Anything as potentially life-changing as social work or judicial intervention into a child’s life needs recording and for that record to remain accessible for the child concerned – and often for those around them.
When I was a frontline social worker, I sat with a lot of people who had been in care and who wanted to look back at their records. It was too often an embarrassing exercise, ploughing through only partly comprehensible reports and case recording, trying to tell the story – as simply as possible – of what happened and why decisions were made.
As Albert Einstein said, ‘everything should be made as simple as possible but not simpler’. And on that note, I was pleased to read a recent child and parent-friendly judgment about a complex case written by Mr Justice Jackson.
Mr Justice Jackson has condensed a complex story into an easy to read 11 page judgment. For the individuals involved, they will have access for the rest of their lives to a clear narrative about why profound decisions were taken in respect of the individual children.
Growing up unhappily, for whatever reason, can have a lifelong impact. However resilient you are, the demons can come back to haunt you in different ways at different times. Coping with the pressure this brings is like managing any long-term condition. You have to learn to live with it as best you can. Often people don’t have total recall or understanding about what happened, which is how myths and fantasies can set in and distort the reality. Having your story understood and then recorded for your personal posterity is a valuable front line service for children, not just an administrative afterthought. Our challenge is to leave our written records in that accessible form.