Chronology Guidance


This chapter details the importance of the Chronology in identifying patterns of behaviour and actions for a child or family, and therefore highlights both issues of concern and strengths. It is clear that chronologies are not a substitute for case recording, but key events are acknowledged that should be included in a chronology.

All children who are in Care, have a Child Protection Plan or considered to be Children in Need should have a chronology.

This chapter was added to the manual in May 2016.

1. Why Are Chronologies Important?

The chronology gives a factual overview of the history of the child and their family. It provides a skeleton of key incidents. It is a 'sequential story' of significant events in a family's history. It contributes to an emerging picture, enabling current events are understood in the context of historical information. It contributes to the understanding of the immediate and cumulative impact of events and changes upon individuals within a family and therefore informs decision making. It also assists in understanding patterns of care or experiences that children have been subject to.

The aims include:

  • To fill in gaps in information;
  • To highlight patterns of behaviour;
  • To show historical influences;
  • To evidence previous work/interventions and their impact;
  • To highlight links with wider family and associates.

2. When Should a Chronology be Provided?

Best practice would require a chronology to be compiled at the allocation of a new case. Key points are:

  • At referral (outline chronology);
  • At the start of an assessment;
  • To make a decision about significant harm and the need for a Child Protection Conference;
  • To inform legal planning;
  • To inform decision making where there is a significant history Social Care involvement e.g. in cases of Neglect or where cases are regularly re-referred or re-opened to Children's Social Care;
  • To inform decision making in adolescent risk management;
  • Prior to a decision to close a case.

It can be very useful to involve the young person, parent or carer in drawing up the chronology as this can both enrich the assessment and support meaningful direct work.

Chronologies should be continuously updated as the work progresses and reviewed not less than 6 monthly.

A chronology is not a substitute for a social history and where appropriate practitioners should always consider completing one of these.

3. What Should a Chronology Include?

A high quality chronology involves professional judgement and should be:

  • Succinct - if every issue /contact is recorded, the value of the chronology is diluted;
  • Simple in format;
  • Informative - the information provided should assist with the decision making process.

The level of detail required in a chronology may vary and is always dependent on professional judgement. However the following should always be considered for inclusion:

  • Births of significant persons;
  • Deaths of significant persons;
  • Education, training and employment details;
  • Referrals to Children's Services and outcome;
  • Cases opened and closed to Children's Services/Early Help;
  • Strategy discussions;
  • S47 enquiries;
  • Child Protection Conferences;
  • Child absconded or missing from home or care of a local authority;
  • Child enters the care of a local authority;
  • Child leaves the care of a local authority;
  • House moves;
  • Persons moving in and out of the household;
  • Details of new partners;
  • Significant incidences of anti-social behaviour;
  • Significant assessments by any professional agency (e.g. SEN);
  • Significant referrals to key partner agencies (e.g. youth inclusion services);
  • Significant police reports;
  • Incidences of reported domestic abuse;
  • Schools attended;
  • Changes of school;
  • School inclusion issues;
  • School attendance issues;
  • Changes in social worker/ significant health professionals;
  • A&E /Walk in centre/hospital attendances/admissions;
  • Mental health issues;
  • Other significant health issues.

There may be a need for specific chronologies to highlight patterns in relation to a particular concern e.g. in respect of missing episodes in relation to potential Sexual Exploitation; health appointments/attendances where there are concerns about medical neglect or Fabricated Illness.

4. Where is the Chronology Held?

Currently the relevant historical information about the child and family's history is held in a number of locations and formats:

  • Word document on SMART. There may be a number of versions completed at different stages of the child's journey;
  • Court bundle: Chronologies are required for legal planning on a case and essential prior to issuing case proceedings. The court approved template represents best practice;
  • Other - Partial chronologies are completed: to inform the decision on a referral, at the start of a Child & Family Assessment, at the start of a conference report, when cases are reviewed, or at closure. However these are not a substitute for a single comprehensive document which can be regularly updated.

5. What to Do if You're Asked for a Chronology?

The aim is to have an up to date and comprehensive chronology on every case. The chronology function is expected to be improved on MOSAIC but in the meantime ensure that you are prepared if you are asked for a chronology on your case:

  • Have you got a full or partial chronology on SMART?
  • Have you got a court or other paper chronology?
  • Is this up to date?
  • Is this fit for purpose and succinct?
  • Will it help in understanding the context of the case?
  • Can a number of partial chronologies be merged into one document?

Remember that this should be a working document and you will need to be able to use it to explain the context for your work now and how the history informs the current Plan.

Recommendations to support best practice:

  • There is an expectation that a chronology is completed on every case within 6 weeks of allocation;
  • Chronologies to be routinely prepared/ updated when child becomes Child In Need/ Child Protection or Child in Care;
  • Chronologies to be updated not less than 6 monthly;
  • Managers should ensure that chronologies have been undertaken on every case and actively consider and review them in supervision;
  • An updated chronology should be requested and actively reviewed by the Chair at each CIN Meeting, Child Protection Conference and first Child in Care Review.

See: Write Enough website and Guide to understanding the importance of writing a chronology for the purpose of safeguarding children and young people (Research in Practice website).