Pitfalls for practitioners 7
The record is not used as a tool for analysis
There has been a significant change in the nature of case
recording, which in many ways reflects the wider changes
in social work. Staffing levels, increased user involvement
and increased accountability to service users, the organisation
and profession, are all factors which have influenced the
development of the case record and recording practice (1).
The traditional case record reflected the interaction between
the practitioner and the service user, in the context of
the service user's history and current situation. At its
heart was the relationship between the practitioner and
service user. Traditional case records were 'often written
in an abstract discursive style for a sophisticated professional
audience' (2) within the agency. Practitioners were reluctant to restrict their
professional autonomy by establishing 'clear and specific
criteria for the clinical (practice) record' (3).
In the absence of any definition by practitioners, the
way in which the case record developed to meet the changes
in legislation and social work practice was led by organisational
and managerial requirements (4). Whilst, the shift to more structured, focused and evidenced
recording has been both welcome and necessary, concerns
have been expressed that using case recording simply to
evidence individual and organisational accountability neglects
it's value as a practice tool (5).
'The case file is the single most important tool available
to social workers and their managers when making decisions
as to how best to safeguard the welfare of children under
their care. It should clearly and accessibly record the
available information about the child and the action that
has been taken on the case to date. Reference to the case
file should be made at every stage of the case and before
any significant decision is made'. (6)
The case record should be more than a complex diary of
the practitioner's actions and the response of the service
user. To use it in such a way is like buying a video recorder
and then only using its clock to tell the time. Practitioners
should use case recording to support analysis and reflection
Using recording for analysis requires practitioners to
assess the weight that should be given to information gathered.
To do this practitioners should draw on their knowledge
from research and practice combined with an understanding
of the child's needs within his or her family and/or the
context in which the child lives (8).
Analysis provides a clear direction to ongoing records
and assists practitioners in identifying what information
should be recorded (9). However analysis
often takes place outside day to day recording and is facilitated
by specific formats. Initial and Core Assessments, genograms,
ecomaps, social histories and case summaries are all examples
of formats that support analysis. They require practitioners
to organise, manipulate and evaluate the information gathered
in the case files. They provide an opportunity to assess
the child's needs, monitor progress, evaluate the effectiveness
of interventions, and to identify patterns that would may
not immediately be apparent.
Often case recording can become almost a subconscious activity,
like driving a car along a familiar road. You arrive but
can't say exactly how you got there. The regular use of
tools for analysis in the case record keeps recording a
proactive activity that supports ongoing assessment, planning
Avoid the pitfall
Sheet 7 (Microsoft Word format).
1. Kagle J D (1984) Restoring the Clinical
Record. Social Work. 19: 46-50. Kagle J D
(1993) Record Keeping for the 1990s. Social Work.
38: 190-196. Ames, N (1999) Social Work Recording:
A New Look at an Old Issue. Journal of Social Work Education
35: 228. Prince K (1996) Boring Records? Communication
Speech and Writing in Social Work, London, Jessica Kingsley.
2. Kagle J D (1993) Record Keeping for
the 1990s. Social Work 38: 190 -196.
3. Kagle, J.D. (1984) Restoring the Clinical
Record, Social Work, 19, p46.
4. Kagle J D (1993) Record Keeping for
the 1990s. Social Work 38: 190 196. Kagle,
J D (1995) Recording. in Edwards R L (Editor in Chief)
Encyclopaedia of Social Work (19th Edition). NASW,
5. Kagle J D (1993) Record Keeping for
the 1990s. Social Work 38: 190 196.
6. Laming (2003) The Victoria Climbie Inquiry
Report HMSO, London. p209
7. DeRoos Y S (1990) The development of
practice wisdom through human problem solving processes.
Social Services Review 64:276-289. Kagle J
D (1993) Record Keeping for the 1990s. Social Work
38: 190 196.
8. Department of Health et al (2000) Framework
for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families.
The Stationary Office, London.
9. Kagle J D (1993) Record Keeping for
the 1990s. Social Work 38: 190 196. Ames N
(1999) Social Work Recording: A New Look at an Old Issue.
Journal of Social Work Education 35
227-236. Shemmings D (1991) Client Access to Records:
Participation in Social Work. Avebury/Gower, Aldershot.