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1.9.2 Case File Retention

RELEVANT CHAPTERS

Access to Records Procedure

Archiving and Retention Procedure

Case Recording Audit - to follow

Subject Access Request Procedure

ADDITIONAL GUIDANCE

Notice of retention/non‐destruction of documents relating to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse

AMENDMENT

This file has been updated in February 2017 with the link to the guidance from the National Enquiry into Child Sexual Abuse regarding retention of records.


Contents

  1. Scope
  2. Data Protection Act 1998
  3. Limitation Act 1980
  4. Children In Need
  5. Child Protection
  6. Court Orders
  7. Looked After Children
  8. Fostering
  9. Adoption

    Appendix 1: Children and Families Service Social Work Case Record Retention Policy


1. Scope

This policy is concerned with the requirements for the retention of social work files and reflects current and relevant legislation and guidance. It is concerned with “hard copy” files containing paper records and documents received, produced, created and retained within then current case recording policies, and to records held in electronic form. Most records can be kept electronically, except adoption records for which government guidance advises that adoption records should be kept in a paper form as "for many people, being able to see and handle original documents can be very significant, particularly if the document was actually signed by their birth parent or other relative." [1]

The policy sets out the minimum retention policies required by law or government and statutory guidance for the different types of social work files that may be held within the Children and Families Service, whether in local teams and divisions or following transfer to the central file archive at Janice Mews, Ilford.

It should be noted that the retention periods referred to in this policy are the minimum periods as stated in general and specific legislation and there may be various reasons why files need to be retained for a longer period. Attention must be paid to the general legislation which applies to retention policies such as the Date Protection Act 1998 and the Limitation Act 1980.

[1] Practice Guidance on Adoption: Access to Information and Intermediary Services, para 36, Department for Children, Schools and Families, 2008.


2. Data Protection Act 1998

Consideration must be given to the principles of data protection as laid down within the Data Protection Act 1998. That Act states that personal data shall be obtained only for one or more specified and lawful purposes, and shall only be processed in a manner compatible with that purpose (second principle). In addition, personal data shall be adequate, relevant and not excessive in relation to the purpose for which they are processed (third principle) as well as accurate and, where necessary, kept up to date (fourth principle).

The most relevant principle is the fifth principle which states that personal data processed for any purpose shall not be kept for longer than is necessary for that purpose. The Act does not set out any specific minimum or maximum periods for retaining personal data. In deciding how long certain data (records) should be kept for it will be worth considering whether the information held may be useful if the circumstances suggest further involvement with the family, so the files are not destroyed prematurely. The Information Commissioner’s Office guidance, ‘The Guide to Data Protection’, states when deciding the retention period for personal data, a judgment must be made regarding: the current and future value of the information; the costs, risks and liabilities associated with retaining the information; and the ease or difficulty of making sure it remains accurate and up to date. While this policy cannot dictate retention periods for each individual record, it refers to each type of file in turn.

The Act does allow for certain exceptions to the principles outlined above. For example, a file may be kept longer then necessary when the data needs to be retained because the information is relevant to legal action which has been started. This is reiterated in the guidance which states that personal data may be kept so that any possible future legal claims may be defended, with the data being deleted when such a claim could no longer arise, which will be discussed further below in relation to the Limitation Act. A file may also be kept longer than necessary where legislation requires the authority to keep the information for longer. The relevant legislation is set out below. Finally, the data may be kept longer than necessary if the information is archived for historical purposes or consist of a sample of records maintained for the purpose of retrospective comparison.


3. Limitation Act 1980

The minimum retention period within this policy is the lesser of either (a) six years, or (b) if relating to a child, the 24th birthday of the child, or (c) if relating to more than one child, the 24th birthday of the youngest child. The reason for the six year period is because there is a six year period established by the Limitation Act 1980 within which a person can sue the Council for negligence. In the case of a child this six year period starts from the child’s 18th birthday as a person under the age of 18 is not able to take any legal action. Once they reach 18, they have six years in which they may make a legal claim. It would be advisable to keep all files during this period in order to defend any action made against the Council. In addition, the Council’s insurers might refuse to pay out if legal action is taken and the Council and/or its insurers were unable to defend the action because relevant files had been destroyed.

