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2.4 Completing a Chronology


In June 2021, minor amendments were made in line with local practice.


  1. Introduction
  2. What is a Chronology?
  3. Why Chronologies are Important
  4. What are Significant Events?
  5. Analysing Chronologies

    Appendix 1: Creating Chronologies with Liquid Logic

1. Introduction

Numerous local and national inquiries into child deaths, most notably Lord Laming's findings from the deaths of Victoria Climbié (2003) and Baby Peter (2008) have highlighted the importance and significance of good quality Chronologies as an effective tool in identifying and managing risk. However, as identified in the Social Work Inspection Agency Practice Guidance 2010,

" of the most talked about and least understood tools"

This practice guide aims to support workers to improve their understanding of Chronologies, what should be included in them and why they are important in work with children, young people and their families.

2. What is a Chronology?

In its simplest terms a Chronology is a list in date order of all the major changes and events in a child's life. It aims to provide a clear account, based on fact, of the significant events that are likely to have an effect on a child's life experience.

While Chronologies can be used in many different settings and for different circumstances (e.g. single agency, multi-agency, Serious Case Reviews, court reports, etc.), for the purposes of this guidance and safeguarding children in Bolton a Chronology should:

  • Be compiled/updated by Children's Social Care Teams for the duration of each contact, referral or intervention;
  • Be focussed on significant events that impact on the individual child's life; a significant event is an incident that impacts on the child's safety and welfare, circumstances or home environment;
  • Build a picture of the child's life events and identify any patterns or themes, either positive or negative, that may impact understanding the risk of harm to the child;
  • Be updated regularly; and where necessary shared with other agencies

A Chronology is not:

  • An assessment; it is part of the assessment process and contributes to understanding the elements of risk to the child;
  • A list of static dates and events; it is a tool that should be analysed, update and regularly assessed/reviewed;
  • Looking at events in isolation; it is about developing an understanding of patterns or 'trends' in a child's life;
  • Based on assumption or opinion; it is based on up-to-date, accurate case recording;
  • A case record; it should contain sufficient detail but not a repeat of the level of detail in the case record, e.g. it is enough to record in a Chronology that a home visit was undertaken and the child seen - the details of what happened, who said what, etc. are not relevant in a Chronology; what is important is the pattern of visiting and the frequency of the child being seen alone.

3. Why Chronologies are Important

There are limitations in any risk assessment but an accurate Chronology can assist the process of assessment and review. It should be used as an analytical tool to help understand the impact, both immediately and cumulatively, of events and changes to a child's developmental progress. Recent inquiries into the care of children have all concluded that a Chronology could have helped towards an earlier identification of risks to the person, or risks from them.

The relevance of an event can change over time. An historical event which appeared insignificant or irrelevant may become highly relevant and significant in the as the Chronology is updated. Chronologies bring information together and support workers to understand and identify when and where the significant events are.

Chronologies are not only helpful in identifying any anomalies or contradictions in the information, but also useful in highlighting gaps in knowledge or patterns of behaviour that require further exploration.

4. What are Significant Events?

This is probably the most challenging aspect of a Chronology and does require the worker to use their professional judgement. As a minimum it is recommended that in Bolton the following areas are included in the Chronology:

  • All contacts or referrals about the child recorded on ICS - including dates where cases were closed/involvement ended;
  • Dates of significant meetings e.g. Section 47 Strategy Meetings, Child Protection Conferences, Core Groups, Looked After Reviews, Personal Education Plan meetings, etc. and dates when minutes distributed;
  • Key management decisions e.g. move to proceedings, change placement, change of worker etc.
  • Key information sharing with other agencies about a child or family member (e.g. police checks undertaken, contact arrangements, distribution of meeting minutes, deterioration in parental mental health, etc.) or where significant case decisions taken (e.g. removal at birth, change of placement for LAC etc.);
  • Dates when involvements with additional services have begun and/or ended, e.g. family support, CAMHS, physiotherapy, diabetic clinics, etc.
  • All home visits, announced or unannounced and whether or not the child was seen alone;
  • Non-accidental injury/suspicious injuries/significant injury/visible injuries, even if justified by history but child is subject to a Child Protection Plan/Different accounts of history of injury;
  • Attendance at A&E/Out of Hours/Minor Injury Units/Walk In Centres and Hospital Admissions;
  • Periods of exclusion from school or authorised/unauthorised absence;
  • Non-attendance or frequent cancellation of appointments;
  • Loss of weight/excessive weight gain (against centile chart);
  • Births, deaths, serious illness of both adults and children;
  • Criminal proceedings and outcomes/Civil proceedings involving family/ court proceedings/changes in legal status of child;
  • Self-referrals and any referrals to other health professionals/agencies/ teams and support offered to family/assessments undertaken;
  • Reported incidents of domestic abuse or substance misuse of carers;
  • Periods of missing from home/care;
  • Attempted suicide or overdose of child, young person or family member;/
  • Contact agreements or arrangements that have been made with parents, children etc.
  • Dates of any legal orders and the type of order;
  • Change of:
    • Main carers;
    • Address;
    • Doctor/medical practitioners;
    • Family composition, including new partners, separations, non-family members moving into family home (including privately fostered children), excessive visitors/frequent presence of unknown adults, birth of a baby, step-siblings;
    • School

As stated previously the entry should be accurate and concise. There does not need to be significant detail in the Chronology about any action or intervention that was undertaken or any outcomes of the contact.

The ICS system will capture and produce the Chronology, clicking the link below will take you to a sample Chronology that provides guidance on the level of detail that should be included in the ICS entry. However this is an aid for the construction of chronologies, it is not meant as a secondary recording structure, it is therefore expected that practitioners should edit the chronology to ensure it is concise and meaningful as to why that entry in the chronology is significant :

Appendix 1: Creating Chronologies with Liquid Logic gives guidance on how to develop and create a Chronology using Liquid Logic.

5.  Analysing Chronologies

As stated previously, Chronologies are tools to be used and can support workers to identify patterns or emerging themes in the child's life. However, as stated, this is only possible where workers keep the Chronology up to date and review and reflect on the contents. Review and analysis of a Chronology is essential to an effective assessment; a Chronology which is not reviewed and analysed serves little if any purpose.

It is recommended that workers update Chronologies contemporaneously with their case records and that the Chronology is reviewed by the worker and their manager:

Appendix 1: Creating Chronologies with Liquid Logic

Click here to view Creating Chronologies with Liquid Logic.