Note – Every child/young person who has an open case with Children and Families Services must have a chronology.

This guidance on chronologies was added to the procedures manual in October 2018.

1. Introduction

During the course of a child / young person's involvement with the Children and Families Service there will be many interactions, notably with the child and family but also with other professional agencies. These will be both planned as part of progressing the child / young person's Plan and also responsive to actions taken, or not taken, by the family or those who affect the homeostasis of the family. It is important that recordings are made to journal these interactions and this is achieved largely through utilising case recordings. Case recordings are a valuable system for documenting on-going work and offer an in-depth record of the child / young person's journey. However, case recordings by nature are plentiful, explanatory and exploratory and as such do not offer a platform for quick reflection, whereas a chronology does just that, making the chronology an essential tool for analysis.

2. What is a Chronology?

In essence a chronology is 'the arrangement of events or dates in the order of their occurrence' (Collins dictionary). In the arena of Children's Social Care a chronology is a tool which quickly and clearly draws attention to a child / young person's / family's life events. This of course is derived from information placed on to the chronology by the allocated worker, and offers a clear view of links between past and present. Unlike case recordings, information entered on to a chronology should be brief and factual, yet broad enough to offer meaning. If an in depth recording is necessary to offer clarity and professional judgement to a chronology entry, then reference should direct the reader to the case recording where this detail should be recorded. The use of a chronology is additional to case recordings, not an alternative.

Chronologies can be used for different purposes. This policy focuses primarily on Children and Family's social care, but will also go on to discuss Court Chronologies (see Section 6, Court Chronology).

3. Commencing a Chronology

Chronologies are a tool to assist in care planning, avoiding drift, recognising patterns and the early identification of risk. As such a chronology should be opened on Liquid Logic as soon as a family become known to the Children and Families Service. If there are multiple children within the family who are open to the service, then a chronology must be open for each child. 

A chronology will be opened within the Assessment Team and follow a child through the service whether this is Section 17, Child Protection or Child Looked After. For cases opened within the Children's Disability Team a chronology will be opened by the Duty Officer.

Although a chronology is a working document and requires updating as events do or indeed, do not occur, there is a need initially to backdate relevant historic information gathered at the time of assessment.

4. Recording in a Chronology

When recording in a chronology any significant event in the child's life should be added. Significant events include:

  • Births of significant persons;
  • Deaths of significant persons;
  • Referrals to professional services;
  • Strategy discussions;
  • S47 enquiries;
  • Child absconded or missing from home / care;
  • Admission to care of the local authority;
  • House / placement moves;
  • Persons moving in and out of the household;
  • Details of new partners;
  • Significant police logs;
  • Reported incidents of Domestic Abuse;
  • Change of school;
  • Health issues including Mental Health.

In addition to these generic entries professional judgement needs to be asserted to the individuality of a case, and a decision made as to other information that should be placed within the chronology.

When recording in a chronology the inputter needs to be mindful that this may be shared with the family and as such should be written with family oversight in mind. Recordings should be factual and not contain opinion.

5. Review and Analysis

A chronology is a working tool, and as such a chronology which is not reviewed and analysed regularly is of limited relevance. 

A chronology should be reviewed at the following times as a minimum requirement:

  • Prior to a Core Group;
  • Prior to a Child in Need Review;
  • Prior to a Child Looked After Review; and
  • Prior to a Child Protection Conference.

As all of the above mentioned reviews are of a multi-agency nature, in addition to the social care chronology being reviewed, this would also offer an excellent platform for an amalgamation of the chronologies from other representative agencies. 

One of the strongest functions of a chronology is the recognition of patterns. As the information collated in a chronology is specific and succinct, the identification of recurring themes should be noticeable without the need for intensive information searching. Analysis of the chronology should offer insight as to the progression of a case either as a positive or in the avoidance of drift. 

Much like the use of a timeline, a chronology can be used to identify a series of events that preceded an event or outcome, or indeed to pre-empt the emergence of a possible outcome - positive or negative. Used in this way, the use of a chronology is effective for Care Planning, and an early identifier of both risk and progression. 

In addition to utilising chronologies in preparation for various reviews it is recommended that they be used as a tool within supervision and reflective discussions.

6. Court Chronology

The Court Chronology is a legal document which is submitted as part of the Court Bundle. Along with the Solicitor's Case Summary, the Chronology is likely to be one of the first documents to be read by the Judge / Magistrate.

A Court Chronology is essentially the same as a regular chronology in that it is an accumulation of events in date order. However, there are five main differences between a regular chronology and a Court Chronology. These being:

  • Not every child open to Children and Families Services will require a Legal Chronology. This is only necessary for those cases that will be brought before the court;
  • Not all recordings held within a regular chronology will be necessary for a Court Chronology. Entries which have a bearing on the progression of an open case may not have the same bearing on a court case;
  • A Court Chronology is a snapshot leading to the present day, unlike the regular chronology the court chronology is unlikely to incorporate more than the last 2 years;
  • The chronology is comprised of different columns to that of the regular chronology, most notably the 'significance' column;
  • Unlike the regular chronology, the Court Chronology does not have to be individual. If the application to the Court is for more than one child, the chronology will be in reference to all named children.

The Court Chronology may be located within the Social Work Evidence Template (SWET) or as a separate document (both of which are available on request from Legal Services). 

When compiling a Court Chronology, the following points need to be adhered to:

  • The chronology should not exceed 10 pages;
  • Only the last 2 years should be recorded in detail;
  • If previous years are required to substantiate the threshold, then no more than one paragraph per year should be submitted;
  • The chronology should be written in the 3rd person; and
  • No recordings should be made that refer to any legal advice received.

Trix procedures

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