Chair's Blog

June 2018

Those of you with long memories may recall that I spoke at the very first annual Social Work conference, extolling the importance of good record keeping in safeguarding as a purposive means for planning and reflection. In short that record keeping should be far more than a mere chronology of who did what and when. I was reminded of this when reading about the tragic death of eleven month old Oliver Sargent, who died as a result of a skull fracture as a result of being shaken by his father. A report published by Shropshire Community Health Trust noted that what was felt to be poor quality recording of injuries that Oliver had presented with on several occasions, that these injuries were dealt with as single incidents, rather than being indicative of a pattern that was potentially life threatening, which in turn might have raised concerns and initiated safeguarding.

Of course it is a lesson for us all to remember that when things do go wrong, that our record keeping will inevitably come under scrutiny, as in Shropshire. But certainly, if I think about my own efforts at recording over the years, I cannot honestly say they have always been paragons of virtue! We can’t write up our work as if in preparation for external review and, as humans, all of us will reflect in our work whether we were tired, stressed or a bit under par at the point we wrote things down. In explanation I think I would have said as a younger professional that the ‘real’ work was what I did with children and their families directly, and that recording was something I had to do, was a bit of a secondary priority that tended to get in the way, and that frustratingly took more time and effort than I felt it merited……….Does that sound at all familiar to you?

Looking back, I could not have been more wrong in missing the opportunity to use my records more proactively, as a case management and planning tool, in the way that I have latterly come to better understand and value. But what is also true is that, had any of that record keeping that I did back in the day come under the scrutiny of external review, I’m certain the quality would not have overly impressive. I suppose the question for all of us following baby Oliver’s tragic death is:

“Is the quality of my record keeping sufficient to help me identify any emerging cause for concern?”

Because if the answer to that question is YES, we additionally would have no reason to be concerned if any independent review then looked at what we set down in the record.