No doubt all student and newly qualified social workers will be used to hearing that they must ensure that their records are kept up to date. Whilst many will be sick of hearing this, some may wonder why this emphasis. Why is it so important?
Firstly, you may think that you will remember what happened. Occasionally you may, usually in exceptional circumstances, but when you are carrying out a great number of visits in quick succession, inevitably you will forget things. Specific details are significant and vital. You will be undermined as a professional and as a witness if you confuse one case with another. For instance, in care proceedings, if you are trying to describe the state of a house in detail some months after the event, you need to be able to refer to your records to convince the court and other professionals that your recollection is accurate.
The timing of your recording is also important. The sooner you can complete the recording the better. If there is significant delay (more than a day or so) you may have to answer questions regarding the accuracy of the recording and also the reasons for the delay.
Clarity in the recording is also crucial. Do not ramble on, but make the point, justify it and move on. Remember, the recording is of no use at all if it is ambiguous or so long it is never read.
Also remember records are sometimes required many years after they were prepared. Perhaps in child concerned has grown up and now has their own children who are involved in court proceedings. The new court may require historical information.
The child, as an adult, may wish to consider their own records to find out about their own childhood. This will inevitably be a difficult emotional exercise for them, all the more reason why they should be able to easily find accurate information about their history.
Sometimes lawyers request information from a social care file in criminal proceedings. This information my go to the heart of the reliability of the witness. Although, the Judge must consider the relevant information before ordering disclosure, these documents will then be made public. This underlines the need for the recording to be accurate and easy to read. It may fundamentally alter the course of a criminal trial.
There are many reasons why your recording must be clear, these are just a few. If you always remember, recordings must be timely, concise and accurate this will be of great help to you.