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GloucestershireChildren's Social Care Procedures Manual

Case Locking Procedure


This procedure applies to all electronic and paper Children's Social Care Records.


Appendix 1: Template for Locking Cases was updated in February 2018.


  1. Policy Statement
  2. Purpose
  3. Legal Context
  4. Mandatory Procedures
  5. Request to Lock a Case
  6. Monitoring and Review
  7. Appendix 1: Template for Locking Cases
  8. Appendix 2: Procedure for Children and Families Helpdesk

1. Policy Statement

Gloucestershire County Council provides services for people and local communities. The day-to-day work of the Council involves collecting and using information about the people whom we provide services to and with whom we work. Information from which an individual can be personally identified is protected by the Data Protection Act 1998. Under the Act, we have a legal duty to protect any information that we collect. We take measures to safeguard your data and apply security standards and controls to prevent any unauthorised access to it.

There are occasions when we need to limit access to the record of a service user because of its sensitive nature. In these instances Gloucestershire Children's and Young Peoples Services will ensure that such cases are 'locked' and only accessed by those members of staff directly involved with the care of that service user.

  • Examples of where this procedure should be used are as follows;
  • Where the information could cause the breakdown of an adoption placement;
  • Where a member of staff may be related to a service user;
  • Where there is a high profile case - Public interest, where there may be a media interest;
  • Where a serious case review is to be carried out;
  • Where there is a sudden and unexplained death of a child, the support team have permission to lock the case immediately pending confirmation of the appropriate owner;
  • Where the Head of Service makes a decision that information must be protected because of the sensitive nature of the case.

2. Purpose

To provide a clear process for the locking down of files, for the accountability in the management of such files and the review of the decision for those files to be locked down.

This procedure must be used in conjunction with:

Children Act 1989 and Children Act 2004 - Sets out the responsibility of Councils with social care responsibilities to ensure that all children are safeguarded. This will require, in circumstances where children are thought to be in need of additional services or at risk of significant harm, to undergo a formal assessment and where appropriate to arrange for the provision of social care services to meet the assessed needs of these children and their families.

Working Together to Safeguard Children - sets out how organisations and individuals should work together to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people in accordance with the legislation detailed above.

Data Protection Act 1998 - This Act makes provision for the regulation of the processing of information relating to individuals, including the obtaining, holding, use or disclosure of such information.

Data Protection Act 1998 - guidance for social services. The Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) came into force on 1 March 2000. The purpose of this guidance to local authority social services is to provide information about how the DPA works in relation to giving access to social work records.

Recording with Care - Inspection of case recording in Social Services Departments 1999. This report aimed to improve case recording in Local Authority Children and Young Peoples Services(previously Social Services).

General Social Care Council Codes of Practice for Social Care Workers and Employers - UK-wide codes of practice for social care workers and employers providing a clear guide for all those who work in social care, setting out the standards of practice and conduct workers and their employers should meet.

Defining the Electronic Social Care Record - Information Management in Social Care 2004. This document sets out the content of the Electronic Social Care Record.

4. Mandatory Procedures

4.1 Request to Lock a Case

The criteria outlined above sets out the circumstances when this procedure can be used. In such circumstances, and where workers or managers decide that the criteria is met to lock a file the following procedure must be adhered to in all circumstances.

  • Officers must discuss the case and the circumstances with their line manager;
  • Team managers must request permission from their Service Manager to lock the file (see form in Appendix 1: Template for Locking Cases). Information required in Appendix 1 includes the following:
    • The person responsible for the security of the file and to who should be contacted should access be required by another member of staff or agency;
    • Name of child and ID number;
    • The reason why the case needs to be locked;
    • The names of other staff members or whole team name who will need access to the files;
    • Details of any individual or team who must have their access denied;
    • When permission has been granted, the Team Manager must forward the approved Appendix 1: Template for Locking Cases to the ICT Service Application Support for action.

Unless specifically refused, the following teams will automatically be granted access to the locked record, System Support / JJ Team (asked for name) and the Emergency Duty Team (EDT).

There are a limited number of occasions, where the information displayed in the lock notification could imply a child / young person's physical location in the County or the referral reason based on the name / team within the notification message. If this is the case, the notification will be removed, and notes on who to contact held within the restricted area of the system. These instructions will explain to the ICT Service Application Support Team on who to contact. Examples include cases locked to the LADO (Local Authority Designated Officer) under the Allegation Management Procedure or adopted adults seeking birth records information.

