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Chronology Guidance


This chapter details the importance of the Chronology in identifying patterns of behaviour and actions for a child or family, and therefore highlights both issues of concern and strengths. It is clear that chronologies are not a substitute for case recording, but key events are acknowledged that should be included in a chronology.

All children who are in Care, have a Child Protection Plan or considered to be Children in Need should have a chronology.

1. Why Are Chronologies Important?

The chronology gives a factual overview of the history of the child and their family. It provides a skeleton of key incidents. It is a 'sequential story' of significant events in a family's history. It contributes to an emerging picture, enabling current events are understood in the context of historical information. It contributes to the understanding of the immediate and cumulative impact of events and changes upon individuals within a family and therefore informs decision making. It also assists in understanding patterns of care or experiences that children have been subject to.

The aims include:

  • To highlight patterns of behaviour;
  • To show historical influences;
  • To evidence previous work / interventions and their impact;
  • To highlight links with wider family and associates.

2. When Should a Chronology be Provided?

Best practice would require a chronology to be compiled at the allocation of a new case and updated at transfer. Key points are:

  • At referral (outline chronology of known past harm in line with Signs Of Safety);
  • At the end of an assessment;
  • To make a decision about significant harm and the need for a Child Protection Conference;
  • To inform legal planning;
  • To inform decision making where there is a significant history of Social Care involvement e.g. in cases of Neglect or where cases are regularly re-referred or re-opened to Children's Social Care;
  • To inform the transfer for the receiving team;
  • Prior to a decision to close a case.

It can be very useful to involve the young person, parent or carer in drawing up the chronology as this can both enrich the assessment and support meaningful direct work.

Chronologies should be continuously updated as the work progresses and reviewed not less than 6 monthly or when the case transfers.

3. What Should a Chronology Include?

A high quality chronology involves professional judgement and should be:

  • Succinct - (reports of significant events or incidents not every contact);
  • Simple in format;
  • Informative - the information provided should assist with the decision making process.

The level of detail required in a chronology may vary and is always dependent on professional judgement. However the following should always be considered for inclusion:

  • Births of significant persons;
  • Deaths of significant persons;
  • Education, training and employment details;
  • Referrals to Children's Services,and outcome;
  • Cases opened and closed to Children's Services / Early Help;
  • Strategy discussions;
  • S47 enquiries;
  • Child Protection Conferences;
  • Child absconded or missing from home or care of a local authority;
  • Child enters the care of a local authority;
  • Child leaves the care of a local authority;
  • House moves;
  • Persons moving in and out of the household;
  • Details of new partners;
  • Significant incidences, such as arrest and anti social behaviour;
  • Significant assessments by any professional agency (e.g. SEN);
  • Significant referrals to key partner agencies (e.g. youth inclusion services);
  • Significant police reports;
  • Incidences of reported domestic abuse;
  • Schools attended;
  • Changes of school;
  • School inclusion issues;
  • School attendance issues;
  • Changes in social worker / significant health professionals;
  • A&E / Walk in centre / hospital attendances / admissions;
  • Mental health issues;
  • Contact with drug and alcohol services;
  • Other significant health issues.

There may be a need for specific chronologies to highlight patterns in relation to a particular concern e.g. in respect of missing episodes in relation to potential Sexual Exploitation; health appointments/attendances where there are concerns about medical neglect or Fabricated Illness.

4. Where is the Chronology Held?

The chronology is included in the case records held on Mosaic - a workflow-based case management system.

5. What to do if You're Asked for a Chronology?

The aim is to have an up to date and comprehensive chronology on every case.

  • Have you got a full or partial chronology of significant events
  • Have you got a court or other paper chronology?
  • Is this up to date?
  • Is this fit for purpose and succinct?
  • Will it help in understanding the context of the case?
  • Can a number of partial chronologies be merged into one document?

Remember that this should be a working document and you will need to be able to use it to explain the context for your work now and how the history informs the current Plan.

Recommendations to support best practice:

  • There is an expectation that a chronology is started on every case within 6 weeks of allocation;
  • Chronologies to be routinely prepared/updated when child becomes Child In Need / Child Protection or Child in Care;
  • Chronologies to be updated not less than 6 monthly;
  • Managers should ensure that chronologies have been undertaken on every case and actively consider and review them in supervision;
  • An updated chronology should be requested and actively reviewed  by the Chair Child Protection Conference and first Child in Care Review.

See: Write Enough website and Guide to understanding the importance of writing a chronology for the purpose of safeguarding children and young people (Community Care Inform Children website).

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