Professional judgement in social work: making sense of the initial home visit

Cook, Laura (2016) Professional judgement in social work: making sense of the initial home visit. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Abstract

The professional judgements made by child and family social workers are crucially important for the welfare and protection of vulnerable children. Social workers make assessments of need and risk in relation to children, often in the context of suspected abuse or neglect. A key part of assessment involves visiting the child and their parents in the family home.
This qualitative study investigated UK child and family social workers’ experiences of undertaking initial home visits. Through a psychosocial analysis of narrative interviews (n=18) and focus groups (n=2), this study captures how social workers use their observations and experiences within the family home in order to arrive at a professional judgement.
This research fills a significant gap in the literature in relation to home visiting, which has been identified as an integral, although ‘hidden’, aspect of social work practice. Specifically, this study identifies the initial visit as involving a delicate balance between three interconnected domains of activity: sense-making (generating hypotheses about need, risk and parenting capacity), self-regulation (managing emotional responses during the visit) and managing the encounter (directing the discussion and use of professional role).
This thesis extends our current understanding of decision-making in social work, advancing a conceptualisation of the role of emotion in professional judgement. The analysis describes how social worker’s emotions during the home visit can act as a resource informing assessment, alerting them to salient information. The social worker’s emotional responses can also potentially act as a risk for professional judgement, through the creation of bias. The thesis suggests that the extent to which emotions act as a resource or as a risk, depends on individual, situational and organisational factors. Drawing on these findings, this research offers a series of recommendations for practice, including how organisations can facilitate effective professional judgement through the provision of emotionally intelligent support.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Social Work
Depositing User: Katie Miller
Date Deposited: 17 Mar 2017 13:20
Last Modified: 17 Mar 2017 13:20
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/62996
DOI:

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