Case Records and Retention
1. The Case Record
A written case record must be established and maintained for each child.
The record must include:
- The child's Care Plan, including any changes made to the Care Plan and any subsequent plans; to include the health plan, placement plan and personal education plan;
- Reports of Health Assessments;
- Any other document created or considered as part of any assessment of the child's needs, or of any review of their case; including education assessments;
- Any court order relating to the child;
- Details of any arrangements for the responsible authority's functions to be discharged by an independent fostering provider or provider of social work services.
These should be regarded as the minimum requirements for the case record. The Statutory Guidance recommends that records should also include:
- Details of arrangements for contact;
- Copies of reports provided during court proceedings such as guardian's reports and specialist assessments;
- Additional information about educational progress;
- Copies of all the documents used to seek information, provide information or record views given to the authority in the course of planning and reviewing the child's case and review reports;
- Records of visits; and
- Other correspondence which relates to the child.
It is also recommended that any contribution that the child may wish to make, such as written material, photographs, school certificates and similar items, should be included. Care must be taken to ensure that the child retains either copies or originals of information which will form part of their own progress file to keep with them. Any papers temporarily placed in the record which are the property of the child should be clearly marked as such.
The records should be maintained in such a way that it is easy to trace the process of decision-making and in particular to identify the views of the child and parents.
The child's record should be separate from other records, such as an Adoption Case Record, those relating to a foster carer or children's home records which are not solely concerned with the individual child. Where some information on one of these other records is relevant to the child, a duplicate entry should appear in the child's record.
Records should not be amalgamated even in the case of siblings, although a degree of cross-reference and duplicate entry will be necessary.
When adoption is the plan for the child the responsible local authority may transfer a copy of the child's case record (or part of that record) to another adoption agency when it considers this to be in the interests of the child, and a written record must be kept of any such transfer (s.4 The Adoption and Care Planning (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2018, amending s.49 of the Care Planning, Placement and Case Review (England) Regulations 2010).
2. Retention and Confidentiality of Records
The case record must be kept secure, and any necessary steps taken to ensure that information contained in it is treated as confidential, subject only to statutory rights of access or court orders granting access.
The Data Protection Act and General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) apply to both paper/manual and electronic records.
The relevant retention period for a child's record will depend upon the nature of involvement of the local authority with the child and family:
Important Note: The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse requires all institutions to retain their records relating to the care of children for the duration of the Inquiry under Section 21 of the Inquiries Act 2005. There is therefore an obligation to preserve records for the Inquiry for as long as is necessary.
(See letter to Chief Executives of Local Authorities).