Date Posted: Friday, 18 January 2008
This document is a general one. It offers guidelines and since it is not prescriptive it does not refer to any specific model of a report. It is the basis of the practical part of a one day report writing course which I have conducted many times over the years for residential child care workers as well as other life space workers. It takes the position that all reports generally contain three basic elements : an introduction, an account of evidence, and a conclusion. The kind of report described is one which would normally be written by a keyworker for a young person’s care plan review meeting.
At the end of the document there is a list of phrases and words which can sometimes help when linking facts and ideas together in a report. It is by no means an exhaustive list. Readers might wish to add phrases and words of their own.
What should happen before the report is written
Take time to consider what it is you would want to write. Do this in consultation with the young person and with your supervisor. It is important that you have shared with the young person the general gist and content of the report in order to make sure the factual content at least is correct, even if the young person does not agree with your conclusions.
Some general rules to think about
Try to keep the report formal but not authoritarian in tone.
Limit the use the first person, except perhaps in your conclusion when you are expressing your opinion of the young person’s needs.
Don’t use convoluted or complex sentences, phrases or words when simple ones would be just as powerful.
Don’t express opinion as fact.
Don’t use value judgements.
First element : introduction
Introductory comments are a summary of what will appear in the more detailed sections of the report. They have two important functions.
- To state what the general aims of the placement on admission were, or to state what plans were agreed at the young person’s last review meeting.
- To make a general statement of how far these aims and plans have been achieved.
John was placed at …….. in order to provide him with a stable living environment, while he tried to re-establish his relationship with his family. Since his admission, John’s stay has been a relatively calm one, but his progress in re-forging his links with his family has been slow.
At the last review it was agreed that Jane would be helped to begin to prepare for a foster family placement and be encouraged to improve her school attendance, at the same time as taking more responsibility to deal with her particular medical condition. Jane now acknowledges that placement with a foster family is in her best interests and in recent weeks, when she has been taking the course of medication prescribed for her, she has been attending school regularly.
James was placed at………. to give him time to come to terms with the fact that he would not, in the near future, be returning to his family and so that he could be supported in developing the skills he will need to survive out in the community on his own. It has been difficult for James to accept not being with his family, but he has made progress in learning to carry out many of the practical tasks he will need to do when he lives in his own accommodation.
These introductory ‘setting the scene’ sentences are very important since if they can provide the framework for the more detailed part of the report.
The second element : an account of evidence
The second section of the report provides an account of what has actually happened for the young person in relation to the care plan made at the last review or on admission. Clearly you will be unable to write in detail about everything that has happened since you will not have enough ink or paper and more importantly you will not have enough time ! Accordingly you will have to use your insight and prioritising skills to decide what should be in your report or not. You will therefore need summarising skills in this section also. Some useful guidelines are :-
- always report on significant events which have helped the thrust of the care plan or have altered its dynamic in any way. Examples may include, significant family developments, educational developments, significant changes in health, child protection matters, and other important incidents. If a particular event has been reported in detail and in writing and is in the young person’s file, you may give a short account of the event and refer readers to the more detailed document if they wish to know more and if they are allowed access to such information.
- although you may summarise events in this section, you must be sure that your summary is factual to the extent that it could not reasonably be argued against in its context.
- in this section you attempt to avoid judgement as this should be left for your conclusion.
- if a precise target or need has been identified at the last review or on admission, for example, school attendance, or regular home visits, actual statistics are strong evidence and should be used in this section.
- the suggested headings are guidelines and need not always be adhered to, but family relationships, education and health matters should not be excluded. The remainder of the section should help towards reflecting how the young person presents as a whole human being.
The third element : conclusion
In the conclusion you should acknowledge any positive developments for the young person in working towards the care plan since the last review. It is also in this section of your report that you use your analytic skills to pick out of the second section points which you see as relevant to the young person’s future development and needs, and which require further or different intervention. You may at this stage suggest ways in which these developments and needs may be achieved or met.
What should happen after the first draft of the report has been written.
Once you have completed your report, read it carefully. Consider if the picture you paint is one of a whole, rounded person. You discussed the general gist and content of the report with the young person before you started writing and it is good practice to discuss it again with the young person and your supervisor when you have completed writing it.
In reading it with the young person and your supervisor check with them that it is factual, flows logically and that it makes sense to them. It would be good practice to mention at the end of your conclusion that you have discussed the report with the young person and to state if the young person’s conclusion differs in any way from yours. This can be helpful if for any reason a young person decides not to attend the review meeting.
If you present it for typing, remember that it should be legible, and as far as possible checked for grammatical or spelling errors. If you type it yourself on a computer be sure not only to use the spelling and grammar check but also to read it carefully yourself because these computer functions do not pick up every error particularly when there are two words which mean different things and which are spelt differently but sound the same.
Useful words and phrases
It was suggested
It was decided
On the whole
© goodenoughcaring.com and Charles Sharpe