4.2 Short Term Access (24 Hours) by Non-Allocated Staff

When a member of staff not allocated to a locked case requires short-term access, e.g. because of their specialist knowledge/role, investigation of a complaint, etc. they will contact the named manager or accountable member of staff named on the locked notification message to permit access, stating the reason for the request. The agreement to permit access must be forwarded to the ICT Service Application Support Team and the decision must be recorded as a case note in ICS.

It is the responsibility of non-allocated staff to contact the named team manager to confirm when access to the locked case is no longer required. The named manager will inform the ICT Service Application Support by e-mail.

4.3 Reviewing Locked Cases

All locked cases will be reviewed on a monthly basis to ensure that the circumstances for locking the case still exist.

The manager and the key worker must discuss whether a case needs to remain locked. Each manager must have access to a list of all their current locked cases. Once the decision is made to unlock a case, the Team Manager must send an e-mail to the Service Manager for authorisation. The permission being given by the Service Manager to unlock the case will be copied to the team manager and the ICT Service Application Support mailbox with the Person ID, with a request that the case be unlocked.

With respect to Serious Case Reviews, it will be necessary to keep the case "locked" until the outcome of the review is known and any criminal charges have been completed.

4.4 Closure of Locked Cases

When closing a case, the worker should discuss with the Team Manager whether it is necessary for the case to remain locked. If the decision is made to unlock the case prior to closure, the above procedure must be followed.

4.5 Locked Cases Report

Managers with locked case responsibility will run the locked cases report on a bi-monthly basis to check current locked access for all locked cases. These reports should be sent to the relevant service manager for scrutiny.

Twice yearly report on the status and numbers of locked cases will be prepared for OLT by the responsible Service Manager or Head of Service

5. Implementation

This policy takes effect immediately. All managers should ensure that staff are aware of this policy and its requirements. This should be undertaken as part of induction and supervision. If staff have any queries in relation to the policy, they should discuss this with their line manager in the first instance.

6. Monitoring and Review

This policy will be flagged for review twelve months after implementation.

Appendix 1: Template for Locking Cases

Click here to view Appendix 1: Template for Locking Cases.

Appendix 2: Procedure for Children and Families Helpdesk

Locked Cases

This process states what the Children & Families Helpdesk should do when they come across a locked case.

Contacts can be received by phone, e-mail, fax or letter, from many different sources. The Customer Service Officers (CSO's) will refer to ICS to record the information and pass it to the appropriate team. CSO's will not have any access to locked cases, even temporary access. This procedure defines what they do with the information and who needs to make a record of the contact.

When the CSO tries to access a locked case it will inform them that it is locked to a named person.

In all cases, the information will be collected and e-mailed to the owner of the locked case, copied to the appropriate R&A Team. It will include a statement that the case was locked.

If the case is a child protection issue, the information needs to be passed through to the appropriate person as soon as possible. The e-mail will be marked urgent and will be followed by a phone call to warn the team that there is an urgent case.

The CSO will not record anything on ICS (they are unable to as the case is locked) and the owner of the locked case (or the person that picks it up) will make the appropriate record on ICS.

Change of Address

If a contact is received showing a different address than that shown on ICS, CSO's will firstly attempt to clarify the address with the referrer. If the referrer believes that the address is correct or the CSO cannot verify the address with the referrer, then the following will happen:

  • If the address is in the same area of the county, the CSO will not request a change of address but will highlight the different address within the Contact and then pass all information to the appropriate R&A Team;
  • If the addresses are in different areas then:
    • Open cases (and those closed within 13 weeks) are sent to the team that it is open to, the different address information will be recorded in the Contact;
    • Closed (more than 13 weeks ago) or "new" child cases should be sent to the team indicated by the address included in the contact information.

If the R&A Team Manager decides that the case should have been allocated to a different R&A Team then they will need to liaise with each other to resolve this. No cases should be referred back to the Children & Families Helpdesk.

Under no circumstances will a CSO request a change of address; this will be the responsibility of the R&A Team once they have verified the change.

Recording Information

Calls where the child is named and the call is transferred to an R&A Team will not be recorded on ICS by the CSO. This is the responsibility of the R&A Team concerned. CSO's currently record this on the EDS form, going forward they will record this on the CRM.