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Integrated Children's System


A chronology lists in date order all the major changes and events in a child or young person's life. In a recent High Court judgement Justice Bracewell included a chronology among the records the court would expect to find in a social work file.

Using a Chronology

A chronology can be a useful way of gaining an overview of events in a child or a young person's life.

The chronology should be used by practitioners as an analytical tool to help them to understand the impact, both immediate and cumulative, of events and changes on the child or young person's developmental progress.

The type of changes and events that should be included in a chronology would include changes in the family composition, address, educational establishment, in the child or young person's legal status and any injuries, periods of hospitalisation or other significant medical treatment.

View Integrated Children's System Chronology (PDF format)

The Chronology records all significant events and changes in the life of a child or young person. The Chronology is an analytical tool designed to help social workers understand the impact, both immediate and cumulative, of events and changes on the child/ young person. The Chronology will replace the Essential Information Record Part Two from the Looking After Children system.

This exemplar has been formatted to enable information about individual children and young people to be aggregated for strategic planning purposes and for completion of statistical returns required by the Department of Health, and other government departments.

Information about children and young people is recorded under the following headings:

  • previous social services activity;
  • the child’s health history;
  • education, training and employment history;
  • changes in the child(s) or young person’s legal status;
  • placement history of a looked after child;
  • history of any offences; and
  • significant events and changes in the circumstances of the child and family.
Completing the Chronology

A Chronology should be started as part of the process of completing a Core Assessment, and be updated during the period of social services involvement with the child or young person. In some cases, social workers may wish to start a Chronology earlier and will need to use their professional judgement as to when this would be helpful. For example, during an initial assessment it may become clear that a child or young person has experienced considerable change either of main carer, in family composition or address. A Chronology can help structure information to inform analysis and decision making.

Although a Chronology should draw on various sources of information such as previous social work files and information from other agencies, the child or young person and his or her family should be involved in the process of completing the Chronology. The involvement of family members provides an opportunity to check the accuracy of information, and it can assist the social worker in obtaining family members’ perspectives on particular events and to develop an understanding of their impact on individuals in the family. Consent should be obtained from family members before contacting other agencies for information.

The primary function of a Chronology is to record factual information. It is also used to record the social worker’s assessment of the impact of events on the child or young person. For some children the impact of events will be evident at the time of the event or change, but for others the impact may not be known and should be recorded later when it becomes apparent.

Key Features

  • Front Page

The Chronology starts with the child or young person’s essential details, the date the chronology was started and the date it was last shared with key family members. A copy of the Chronology should be given to the chair of a child or young person’s review. The review chair should sign and date the chronology to indicate that it has been presented to the review and is up to date.

  • Genogram

The Chronology should include a genogram of the child or young person’s family. A genogram is a diagrammatic representation of a child or young person’s family tree and relationships within his or her family.

  • Social Services Activity
The dates at the top of the table identify when the case was referred and, where appropriate, closed. The dates in the table record the date services were provided.
Example: Christine Cumming, age 2, was referred to social services on the 7th of July 2002 by her Health Visitor who was concerned about possible neglect. An initial assessment was carried out which showed Christine was not being neglected, but that she and her mother, who had recently moved into the area, were isolated. Christine and her mother were supported to attend a local mother and toddler group, after which the case was closed on the 2nd of August 2002.

The following was recorded in the Record of Social Services Activity section of Christine’s Chronology:

Date of referral to social services: 07. 07. 2002
Date Closed: 02 08. 2002
Reason for involvement: Family Support

Date Type of Service Person/Agency responsible Length of time & frequency Actual Outcome
08 07 2002

12 07 2002

Initial Assessment Jo Willis
South Team
Five days No indications of neglect.
Assessment completed. Identified that Christine and her mother isolated since moving to the area.
15 07 2002

02 08 2002

Transport for Christine and her mother to attend South Dale mother and toddler group Regency Cars Five days twice a day Ms Cumming and Christine attended group daily.
02 08 2002

02 08 2002

Meeting with Ms Cumming and Karen Small, South Dale. Jo Willis
South Team
One hour Christine settled well. Ms Cumming feels confident about making her way to group. No longer needs transport. Will contact SSD if any problems. Case closed.

