i. Your statement should read as a clear chronological account of yours or your organisation’s involvement with the child and/or their family. All information should be accurate and relevant and be as concise as possible.
ii. The statement should read as a logical narrative of your involvement with the family or a situation. Don’t make any assumptions about the knowledge of the reader of the statement – assume that he has no prior knowledge of the situation.
iii. Be clear when something is not in your own personal knowledge eg. “according to the files kept by the organisation….”
iv. If something is not in your personal knowledge but nevertheless you feel it is important to include it in the statement you must make it clear that it is hearsay evidence and that you are merely relaying what you have been told. Hearsay evidence is admissible in care proceedings. For instance, a mother tells you that the father hit the child – you cannot say that the child was hit by the father. You must say the mother said that the father had hit the child.
v. If information has been gleaned from records then you should say so.
vi. Remember that you could be challenged on anything you write in your statement so don’t over-embellish what you say.
vii. Try and be as brief and concise as possible. If your organisation has had lengthy involvement with the family then check whether the historical information would be better presented in a chronology.
viii. Consider whether it would also be useful to use headings and/or diagrams to present the evidence more clearly.
ix. Don’t include any professional jargon or abbreviations in the statement. The reader of the statement may not know what these are and get confused. You should assume that the reader has no prior knowledge of the subject of the statement.
x. The statement should be written in the first person.
xi. Keep the information in the statement fair and balanced. Leave out any statement which may seem impartial or biased.
xii. Be careful not to give uninformed opinions. You are entitled to form a view using your professional judgement, experience and knowledge. If you need to give an opinion, make it clear it is a professional view based on your experience and knowledge. Eg. Instead of “we admitted the child to the ward as he was clearly suffering from severe neglect”, you could write “when the child presented at the hospital he was very pale and was wearing very dirty clothes. According to centile charts for children of the same age, he was two stones underweight. Blood tests could not find any medical reason for his low weight.”
xiii. Remember to check for spelling mistakes and any inconsistencies in the statement.
xiv. Before sending the statement out, ask your Child Protection lead or Line Manager to review it. Make sure you have built in enough time to ensure this happens. The statement may also need to be checked by the lawyer for the organisation requesting the statement.
xv. You may also wish to exhibit documents to the statement as evidence. You should check firstly with your designated Child Protection lead or line manager whether it is ok to do this as there may be confidential or third party information in the papers and disclosure of these may be complex. Any documents exhibited to the statement will need to be referred to in the statement. Usually they would be marked with your initials and the number of the statement, eg. “CP1”,“CP2”, etc. They should be referred to in the statement as “Shown to me and exhibited at CP1”.