Home
 Introduction
 Records and
 recording
 Recording skills
 Pitfalls in recording
 Recording in
 residential care
 Video Exercises
 Training materials
 Resources
 
 About Write Enough
 Order CD copies
 

Pitfalls for managers and policy makers 2

Policies and procedures are insufficiently detailed to support practitioners

Policies and procedures do not emphasise the link between recording and practice

Since the mid-1980s there has been a shift from narrative records, which recorded the practitioner's diagnostic thinking and observations, to records that are focused on the need for services and progress towards identified goals (1). To support practitioners making this shift many authorities adopted recording formats that limit space and specify what has to be recorded (2).

This has resulted in recording becoming separated from practice in the minds of some practitioners who perceive recording as primarily fulfilling a management or administrative function. It is important therefore, that policies and procedures state explicitly that case recording is part of the service the agency provides to users and is one of the cornerstones of its approach to partnership and good practice (3).

Policies and procedures do not clarify the purposes of recording

At the same time that social work records have become more focused they have also available to a much wider audience. The increased openness of records, combined with the perception of them as management tools, has left some practitioners unclear about not simply about what they should record but who the record is for (4). In some cases this has led practitioners to play it safe and record as much as possible. However, if the purpose and function of the record is unclear it is difficult for practitioners to know when they have recorded enough to protect them (5). This lack of clarity is at the heart of much of practitioners' dissatisfaction with recording.

Practitioners record defensively to protect themselves, and therefore it cannot be overcome simply by telling practitioners to write less and providing them less room to ensure they do it. A number of research studies have shown that practitioners will simply ignore the formats, or even keep two sets of records (5). In these circumstances new formats result in more rather than less recording (6).

Inspection findings suggest that this emphasis has lead to a focus on detailed or running records at the expense of other more analytical recording formats such as social histories, case summaries and assessments.

Policies and procedures do not specify when and how different types of records should be made

Improving recording is not simply about getting practitioners to be brief. It is about enabling practitioners to be relevant. This can be achieved if policies and procedures are clear about the circumstances in which brief records are acceptable, what they should contain and when detailed records should be made. Where practitioners feel they have the support of the agency to record briefly, they are usually happy to do so (7).

Policies and Procedures should also support practitioners to identify when other types of record should be used to inform their practice, such as social histories, genograms and how these should be integrated into the record.

The format and expected content of transfer and case summaries should be specified, as well as how often case summaries should be made.

Policies and procedures have no direct relevance for practitioners

Ensuring that policy and procedural guidance relates to the day to day practice of practitioners will help to keep these documents live and relevant. Often procedural guidance is not accessed until a problem is already in existence, by which time it may be too late. Inspections have found that generally practitioners have only had a vague knowledge of the agency's policies and procedures on recording (8). As a result it is difficult for agencies to achieve a degree of consistency in the way records are kept and maintained across the department.

References

1. Ames N (1999) Social Work Recording: A New Look at an Old Issue. Journal of Social Work Education  35: 227-236. Kagle J D (1993) Record Keeping for the 1990s. Social Work 38: 190-196

2. Ames N (1999) Social Work Recording: A New Look at an Old Issue. Journal of Social Work Education  35: 227-236. Kagle J D (1983) The Contemporary Social Work Record. Social Work.17: 149-153.

3. Social Services Inspectorate (1999) Recording With Care. Inspection of Case Recording in Social Services Departments, Department of Health, London.

4. Kagle J D (1983) The Contemporary Social Work Record. Social Work.17: 149-153.

5. Kagle J D (1993) Record Keeping for the 1990s. Social Work 38: 190-196.

6. Edwards R and Reid W (1989) Structured case recording in child welfare: An assessment of social workers' reactions. Social Work 34: 49-52. Kagle J D (1993) Record Keeping for the 1990s. Social Work 38: 190-196

7. Ovreveit J (1986) Improving Social Work Records and Practice. BASW, Birmingham. Kagle, J.D. (1983) The Contemporary Social Work Record. Social Work, 17: 149-153.

8. Social Services Inspectorate (1999) Recording With Care. Inspection of Case Recording in Social Services Departments. Department of Health, London.

 

 
 
 
By Steve Walker, David Shemmings and Hedy Cleaver
Copyright information | Disclaimer