Keeping good records

More than covering our backs...

I once spent two and a half hours giving evidence on a case in front of a care council hearing.

It was heavy duty stuff – thorough, lengthy and stressful.

Photo courtesy of ©123rf/Joerg Hackemann (adapted)

Photo courtesy of ©123rf/Joerg Hackemann (adapted)

If I needed any reminder, it certainly drove home the importance of good recording…

Why recording matters…

We all know that it’s important to keep our recording up-to-date. To make sure it’s thorough, accurate, contemporary and all the rest of it.

It’s social care 101 – keep good records!

I was certainly glad I had when I was stood in front of the Care Council – they went through it fine detail, cross-referencing, questioning, scrutinising.

It was pretty scary.

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More than defensive practice…

The problem with telling you this story, is that it reinforces the old classic that recording is mainly about covering our backs.

About being ready when things go pear-shaped and the questions start flying in the hunt for someone to blame.

Now I don’t want to deny that this is part of it. It might even be a big part of it – after all, none of us wants to be blamed for something. If good recording can exonerate us – fine.

But there’s more to it than that.

Benefits of good recording…

These are just a few of my thoughts. Please add your own ideas by commenting – here.

  • Remembering – if we make a habit of recording things thoroughly, it forces us to think. When we think back through the day, the meeting, the incident, the contact, we remember. Remembering is an act. It’s something we do deliberately. Having to record things forces us to think and to remember. This can help protect us from…yes, you guessed it – forgetting! But how many of us have said (even today) that we don’t have enough time?  Exactly. Recording places an obligation on us to take time out to remember. Once that’s done, the additional benefits really start to stack up…
  • Recurrences – regular and thorough recording of relevant facts, our opinions and those of others, captures what’s happening in a particular moment. Or a particular day (e.g. if you’re a foster carer). But the real benefit comes in the accumulated wealth of information. As our recording on a child or young person builds up over time, we can see any patterns that emerge. This is gold dust when it comes to understanding a child’s behaviour or that of their family, health, education, etc. Patterns matter. Without good recording all we have is anecdote or a sense of it. Recording makes it substantial and easy to evidence over time.

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  • Reflection – this point is related to the one about remembering. Part of the act of thinking back through what’s happened is that it provides us with an opportunity to do something that’s so Files - Oleksandr Nebrateasily forgotten – reflection. Having recalled the facts, we can then revisit them more fully and consider any broader implications, meanings or learning. In my view the difference between a good practitioner/carer and a great one is exactly this – great ones reflect. A lot. Recording facilitates this. Ideally, our recording should also include our reflections. These in turn can inform supervision discussions, our ongoing professional development, input to meetings and decisions. And on it goes…
  • Revision – not the kind we make teenagers do for their GCSEs! But as events unfold, things change. Children and young people are, by definition, changing all the time. They are developing. But often our work continues along without ever really stopping to take stock. It’s so easy to keep on doing what we do, without asking a simple question: “What’s changed?” Our assessments are only good for a short period. If we don’t revisit and revise them, they soon become less meaningful. Even redundant. Good practice rests on good assessment. And a good assessment is always a work in progress. Our recording is prima facie evidence about what’s changed. Without it, it’s hard to know what our re-assessment might be based on. Good recording changes that.
  • Reinforcement – these days it sometimes feels like workers change a lot. Children and families seem often to have to get to know new workers, new carers, new staff. Workers move on. But this brings a host of other problems – not least the challenge of taking up a case that someone else has been responsible for. Without good recording things get lost. Things get forgotten. But when we record what we do properly, the next worker can review it. This facilitates a much smoother take up of the work and saves the poor service users having endlessly to repeat the information to new workers. It reinforces the progress made, what’s been decided, said, agreed and done. As well as what still needs to happen. It saves hours of time and lots of work…

Final word…

Recording is a pain, too. It takes time to do well – time we often feel we don’t have.

But few would question the need and usefulness of keeping good records.

In the end, they keep us focussed, help us to be thorough and do a great job – as well as offering protection to both us and our clients.

What do you think?…

  • Got any thoughts on record keeping?
  • Please let me know your thoughts…   Leave a comment below or click here.

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© Jonny Matthew 2016

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