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Durham e-Theses
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Decision making in child and family social work: the impact of the assessment framework

Taylor, Abigail (2007) Decision making in child and family social work: the impact of the assessment framework. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



The Department of Health's (2000) Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and Their Families [Assessment Framework] represents the most significant attempt to aid social work decision making in the UK currently. Its overriding objective is to improve outcomes for children in need through effective assessment and decision making. Yet, since its introduction in April 2000, no empirical research has been conducted exploring the ways in which the Assessment Framework helps social workers in the decision making process. Clearly, if the Assessment Framework is not effective in helping social workers reach decisions, it may not be effective in achieving better outcomes for children in need. This thesis therefore explores the impact of the Assessment Framework on social workers' decision making practice. Documentary analysis of 98 core assessment records in four local authorities was used as a means to reconstruct social workers' cognitive decision making processes and the role of the Assessment Framework within these processes. Follow-up semi structured interviews were carried out with the 50 social workers responsible for completing these core assessments. Particular attention was given to investigating the effects of case, individual and environmental characteristics on participants' decision making strategies and use of the Assessment Framework in order to identify factors that facilitated or obstructed the integration of this tool in practice. The resulting qualitative data was used to reconstruct a trace of the decision making process and to explore any potential causal factors affecting this process. Tests of association and cluster analysis were then employed as a means of exploring these causal connections further. Due to the complex way in which the relevant causal factors interacted Qualitative Comparative Analysis was also used as a method for understanding the causal mechanisms affecting social workers' decision making processes. The findings reveal variations in social work decision making strategies and in the use of the Assessment Framework associated with a range of case, environmental and individual characteristics. Participants identified strengths and weaknesses in the use of the Assessment Framework and confirmed that the Assessment Framework does not always fit with the way in which social workers approach assessment and decision-making. The thesis concludes by providing a number of solutions to this problem.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Date:2007
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:08 Sep 2011 18:32

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