Retention and Destruction of Records


In August 2017, a note was added into Section 2, Destruction of Files in relation to the on-going national Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse; while the inquiry is on-going local authorities are required to retain children's records indefinitely.

1. Retention of Documentation

All records, including files, records, photographs, USB / Data Sticks and other written or electronic and visual material that originates in connection with social work duties, are the property of the Council.

Under no circumstances should the materials referred to above be retained in an employee's possession, whether at home or elsewhere.

Staff using computers at home for Council purposes must transfer any material to an office computer by the next working day. Subsequently, all material must be immediately deleted from their personal computer, hard drive or USB / Data Sticks. No information should be retained that can identify any client or service user.

Staff are not allowed to remove case records from their office, whether this is to work at home or for meetings, except as agreed on a case-by-case basis by the line manager.

Any authorisations to remove case records from the office may be cancelled at any time and their return requested at any time, although reasons should always be given.

Managers should have systems in place to record any removal of documentation from the workplace and their return, with appropriate signatures and dates.

Any breach of these arrangements may lead to disciplinary action being considered.

2. Destruction of Files

Records must be retained for the following time scales:

Children in care: 
75 years from the 18th birthday of the child or 15 years from the date of death in the case of a child who dies before the age of 18

Adoption Case Records: 
100 years from the date of the Adoption Order

Private Foster placements:
As for children in care

Children subject to Supervision Orders:
21 years from the child's date of birth.

Children in Need subject to Section 47 Enquiry:
35 years from file closure

Children in Need subject to Single Assessment only:
6 years from file closure

Children in Need (not subject to Section 47 Enquiry and not in care): 
10 years from file closure.

Unaccompanied minor, for example an asylum-seeker:
10 years from file closure.

Assessment and approval of adoptive parents/foster carers:
25 years from the date approval is terminated or refused or the date of death of adoptive/foster carer

Files on approved foster carers:
35 years from date foster carer ceased fostering

Children in receipt of family support services:
7 years from file closure

Children and families in receipt of family assessment:
25 years from date of birth of youngest child

Systems to manage children in need of protection and children in care in summary form, for example the List of Children with a Child Protection Plan and children's homes' registers, must be retained permanently and transferred to the Archivist after their administrative use has ended.

Documents relating to the operation of children's homes, for example, diaries, rotas, daily logs: 25 years from closure of file

Records relating to staff working with children: 25 years from date when employment ends

Managers may decide to retain records for longer than the minimum periods specified above.

Where no period for retention is specified, records should usually be retained for one year after the last contact with the family. 

There is a discretion to specify a longer period where the circumstances warrant this, for example if a person is known to be violent, records may be retained for longer to indicate the potential risk posed by such a person or if litigation is possible.

The date for the destruction of a record should be written on its front cover (in the case of a paper file) and entered on the computer system when the case is closed (in the case of electronic records).

If a closed case is subsequently re-opened, care must be taken to erase the date for destruction on the paper and electronic record.

Whenever there is the possibility of litigation, the records and information likely to be affected should not be amended or destroyed until the threat of litigation has ended.

When records identified for destruction are destroyed, a register of such records should be kept with sufficient detail to identify the record and the date destroyed.

In all cases, the destruction of paper records should be coordinated with the deletion of any electronic corresponding records.

Please Note: While the National Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse is on-going, no children's social care records should be destroyed.

See the Independent Inquiry Website for full details.