Case Records for Children in Care (Including Retention)

IMPORTANT NOTE: Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (GODDARD INQUIRY) has said that:

It is now very unlikely that the Chair and Panel will request access to documents relevant to the Inquiry’s Terms of Reference.

Consequently, organisations can plan for destruction or deletion of records that have been retained for the purposes of the Inquiry, which can resume at the end of the Inquiry’s Judicial Review period, currently set for 20th January 2023. However, please consider the following when drawing up disposal plans:

  1. Whether any of the records you have retained are likely to be of significant interest to victims and survivors and that your retention schedules meet their needs;
  2. The obligation to retain records for other inquiries remains.

Further information about the Inquiry’s moratorium on the destruction of records can be found on the Inquiry’s website.


This chapter was updated in July 2023 in relation to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.

1. The Case Record

A written case record must be established and maintained for each child.

The record must include:

  • The child's Care Plan, including any changes made to the Care Plan and any subsequent plans to include the Health Plan, Placement Plan and Personal Education Plan;
  • Reports of Health Assessments;
  • Any other document created or considered as part of any assessment of the child's needs, or of any review of their case including education assessments;
  • Any court order relating to the child;
  • Details of any arrangements for the responsible authority's functions to be discharged by an independent fostering provider or provider of social work services.

These should be regarded as the minimum requirements for the case record. The Statutory Guidance recommends that records should also include:

  • Details of arrangements for contact;
  • Copies of reports provided during court proceedings such as guardian's reports and specialist assessments;
  • Additional information about educational progress;
  • Copies of all the documents used to seek information, provide information or record views given to the authority in the course of planning and reviewing the child's case and review reports;
  • Records of visits; and
  • Other correspondence which relates to the child.

It is also recommended that any contribution that the child may wish to make, such as written material, photographs, school certificates and similar items, should be included. Care must be taken to ensure that the child retains either copies or originals of information which will form part of his/her own progress file to keep with him/her. Any papers temporarily placed in the record which are the property of the child should be clearly marked as such.

The records should be maintained in such a way that it is easy to trace the process of decision-making and in particular the views of the child and parents.

The child's record should be separate from other records, such as those relating to a foster carer or children's home, which are not solely concerned with the individual child. Where some information on one of these other records is relevant to the child, a duplicate entry should appear in the child's record.

Records should not be amalgamated even in the case of siblings, although a degree of cross-reference and duplicate entry will be necessary.

2. The Practitioner should write as though they are writing directly to the Child

The practitioner should imagine they are writing to the child, who could one day see their record. For example "Dear Chelsea, today I visited you at home with your foster carer...".  This helps to shape the record into something clear and understandable that focuses on the child's experiences.

Where this is not possible, it may still be a powerful tool to write directly to parents or other family members.

3. Retention and Confidentiality of Records

The case record must be kept until the 75th anniversary of the child's date of birth, or 15 years from the date of death in the case of a child who dies before reaching the age of 18.

The case record must be kept secure, and any necessary steps taken to ensure that information contained in it is treated as confidential, subject only to statutory rights of access or court orders granting access.

The Data Protection Act applies to both paper/manual and electronic records.

The retention of a child's record will depend upon the nature of involvement of the local authority with the child and family:

Click here to view Children's Services - Retention of Records.