Form-filling gets in the way of care

How much longer is a major area of children and families social
work going to be bogged down in the excessive bureaucracy that is
the Looked After Children’s (LAC) materials?

We need record-keeping and accountability, but is the emphasis
placed on these forms justified? For every looked-after child, a
series of LAC materials has to be completed. For a child over the
age of five, in a new placement, without any placement changes over
the following 12-month period, nine statutory forms need to be
completed. This is the minimum, and more forms might be required.
Personal education plans are also required, duplicating information
contained in individual (and other) education plans and the
plethora of paperwork around the statementing process that applies
to many looked-after children.

The LAC forms make up a total of 134 pages of questions. At an
estimated five questions/entries per page, this works out at 670
questions or entries required for each child in its first
looked-after year.

Virtually every form repeats the questions asked by the other
forms. For example, every form addresses health in one form or

I suggest a radical modification – to review and gather information
using only two forms. The first would be a modified version of the
placement plan part 1, which would include essential information
about the child, including routines and the signed consents by
various parties to accommodate that child. The second would be a
modified version of the assessment and action record, which would
be divided into two sections.

Section 1 would address concerns and issues related to the key area
“indicators” – such as health and education, and issues relating to
legal status and contact. Section 2 would be a less mechanical
approach to the assessment and action record giving more detail
about the child’s life, perceptions and routines. The final part of
the current assessment and action record (summary of work to be
undertaken) would constitute the care plan. Updates to the record
could be made when change occurred rather than reiterating what was
said at a previous meeting when no change actually happened.

Is it actually in the best interests of children to have workers
spending hours writing up repetitious information?

Alan Connell is a children and families social worker in an
inner London local authority.

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