The Importance of recording and reporting
You have a moral and legal duty of care first and foremost to the child or young person at the centre of a disclosure. You must take action by recording all relevant information relating to the disclosure or concern for their safety for later use in completing a report in accordance with your organisation’s safeguarding and child protection policies and procedures. Where these documents or procedures don’t exist or are in any way inadequate, you must report the matter directly to your local council’s Social Services Department (see Chapter 5).
As we found out in the last chapter, the obligation to record and report a disclosure overrides any sympathy or association you may have with the alleged perpetrator of abuse. This includes within your workplace, any faith or friendship groups, or wider community. Failing to act on a disclosure makes you complicit (involved) in the abuse. Your primary concern should be recording and then reporting the information, not weighing up the balance of probability of guilt or basis of truth in a disclosure.
Once you have received a disclosure from the child or young person, from a third party, or personally have a suspicion of possible abuse, you have a statutory duty to report the matter, following the procedures outlined in your organisation’s safeguarding and child protection policy.
It’s crucial that you record all the events, statements and relevant observations in written form as soon as possible after receiving the disclosure. We will cover the actual reporting process in the final chapter; for now let’s concentrate on what information you need to record and how best to do this. Memories fade over time and details can be mixed up or become clouded, it’s common sense that the sooner you write down (record) what you have heard or seen, the more accurate and more full the account of events is likely to be.
The key principles of recording
- Record as soon as possible.
- Record in a clear and accurate way.
- Record the words you have heard in verbatim (i.e. ‘word for word’).
- Separate quotes and reported fact from your own interpretation.
It’s important to use the words you hear when recording. Even if these aren’t part of your vocabulary, or are offensive or make you feel uncomfortable, your role is to ensure that you pass on precisely what you have heard as specified in your organisation's safeguarding and child protection policies and procedures.
Key Point 1
Your primary job in recording is to accurately record the disclosure or allegation.
You should record this information as soon as possible and once you have all the facts recorded in full you can separately record your own interpretation of the events.
Facts versus interpretation of events
It’s important to write everything you remember happening, hearing and/or seeing as soon as possible. Just write it down as you remember it, in full and as stream of thoughts as you recall them. At this point, drawing any conclusions as to the relevancy and accuracy of any disclosure is not your priority.
If the child or young person repeated anything write down that they repeated it. If they gave the disclosure in an illogical sequence, write it down as they told it. If the disclosure was in the form of a rumour or accusation, write down exactly what you were told, who told you, and when, including any questions you asked after receiving the concern, and their further comments in response. Remember to also include any supplementary information including the location, time, and who else was also present.
Fact: You must make it clear what was fact and what is your interpretation. Fact refers to what you have seen or heard, or what has been reported to you by a third party in the form of an accurate statement of what they said. Fact, in the context of safeguarding information recording does not refer to whether an accusation is ‘true’. It refers to the facts as reported to you. Write down all the reporting facts first before moving onto any interpretation.
Interpretation: Interpretation is your opinion or conclusion of what you have seen or heard. This requires more thought and attention so take your time. Your interpretation of the events, how the disclosure relates to any other behaviour or previous allegations that you’re aware of are all still valid, but should be recorded in a separate paragraph and marked clearly as your comments, maybe using the heading ‘interpretation of events’.
It is important to write down all the facts and interpretation down on a clean, blank piece of paper in black pen and sign and date the record. This document will form part of the reporting process you will pass on to your DSL who will consider your concerns and where appropriate escalate the concern based on your organisation’s safeguarding and child protection procedures. Your disclosure record along with your disclosure report may subsequently form part of a criminal investigation and prosecution case.
What happens following disclosure recording?
To recap, it’s your responsibility to pass on anything you have heard or seen that gives you cause for concern about the safety or welfare a child or young person. You are not there to judge or to investigate. Your primary duty of care to the child or young person at the centre of the disclosure, not to anyone accused of abuse (if an alleged perpetrator is mentioned).
You must pass on your concerns within the organisation by first recording the information (facts and interpretation), and then use this information to complete a disclosure report that must be passed to your organisation’s DSL, or directly to the Police, Social Services, or Children’s Social Care (in England, Wales and Northern Ireland), or local Children’s Social Work Team (Scotland). How to complete a formal report is covered in the next chapter.
Looking after the immediate needs of the child
If there is a medical emergency then you must dial 999 and follow procedures.
If there is a criminal emergency then you must dial 999 and follow procedures.
If there is an imminent threat to the child you must dial 999 and follow procedures.
Always keep the child at the heart of your care and action and remember that they will need support to move forward so ensure their immediate physical needs are met to the best of your ability. Your protective and nurturing response may make all the difference to their experience following a potentially traumatic event.
Your checklist immediately following a disclosure:
- Does the child need food, drink or clothing? Remember that in the case of suspected sexual or physical abuse you may need to ask the child not to drink until the Police have attended and you will need to preserve any clothing for evidence.
- Is the child in an appropriate emotional state to return to class or activities?
- Is the child safe to go home? Remember that you can only operate within the Law and this may be a question for your DSL and the Police.
- Is it safe to discharge the child into the care of the parent or guardian? Remember that you can only operate within the Law and this may be a question for your DSL and the Police.
- Have you recorded the facts and comments from the child of young person?
Follow your organisational procedure as to how best to Safeguard the child or young person at this difficult time, without judgement or prejudice. Do what you can to support their needs.
In the next and final chapter
Take the time to process the information covered in this course. Up to now the course has considered why it’s important to be vigilant for signs of abuse and neglect, what signs and indicators to look out for, how to respond to a disclosure from a child or third party, and how to record this information to use as critical evidence in reporting suspicions.
The course will conclude by considering the disclosure reporting process including completing the reporting form, and how to put into practice all you have learned in the course. It will also take you through the likely chain of events that may follow a report being received by your DSL in relation to safeguarding and child protection within your organisation.
If you haven't already done so obtain a copy of your organisation’s Safeguarding Children and Child Protection Policy and Procedures before continuing to chapter 5. If you do not have access to these these, or they don’t exist yet, use sample documents that are included in the course downloads.
By the end of this chapter you should have developed the following understanding and insights:
- An understanding of the importance of recording information as early as possible
- An understanding of the importance of disclosure recording in accordance with an effective organisational safeguarding and child protection process.
- An awareness of the importance of timely recording of information and the importance of reporting facts and interpretation under separate headings.
- An understanding of the key information that must be captured on a reporting form