The Children Act 2004 Information Database (England) Regulations 2007, as amended by the Children Act 2004 Information Database (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2010, states that information becomes archived information at the time of the events below, from which the local authority should retain the information for six years before it is destroyed. Information becomes archived when:

  1. A child record for a child who has not consented to that information being on file, the date on which he attains the age of 18;
  2. A child record for a child who has consented to the information being on file, the date on which he attains the age of 25, or (if earlier) the date on which his consent to the information being contained in the child record is withdrawn;
  3. A child record for a person who ceases to be in the area of the local authority, the date on which the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families or the local authority responsible for his child record becomes aware that he is no in the area of the local authority and that it is unlikely he will return to the area of the local authority within three years from that date;
  4. A child record for a person who has died, the first anniversary of his death.

However, the information should not be kept longer than six years unless there is a good reason, such as imminent or ongoing legal action or it is required by statute to be kept for a longer period. Specific legislation is set out below.


4. Children In Need

There is no statutory minimum retention period for records relating to a Child in Need. Records should therefore be retained for a minimum of six years from the relevant event under the Children Act 2004 Information Database (England) Regulations 2007 as set out above. Records may be retained for a specified, longer period on the decision of the Team Manager when closing the case.


5. Child Protection

Child protection records include records of activity within Section 47 including “Enquiries”, records of a child who is subject to a Child Protection Plan, a child harmed or deceased as a result of child abuse, and missing children and families

There are no statutory minimum retention periods for these records and they must be retained for a minimum of six years from the relevant event under the Children Act 2004 Information Database (England) Regulations 2007 as set out above. Records may be retained for a specified, longer period on the decision of the Team Manager when closing the case.

It is the policy of the Children and Families Service to retain records of Section 47 (child protection) enquiries, investigations and case conferences until the child’s 24th birthday. These records may be retained for a specified, longer period on the decision of the Team Manager when closing the case, for example where there are or have been concerns about younger children in the household.


6. Court Orders

Any records that relate to proceedings in which an order is made in relation to a child must be retained until the order expires. This is typically the child’s 16th birthday for Section 8 orders, (although it would be specified in the court order if it were to continue beyond this age). The Council may need the file if an application is made to discharge the order, because the Council would automatically become a party to the proceedings.


7. Looked After Children

The Arrangements for Placement of Children (General) Regulations 1991 state that a case record relating to a child who is placed shall be retained by the Council until the seventy-fifth anniversary of the date of birth of the child to whom it relates or, if the child dies before attaining the age of 18, for a period of 15 years beginning with the date of his death.

This may be complied with either by retaining the original written record, or a copy of it, or by keeping all of the information from such record in some other accessible form (such as by means of a computer).


8. Fostering

Foster Parent - Application Withdrawn/Refused

The records compiled shall be retained for at least 3 years from the refusal or withdrawal of the application to become a foster parent (Regulation 32(3), Fostering Services Regulations 2002). These records include:

  1. The information obtained in connection with the assessment;
  2. Any report submitted to the fostering panel and any recommendation made by the fostering panel; and
  3. Any notification given under Regulation 28, Fostering Services Regulations 2002.

Foster Carers - Approved Carers

The records compiled in relation to a foster parent and any entry relating to him in the register shall be retained for at least 10 years from the date on which his approval is terminated (s.32(1) Fostering Services Regulations 2002). These records include:

  1. The notice of approval given under regulation 28(5)(a);
  2. The foster care agreement;
  3. Any report of a review of approval prepared under regulation 29(4);
  4. Any notice given under regulation 29(10);
  5. Any agreement entered into in accordance with regulation 38(1)(a);
  6. The report prepared under regulation 27(2)(e) and any other reports submitted to the fostering panel; and
  7. Any recommendations made by the fostering panel.

