Helm D (2015) The Ecology of Judgement in Child Welfare and Protection: Findings From an Ethnographic Study of Judgement and Decision-Making in a Children and Families Social Work Office. British Association for the Study and Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (BASPCAN) National Congress, 12.4.2015 - 15.4.2015, Edinburgh.
Objectives: This presentation sets out to describe and examine the interplay between social workers' styles of judgement and the environment in which they make those judgements.
The paper provides a secondary analysis of data collected through close non-participatory observation of social workers in a children and family team. Over three months social workers were observed making judgements and decisions in a range of office-based activities such as case work, duty cover, meetings and supervision (formal and informal). Secondary analysis of the data collected in the study follows prespecified coding based on the concept of ecological, or 'bounded' rationality.
Results: Initial iterative coding of the data identified significant processes within social workers' sense-making activity and these have been published previously (Helm 2013). This secondary analysis will provide further insight into the way in which levels of data complexity, degrees of certainty and amounts of time available for thinking impact upon the process of judgement. Data analysis will interrogate the adaptations which social workers make to minimise their costs and maximise their benefits in making judgements and the extent to which the particular 'ecology' of children and families social work influences judgement style.
Conclusions: Analysis is currently ongoing. This presentation will consider the results of data analysis and examine how social work judgements are influenced by the features of the environment in which they are made. In particular, findings will be relevant to a developing understanding of how intuition, as well as more deliberate and structured thinking, informs social work judgements.