Guidance on Chapter 5 of the Regulations – Policies, Records, Complaints and Notifications
Some records may be kept electronically (regulation 38) provided that this information can be easily accessed by anyone with a legitimate need to view it and, if required, be reproduced in a legible form. Electronic records should be held at the individual home in accordance with data protection principles. IT systems should ensure the safe storage of these records and business continuity planning should be in place to prevent loss or damage to them.
Regulations 35-39 detail the records that must be kept in children’s homes. All children’s case records (regulation 36) must be kept up to date and stored securely whilst they remain in the home. Case records must be kept up-to-date and signed and dated by the author of each entry. Children’s case records must be kept for 75 years from the date of birth of the child, or if the child dies before the age of 18, for 15 years from the date of his or her death.
Staff should be familiar with the home’s policies on record keeping and understand the importance of careful, objective, and clear recording. Staff should record information on individual children in a non-stigmatising way that distinguishes between fact, opinion and third-party information. Information about the child must always be recorded in a way that will be helpful to the child.
The home’s records on each child represent a significant contribution to their life history. Children and their parents should be supported to understand the nature of records kept by the home and how to access them. Staff should understand their important role in encouraging the child to reflect on and understand their history, according to their age and understanding. Staff should keep and encourage children to keep appropriate memorabilia of the time spent living at the home and help them record significant life events.
Children should be actively encouraged to read their records and to add further information to them. They should be regularly reminded of their rights to see information kept about them and be given information about how they might be supported to access their records in later life.
Staff must also be familiar with information sharing requirements relating to the children they care for. They should have access to the information sharing policy and procedures specified by the Local Safeguarding Children’s Board (LSCB) for the area where the home is located.
If a home closes or is taken over by a different registered provider, it is important that children’s case records continue to be stored securely for the required period of time (regulation 36(2)) so that children can access their case records in later life. If the registered provider runs other homes, the case records must be kept in the nearest home (regulation 36(4)(a)(b)). In cases where the home and its registered provider cease to operate entirely, the case records must be passed to the child’s placing authority (regulation 36(5)) or, as the case may be, the local authority that maintains an EHC plan for the child or the child’s SEN statement.
Regulation 40(1) and (3) require the registered person to notify a specified list of people in the event of the death of a child, or if there is a referral of an individual working in the home in accordance with section 35 of the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006. In addition, the registered person must notify other relevant persons– this may include other professionals, services, organisations, agencies or establishments who are or have been involved in the child’s care. It is for the registered person to judge who else it is appropriate to notify depending on the individual circumstances of the incident.
Regulation 40(4) requires the registered person to notify Ofsted and other relevant persons if one of the situations specified in regulation 40(4)(a)-(d) occurs, or if there is an incident relating to the protection, safeguarding or welfare of a child living in the home which the registered person considers to be serious (40(4)(e)).
Examples of incidents that are likely to be considered serious affecting the welfare of a child include: a child being the victim or perpetrator of a serious assault; a serious illness or accident; a serious incident of self-harm, or serious concerns over a child’s missing behaviour, particularly where the child is considered to be at grave risk due to age or vulnerability or where they have been missing for a considerable period of time and their whereabouts is unknown. This is not an exhaustive list and homes must assess each case individually taking into account any patterns of behaviour or unusual behaviour which may indicate an increased risk to the child. Homes should also consider the frequency of incidents and judge whether their cumulative effect makes notification appropriate even if in isolation each event would not warrant this.
It is for the registered person to judge whether the incident is sufficiently serious to make formal notifications and, if it is, which other relevant persons may be notified, for example, the police, probation service, health professionals, the local authority for the area the home is located in (if this is not the child’s placing authority) and others involved with the care or protection of the child.
The registered person should have a system in place so that all serious events are notified, within 24 hours, to the appropriate people. The system should cover the action that should be followed if the event arises at the weekend or on a public holiday. Notification must include details of the action taken by the home’s staff in response to the event.
The home’s record of the event must include a description of the action taken and the outcome of any resulting investigation. Following a notifiable event under regulation 40 the home should contact the placing authority to discuss the need for further action.
The registered person should also have a system for notification to responsible authorities of any serious concerns about the emotional or mental health of a child such that a mental health assessment would be requested under the Mental Health Act 1983.
Secure Children’s Homes (SCH) should notify Ofsted under regulation 40(4) if any of the following incidents occur:
- A child accesses or receives electronic material that may suggest that are at increased risk of, or being subjected to sexual exploitation (40)(4)(a);
- A child absconds from the SCH or an escort service whilst away from the SCH (40)(4)(e);
- A child has a serious accident while in the SCH or with an escort service whilst away from the SCH (40)(4)(e);
- A child makes or receives unauthorised contact with a family member, friend or other person that the child’s relevant plan states they should not be in contact with (40)(4)(e).
It is for the registered person to decide if an accident is serious, but is likely to include those accidents that require medical treatment to be administered in the SCH (other than basic first aid), or medical treatment administered in a hospital.
If a child dies in a secure children’s home, the registered person must allow the Prison and Probation Ombudsman (PPO) to investigate the death, in line with regulation 40(2) and (6).
Last Updated: February 9, 2022