Pitfalls for practitioners 8
The record is disrespectful to the service user
Case recording is part of the service that the local authority
provides to the individual service user (1). For the practitioner the case record will be just one of a number
of similar records they keep as part of their duties in
the agency. For the service user it is their record. Although
the practitioner makes the records they are made about,
for and ideally with the service user. The case record does
not simply provide a documented account of the agencies
involvement with an individual service user. For many service
users, particularly those looked after, the case record
may be the main source of information about significant
events, decisions and people in their lives.
The most obvious way in which the record may be disrespectful
to the service user is in the way in which the record is
written. Failing to differentiate between fact and professional
opinion, unsubstantiated opinions and oppressive or discriminatory
statements may indicate that the practitioner is not thinking
about how the record may affect the service user should
they read the file.
In their research on parental perspectives on child protection
Cleaver and Freeman (2) reported that it
was not uncommon for the spelling of the child's name or
dates of birth to be incorrect in reports for child protection
conferences or court proceedings. This had the affect of
undermining parents' confidence in social services.
It is not simply what is recorded, but the way in which
the record is maintained that provides a reflection of the
agency and practitioner's attitude towards service users.
The general presentation of the record, papers unsecured
or incorrectly located in file, illegible, undated notes
or files not being kept safely indicate a lack of respect
for the record and its importance to the service user. Research
carried out by Satyamurti (3) found that files were left not locked in filing cabinets overnight
but were often left overnight in baskets on the practitioner's
The case record is not simply the fieldwork or locality
team's file, although this should be considered as the main
or central file within the case record. The case record
is made up of all the social services records maintained
by the agency on an individual. For some children it will
include residential, day-care, family placement and foster
carer records. It will be important that the case holder
is aware of all the different components of the record and
maintains within the main file a list of all other records
kept on the child and their location. Failing to do this
can lead to important parts of the child's record going
missing and with it the child's history. A report commissioned
by Gloucestershire county council on possible contacts between
children in the authority's care and Fred and Rosemary West
found that the files on 397 children (17%) previously looked
after by the authority were missing (4).
Avoid the Pitfall
- Try Recording Exercise 4
- Try Recording Exercise 5
- Try Recording Exercise 6
- Try the 'What Constitutes the Record?' exercise
- When you record ask yourself, 'What would I think if I was the service user
and read that?'
- Ensure that there is a record in the main file which lists where all other
parts of the case record are kept.
- Check out basic details, such as dates of birth and the spelling of names,
with parents and the young person at an early stage.
- Use the Audit Sheet to review your files
1. Social Services Inspectorate (1999)
Recording With Care Inspection of Case Recording in Social
Services Departments. Department of Health, London.
2. Cleaver H and Freeman P (1995) Parental
perspectives in cases of suspected child abuse, HMSO,
3. Satyamurti C (1981) Occupational
Survival. Blackwell, Oxford.
4. Pritchard, M. J. (ed) (1996) In Care
Contacts - The West Case. The Bridge, London.