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1.3.6 Social Work Chronology Practice Guidance

An up to date Chronology is a requirement for every open case to Children's Social Work Services. In enabling practitioners to gain a more accurate picture of the whole case, a good quality chronology is an effective tool for informing the assessment of children and their families who are considered to be vulnerable and in need.

The chronology on ICS is basically an overview of agency involvements and does not fulfil the statutory requirements of the 2000 Assessment Framework; each practitioner must therefore ensure that every child has a separately recorded chronology of significant life events which is regularly updated.

The chronology provides a skeleton of key incidents and is a 'sequential story' of significant events in a family's history. It contributes to an emerging picture and allows the practitioner to understand current events in the context of historical information. Thus it provides a significant contribution to the practitioner's understanding of the immediate and cumulative impact of events and changes upon individuals within a family and therefore informs decision making.

A significant event is an incident that impacts upon a child's safety and welfare, circumstances or home environment. This will involve professional judgement based upon the child and family's individual circumstances.

To be of value a chronology should be:

  • Succinct - if every issue/contact is recorded the value of the chronology is diluted
  • Simple in format - thus ensuring that information is efficiently merged and sorted
  • Informative - assist with the decision making process.

A number of core issues should always be considered but may not be relevant for every case. Practitioners must use their professional judgement regarding the significance of the events outlined below:

  • Births of significant persons
  • Deaths of significant persons
  • Education, training and employment details
  • Referrals to Children's Services
  • Strategy discussions
  • S47 enquiries
  • Child Protection Conferences
  • Child absconded or missing from home or care of a local authority
  • Admissions to the care of a local authority
  • Discharges from the care of a local authority
  • House moves
  • Persons moving in and out of the household
  • Details of new partners
  • Significant incidences of anti-social behaviour
  • Significant assessments by any professional agency (e.g. SEN)
  • Significant referrals to key partner agencies (e.g. youth inclusion services)
  • Criminal proceedings
  • Significant police service logs
  • Incidences of reported domestic abuse
  • Schools attended
  • Changes of school
  • School inclusion issues
  • School attendance issues
  • Changes in significant health professionals
  • Mental health issues
  • Other significant health issues.

Other issues that are significant to a particular family may also be recorded, for example, an observation during a home visit. Positive factors should also be recorded in order to provide balance. Examples are:

  • Evidence of the family's engagement with professionals
  • Parent's self-referral for support
  • Child's presentation in school significantly improves.

A chronology must also form the basis of any assessment undertaken with respect to children and their families. It can also be used with family members to gain an insight into particular family member's perspective regarding key events.

The chronology must be updated following each review meeting (CIN Review/Child Protection Review Conference/LAC Review/Core Group/Planning Meeting).