Foster Placement

The records compiled by a local authority in relation to a person with whom a child is placed, and any entry relating to such a person in the register shall be retained for at least 10 years from the date on which the placement is terminated (s.32(2)). These include:

  1. The agreement entered into in accordance with regulation 38(2)(b);
  2. A record in relation to the placement, including the name, age and sex of each child placed, the dates on which the placement began and terminated, and the circumstances of the termination; and
  3. The information obtained in relation to the enquiries carried out under regulation 38(2).

When the child is placed in foster care, the fostering service provider shall maintain and keep up to date records for at least 15 years from the date of the last entry (22(1)). These records include:

A record in the form of a register showing in respect of each child placed with foster parents:

  • The date of his placement;
  • The name and address of the foster parent;
  • The date on which he ceased to be placed there;
  • His address prior to the placement;
  • His address on leaving the placement;
  • His responsible authority (if it is not the fostering service provider);
  • The statutory provision under which he is placed with foster parents.

A record showing in respect of each person working for the fostering service provider:

  1. His full name;
  2. His sex;
  3. His date of birth;
  4. His home address;
  5. His qualifications relevant to, and experience of, work involving children;
  6. Whether he is employed by the fostering service provider under a contract of service or a contract for services, or is employed by someone other than the fostering service provider;
  7. Whether he works full-time or part-time and, if part-time, the average number of hours worked per week.

A record of all accidents occurring to children whilst placed with foster parents.


9. Adoption

Adoption Records

The adoption agency must keep information in relation to a person's adoption for at least 100 years from the date of the adoption order (Section 56, Adoption and Children Act 2002 and Reg. 6 Disclosure of Adoption Information (Post-Commencement Adoptions) Regulations 2005).

The adoption agency must continue to keep the case record that was set up in respect of the adopted person under Part 3 of the Adoption Agencies Regulations 2005 or under the Adoption Agencies Regulations 1983. They must also keep:

  1. Any information that has been supplied by a natural parent or relative or other significant person in the adopted person's life, with the intention that the adopted person may, should he wish to, be given that information;
  2. Any information supplied by the adoptive parents or other persons which is relevant to matters arising after the making of the adoption order;
  3. Any information that the adopted person has requested should be kept;
  4. Any information given to the adoption agency in respect of an adopted person by the Registrar General under section 79(5) of the Act (information that would enable an adopted person to obtain a certified copy of the record of his birth);
  5. Any information disclosed to the adoption agency about an entry relating to the adopted person on the Adoption Contact Register;
  6. Any information required to be recorded in accordance with regulation 10, 14 or 18;
  7. The record of any agreement under regulation 11.


Appendix 1: Children and Families Service Social Work Case Record Retention Policy

Case Record Retention Periods - A Summary

Type of Record Retention Period
Adoption Records 100 years from the adoption date
Foster Parent (application withdrawn/refused) 3 years
Foster Carers (approved carers) 10 years from termination of approval
Foster Placement records (and registers) of carers 10 years from the end of the placement
In-house Foster Placement records (and registers) of carers 15 years after the last entry
Looked After Children The seventy-fifth anniversary of the date of birth of the child (or, if the child dies aged 17 or less, for a period of 15 years from the date of death)
Court Orders Any records that relate to proceedings in which an order is made in relation to a child must be retained until the order expires (typically the child’s 16th birthday)
Child Protection Retain records of Section 47 (child protection) enquiries, investigations and case conferences until the child’s 24th birthday
All other files

The lesser of either (a) if relating to a child, the 24th birthday of the child, or (b) if relating to more than one child, the 24th birthday of the youngest child or (c) six years after:

  1. The 18th birthday of a child who has not consented to information being on file;
  2. The 25th birthday of a child who has consented to information being on file;
  3. The date on which the Council becomes aware that he has ceased to be in (or looked after by) the London Borough of Redbridge and that it is unlikely he will return to the area of the local authority within three years from that date;
  4. The first anniversary of the death of the child that the records relate to.

End