Dr Duncan Helm

Senior Lecturer

Social Work Colin Bell Building, University of Stirling, Stirling, FK9 4LA

Dr Duncan Helm

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About me

About me

A registered social worker with experience of child welfare and protection work in local authorities and in integrated services. An academic since 2003. my expertise is in child welfare and in assessment and working with risk and uncertainty. I directed undergraduate child protection CPD provision at the University of Dundee before moving to the University of Stirling in 2008 where I was director of the MSc Applied Professional Studies programme until 2019. I am currently the Head of Social Work at the University. My doctoral research was in judgement and decision making and my areas of interest include intuition in judgement, analysis and assessment in professional practice and practice-near research methods. I am happy to consider applications from prospective PhD students.

Event / Presentation

Analysis in practice: A study of sense-making in a children and families social work team. . WithScotland Webinar December 2014

A webinar presentation of findings from an ethnographic study of judgement in a social work office.

Chair. GIRFEC 2013

Keynote speech. Child Inclusive Practice Annual Forum

Making the Meaningless Meaningful - Analysis in Assessment. Professional Judgement

Sense-making in child and family assessments. Reconstruct Annual Conference

Testing the application of GIRFEC in child protection practice. BASPCAN Scottish Branch Conference

Analysis and Professional Judgement in Child and Family Assessment. BASPCAN Scottish Branch Conference

Ecology of Judgement in Child Welfare and Protection . Ecology of Judgement Seminar

Judgements or Assumptions? The role of analysis in assessing children and young people’s needs. ESRC Seminar ‘Interrogating Harm and Abuse Across the Lifespan’

Analysing and Reporting Children’s Needs and Experiences. Pre-conference workshop - Child Inclusive Practice (Australia)
A day-long workshop developing enhanced skills and knolwedge in analysis of children and young people's needs in assessments.

Judgements or Assumptions?. Making Research Count seminar (York)

Research (3)

My doctoral studies are in the field of judgement and decision-making in social work. I have a particular interest in sense-making and analysis in professional practice. I have published books, chapters and journal articles exploring the nature and use of intuition in social work. I have conducted ethnographic research into sense-making in social work offices and I have developed an ecological model of judgement to promote discussion and critical reflection on the subjective nature of professional judgement. I am a member of a number of local, national and international research networks.


Evaluation of Edinburgh Child Protection Committee training
PI: Dr Duncan Helm
Funded by: Edinburgh Child Protection Committee

NHS Forth Valley Managers' Training
PI: Dr Duncan Helm
Funded by: NHS Forth Valley

Safeguarder Post-assessment Training
PI: Dr Duncan Helm
Funded by: Children 1st

Outputs (13)



Sicora A, Taylor BJ, Alfandari R, Enosh G, Helm D, Killick C, Lyons O, Mullineux J, Przeperski J, Rölver M & Whittaker A (2021) Using intuition in social work decision making. European Journal of Social Work, 24 (5), pp. 772-787. https://doi.org/10.1080/13691457.2021.1918066

Conference Paper (unpublished)

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, Edinburgh, 12.04.2015-15.04.2015. http://www.baspcan.org.uk/files/CongressAbstracts_web%20100415.pdf

Book Chapter

Helm D & Daniel B (2013) Assessing Neglect. In: Calder M & Hackett S (eds.) Assessment in child care: Using and developing frameworks for practice. 2nd ed. Dorset: Russell House Publishing, pp. 51-62. http://www.russellhouse.co.uk/bookpages/9781905541850.htm



I have extensive experience of directing and teaching on post-qualifying programmes in human services. I have taught professionals studying part-time in venues across Scotland and have contributed to teaching, directly and though my work as an external examiner, at Universities in Scotland, England and Northern Ireland.

Research centres/groups