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Knowledge production for decision making in child protection social work

Saltiel, David M. L. (2014) Knowledge production for decision making in child protection social work. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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This study contributes to an understanding of how social workers produce knowledge and make decisions in child protection work. Since the early 1970s there have been a significant number of tragedies where children have died as a result of abuse and perceived errors by social workers and other professionals have been implicated. Child abuse is an extremely complex, uncertain and stressful area of work and eliminating all errors is impossible. This study undertook a detailed examination of some of the daily routines and activities of a number of social workers across two sites: a local authority child protection team and a more specialist team undertaking family assessments. Treating the sites as case studies qualitative observations and in-depth interviews were carried out in an attempt to understand how social workers made decisions in day-to-day work and to develop concepts for further research. The study found that decisions are not single events but the result of complex processes embedded in the social activities and practices that make up the work. The social workers drew on a range of sources of information all of which were fallible and then constructed knowledge for decision making through a series of social, cultural and cognitive processes. The nature of the work favoured experiential or naturalistic rather than analytic reasoning. Key practice areas such as home visiting, office duty and supervision were explored to understand how practitioners reasoned in these contexts which, despite their importance, are not well researched. An ecological model of knowledge is suggested which could help in understanding how decisions are made in practice. It is suggested that social workers’ decision making and knowledge are so embedded in the contexts and routines of practice that they can only be understood through close examination of local practices and this is a fruitful area for future research.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Medicine and Health (Leeds) > School of Healthcare (Leeds)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.634305
Depositing User: Leeds CMS
Date Deposited: 28 Jan 2015 10:02
Last Modified: 25 Nov 2015 13:47
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/7900

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