There is a sub-section within Social Services Activity, Record of Social Services Activity: Involvement in Child Protection, which records details of when the child or young person’s name has been placed on the child protection register.

  • Health

This section systematically records the child or young person’s health history. Specific details of immunisations, ongoing health conditions and impairments are recorded alongside particulars of significant health events, such as childhood illnesses, contact with accident and emergency and periods of hospitalisation.

  • Education

This section starts with a record of a child or young person’s educational achievements, including qualifications. This is followed by particulars of significant educational events in each school or educational establishment the child or young person has attended. These include non-academic achievements, for example membership of the school netball team; periods of exclusion; and changes of school/educational establishment.

  • Legal Status

Details of changes in a child or young person’s legal status are recorded in this section of the chronology. This includes orders made under s.8 of the Children Act 1989, such as Residence Orders, and a child or young person’s legal status whilst looked after. For example, whether they are subject of a Care Order or accommodated.

  • Placement History

Changes in the legal status of children and young people are closely linked to changes of placement. This section of the chronology provides an overview of all the changes in placement experienced by a child or young person during the period(s) they are looked after. To enable the information recorded on individual children to be aggregated and used for planning and statistical returns to the Department of Health codes are used to record some of the information in this section. The codes used are recorded in the margin of the Chronology.

Example: The police contacted Social Services to assist them with Darren Hunt, aged 13. Darren and two friends had been picked up by the police whilst truanting from school. The parents of the other boys had collected them from the police station, but Darren’s parents had refused to attend. Mr and Mrs Hunt told the social worker who called out to speak with them that they had had enough of Darren and his behaviour and would not have him back home under any circumstances. As no family or friends were available it was agreed that Darren would be accommodated. A foster placement was not available and Darren was placed in a local children’s home over the weekend. Darren and his family had no contact over the weekend and his parents continued to refuse to have him home. A local foster placement was identified and after an introductory visit Darren moved in the two days later. Over the next three weeks contact was re-established between Darren and his parents and it was agreed that he would return home with a package of family support.

The Record of Changes to Child/young person’s Legal Status for Darren was as follows:

Date(s) Legal Status Act Reason for change in legal status
07 06 2002

27 06 2002

(Code: V2)
Children Act 1989 Breakdown in relationship between Darren and his parents.

Darren’s parents willing to have him home.

The Placement History recorded the following:

Date(s) Type of care event Reason for
care event
Type of Placement Name and address Unauthorised absence Impact on child/young person
07 06 2002
Start of looked after period
(Code: S)
Darren’s parents refused to have him home.
(No code)
Children’s home in authority
(Code: H3)
The Lodge
South Street
  Darren very upset and angry at parent’s refusal to have him home.
11 06 2002
Change of placement
(Code: P)
Move to foster placement.
(No code)
Foster placement in authority
(Code: F2)
Mr and Mrs Lund
West Road
  Darren pleased at move to foster carers.
27 06 2002
Change of placement
(Code: P)
Return home
(Code: E4)
      Darren very pleased and relieved to be returning home.
  • Offences

Details of offences for which the child or young person has received a caution or court sentence are recorded here.

  • Significant Events and Changes in the Child or Young Person’s Birth Family

This records significant events and changes within the child or young person’s birth family. For some children and young people this section of the Chronology may commence before their birth; for example where an older sibling died before their birth.

Links to other records in the Integrated Children’s System

The Chronology has been designed to facilitate the updating of information electronically within a computerised information system. However, at the point of referral or re-referral it may be necessary to commence or update the Chronology using information from the family and other sources, such as education. The practitioner should always consider and record the impact of events on the child or young person.

  • Chronology and the Review Record

    A child or young person’s Chronology should be kept up to date. The Review Record has been designed to be the primary source of information to update the Chronology, and within a computerised system this may take place electronically.
By Steve Walker, David Shemmings and Hedy Cleaver
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