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Pitfalls for managers and policy makers 5

Recording formats overlap

The desire to develop focused recording, which serves a number of different functions, has lead to an increased use of standardised recording formats.

Problems occur when these formats overlap and practitioners find themselves recording the same information in several places within the file. 'Recording with Care' cites the example of one family where child protection enquiries led to children having to become looked after. As a result the social worker had to complete 74 different forms (1).

Given the nature of the example it is perhaps unnecessary to point out the time wasted by practitioners in duplicating records and the level of frustration experienced by the practitioner, and one suspects the family.

It is important therefore than when new formats are developed existing formats are reviewed and where possible rationalised. It will also be important to consider whether the introduction of a new recording format, such as an assessment format, should reduce the requirement for other detailed records to be kept. In introducing the Integrated Children's System (2002), it is intended that information will be entered into a computer system only once, thereby reducing the duplication experienced in paper recording systems.

However, it is not simply a matter of developing a 'one format fits all' system for recording. Different types of records are required for different functions. For example, the same format could not be used for court reports and form E's. The information required, and the way in which that information needs to be presented and evaluated, will be significantly different if it is to meet the needs of the court in the first case and the adoption panel and prospective adopters in the second.


1. 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
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