will be confirmed as soon as possible. Normally the subject or his/her agent will check the accuracy of the data;
  3. Where the subject can produce clear proof that information held is incorrect as to any matter of fact, the record will be corrected or information deleted from it and a note made of these actions. In any case, any views of the service user/resource person about the record shall be recorded;
  4. Where information held is proved to be incorrect the worker will check whether it has been disclosed to any other body or person. If so, they will inform that body or person that the information disclosed was incorrect and note this action in the record. The worker will also endeavour to discover whether the inaccurate information had any other consequences in the period prior to its correction and, if possible, attempt to redress any adverse consequences.

Note: whilst ‘cutting and pasting’ techniques are generally not recommended, on those occasions where it is used, great care should be given to ensure that other parties’ details are not included and that the context of the recording is appropriate and proportionate, (e.g. events that occurred some time ago do not reflect a current tense or disproportionate sense of relevance).

See Confidentiality Policy.

12. Managers Must Oversee, Monitor and Review all Records

The overall responsibility for ensuring all records are maintained appropriately rests with line managers, 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.

13. Records Should be Kept Securely

All records held on children must be kept securely.

Children's paper files should normally be stored in a locked cabinet, or a similar manner, usually in an office which only staff have access to.

These records should not be left unattended when not in their normal location.

All electronic records must be kept securely and comply with the requirements of the Data Protection Act 2018.

This will include arrangements such as:

  • Password protection;
  • Automatic log out of screens;
  • Logging off computers;
  • Changing passwords on a regular basis.

Where staff are working 'agile' / 'mobile' / 'hot-desking' context, care must be exercised to ensure that records or computers are not left on or overlooked by others.

14. Removal of Records Must be an Exceptional Occurrence

Records should not normally be taken from the location where they are usually kept.

If it is necessary to remove a record from its normal location, a manager should approve this and should stipulate or agree how long it is necessary to remove the record. The manager must also be satisfied that adequate measures are in place to ensure the security of the record(s) whilst they are removed. For example, records must never be left in unattended vehicles.

The authorisation for a record to be removed must be recorded and those who may have need to see the records should be informed of their removal. The manager must then ensure the record is returned as required/agreed.

Should the situation ever occur where a file / documents are lost or mislaid, the local authority officer must report this immediately to their manager and every reasonable effort should be made to obtain their recovery. The service user should be advised of such an event.

14.1 Records Moved to a New Location Must be Monitored

Where records are necessarily moved to a new location, the date of transfer should be clearly recorded.

The sender should check that the records have arrived at their intended destination.

If records are moving because of a case transfer an audit should be carried out by a manager prior to transfer to ensure all relevant information and documents are available on the child's record.

15. Records of Visits

The Social Worker must:

Record details of each visit on the appropriate documentation in the child/young person’s electronic file within 2 working days with details of:

  • Whether the child/young person was seen alone (and if not, why not);
  • The child/young person’s views on the placement;
  • Be clear about the purpose of the visit and comment on progress in relation to the child’s plan;
  • Where the child is looked after, comment on how the child/young person’s needs are being addressed in placement, including the standard of care being offered and the carer’s ability to work with the Care Plan (including promoting contact, health, education and meeting the child/young person’s needs);
  • Any concerns arising from the visit and how these have been or are to be addressed.

16. Child Seen Observation

As a local authority we need to know when a child was last seen and it is acknowledged that this is often outside of statutory visits. Within observations on the electronic case file, is an observation “CHILD SEEN”. The purpose of this subject is to enable practitioners to identify when a child was last seen.

This observation is to be completed every time a child is seen which will include a statutory visit; when transporting; during a visit to see another family member etc.

The observation is only to identify when a child was seen, therefore, does not need to contain any detailed case recording. This should be in a separate observation.

A “CHILD SEEN” observation must be completed within 3 working days.

17. Records of E-mails

The message facility in Carefirst should be used to communicate with colleagues within Children and Families as it will automatically be attached to the service user record.

Emails should be regarded as any other form of correspondence and should be written in the corporate style. The content should contain only information relating to the subject matter and must meet all the usual standards expected within correspondence.

Email used as an alternative to conversations or for passing messages must not be filed on the case file. These conversations must be summarised and recorded in case recording. Emails which are clearly sent as an alternative to a letter or memo, or with a management decision should be cut and pasted into the Observations section of the electronic file.

18. Chronologies

Social work assessment has always been concerned to consider past events and their relevance to a person or family’s current situation. An accurate chronology can assist the process of risk assessment and review. A chronology is a tool which professionals in a range of disciplines can use to help them to understand what is happening in the life of a child or adult. A chronology can be a useful tool in helping towards an earlier identification of risks either to or from individuals.

The purpose of a chronology is to provide workers, supervisors/managers, children and their families (and possibly the court) with a chronological list of significant events in a child’s or their family’s life. A significant event is an incident that impacts on the child’s safety and welfare and home environment. This enables the reader to quickly gain a picture of formative events and patterns of behaviour, and to analyse the implications of the overall history to improve decision making.

An up to date chronology provides a valuable tool when analysing the history and needs of a child or family and can alert professionals to areas of need at an early stage of intervention. It is a document that can be shared easily with, and be added to, by partner agencies and focuses effort on the most important issues to help improve outcomes for the child or young person. A chronology should facilitate a clear understanding of the case so that each new referral or new incident can be seen in the context of previous concerns. This will avoid new information being received without knowledge of previous events/concerns and being considered as a “one-off”. A chronology is not expected to be a repetition of the narrative contained in process or case recordings, but bullet points indicating incidents, events or issues within a family or which significantly affect a child’s life. It, therefore, requires knowledge of the case and analysis to identify the critical moments in a child/family’s life experience. The information added to the chronology should be concise and brief.

Chronologies on allocated cases should be regularly updated, at a minimum: prior to any review, planning, child protection or strategy meetings.

Chronologies on closed or newly opened cases must be updated at either the point of referral or as part of the subsequent assessment.

Chronologies on Looked after Children should be updated, as a minimum, prior to each Looked after Review, ensuring that an easily accessible overview of the case is available, covering key events in the child’s life, including the period of accommodation.

See also: Guidance on Compiling a Chronology

19. Use of Computers at Home

Staff using computers at home for work purposes must ensure that they are working within the rules of the ‘data protection principles’ in accordance with the Data Protection Act (2018). Staff are required to familiarise themselves with the local information security policy.

This applies to staff using laptop computers and mobile devices in the course of their duties.

Should the situation ever occur where a laptop is lost or mislaid, the local authority officer must report this immediately to their manager and every reasonable effort should be made to obtain their recovery.

Consideration should be given as to whether service users should be advised of such an event.