Sunday, 29 September 2019

Social Work: Good Record keeping

Like most professions, Social Workers face an abundance of paperwork everyday. Every visit, every telephone call, every meeting and every plan. Often, a lot of the paper work can be tedious and very repetitive; at least that is what I have found in my own practice.

Despite this, it is a fair assumption to make that the likelihood of the paperwork going away any time soon is limited, so it's important we get the best from it. I want to be clear however that despite the downsides, paperwork has many ups and is extremely useful when used well.

Having completed some research in to "Good Recording", I wanted to take the time to share some of my findings with you, alongside tips on how to make the most of the paperwork you face daily.

As usual, useful information and references can be found below.

What is the point in recording?

Firstly, recording information is extremely useful as a reference later on. We have all been on those visits where you can't remember the small details from the last, or to a meeting
where your sure you've forgotten to complete a number of the actions. Recording the information will give you an immediate refresher so you can attend your next visit or meeting in confidence.

Secondly, the records you keep from a particular visit or conversation, is information gathered builds a picture or chronology of a family's situation (this makes monitoring a whole lot easier) and can be used as evidence to support in court, delivering outcomes and for decision making.

Finally, families we work with have the right to request their files and therefore if not written well, the records become unfit for purpose. This is particularly the case for children and young people who are Looked After by the Local Authorities.

Lynch (2009) and O'Rourke (2010) 
Acknowledge how easy it is to loose sight of why professionals keep records. It can seem like a chore; time consuming and sometimes processes and computer systems hinder our ability to keep good records which makes it more frustrating for professionals. It does however, provide a rationale for decisions, promotes accountability and builds a picture. 

Good Recording should: 
  • Be accurate. Be clear; what is fact and what is your view/ Judgement
  • Write plainly. Remember families may want to look back at their files and they need to be able to understand what is written. 
  • Avoid abbreviations/ jargon. 
  • Proof read it. Check spellings and grammar. If this is something you find difficult, ask colleagues to read over it. 
  • Be clear with the wishes and feelings of those involved 

What hinders Good Recording Practice?

  • High Case loads. You've got a case load of 25. That's 25 children (or adults), 25 families including mums, dads, grandparents,  aunts, uncles and siblings. They each want contacts and school reports and invites to meetings. Viability assessments and or Special Guardianship Assessments. That's before you think about the 25 schools your working with, 25 Personal Education Planning meetings (PEP) three times each year and LAC reviews every six months. Lets not get started on the 25 sets of foster carers, health visitors, therapists and or Doctors involved in a child's life also. Its overwhelming isn't it? 
  • Issues with staffing: Every Local Authority has this issue- there's just not enough social workers to keep up with the demand. (this is based on children's services, but I can imagine adult services is just as busy?) 
  • Time. Remembering that high case load? well much of your time is taken up but meetings, visits and telephone calls. Then you need to travel between locations. A full packed diary leaves little time for recording. On the other hand, you may be confined to the office battling paperwork as opposed to being out with your families. 

Tips for recording well: 

  • SCIE (2019) provides 11 top TIPS for social work recording using the acronym PARTNERSHIP, ensuring records are accurate, person centred, professionals and evidence based. Check out the Link below for full details 
  • Set time aside. Is there a day in the week that can be left to type? Or is there flexibility to work from home and have "admin days". 
  • Create a template with topics for discussion in visits/ meetings. Keeping good notes will help you keep Good records. 
Don't forget to add your analysis, rational and any decisions. 
What information did you gather, from who and why? (Think about the purpose of the visit/ meeting)
What are your thoughts on the information ? 
Outline Risk/ Protective factors 
Use your professional judgement 
Include any decisions that have been made. 

And finally, Practice. Practice Good record keeping. 
Look for training courses which may provide further tips and advise. 


Community Care- Tips for Social workers on case recording and record keeping (2017):

Social Care Institute for Excellence (2019):

O'Rourke, L (2010) Recording in Social Work: Not Just an Administrative Task. Bristol: Policy Press

Lynch J (2009) Health Records in Court. Oxford: Radcliffe Publishing.

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