How do social workers really make decisions?

By Abbi Jackson

Independent Social Work Consultant, Senior Planning Officer, Practice Educator, Lecturer

I have written this book to help guide students and newly qualified social workers in applying theory to practice. I aim to help people learn from the experience of established workers, firstly to gain insight into practice in areas they have no professional experience yet, but primarily to help them consider how decisions are made reflexively in the moment. I hope this gives readers learning experiences that bridge the gap between university and practice without the pressure of being on placement.

I used first person narrative to create fictitious stories which firstly outline the central character and their challenges, and then demonstrate the thinking “in action” of a social worker trying to help them. There are side boxes highlighting which theory or intervention might apply as the story unfolds and some rationale as to why the social worker makes their decisions. The imagined social work practice does not profess to be the definitive answer but invites the reader to think of the ethical dilemmas and debate approaches and interventions. I intend the book to be a springboard for learning and offer some pointers to further reading around the themes. Practice educators can use the material in any way that suits their student’s learning needs.

I have included some reflective questions at the end of each chapter to prompt critical thinking. Students and newly qualified workers can reflect on their own or with others and the questions will be of value to all social workers, in fact, regardless of their level of experience. The wider themes raised in each story can be discussed and deliberated in supervision or team meetings.

Through the fictitious cases, I have demonstrated the value base of the social work narrator and where they consider and manage risk and relationships. The reader is invited to consider how they themselves, would take accountability for these decisions in practice and share their rationale with multiple audiences: other professionals, the people they serve and their families.

The most challenging thing about writing this book was to get the characters to appear real. Their stories evolved mainly whilst I was walking the dogs! Lots of the inspiration came from my own mundane day to day experiences – like my uncle advising me to paint my wet room floor with waterproof paint before tiling it and our own washing machine breaking down and having to go to Grandma’s with washing loads. Some of the material parallels the writing of skill self-assessment tools for my own practice education purposes. I was very fond of the characters by the end and hope that people find them and their imaginary social workers realistic.

I hope the material will spark critical discussion and debate: for example – what would be the threshold in the reader’s agency, of removing Kim to alternative carers when her needs were not being met by her parents? Or what would the minimum expected standard of housing conditions for Elizabeth’s situation, and how can we work with the complexities of her constructs around her relationship with her son?

Overall, I hope this book supports the development of attuned, insightful social workers who can use their knowledge to defend decisions and challenge the right people at the right time, in respectful and sensitive ways.

Abbi Jackson is the author of Dilemmas and Decision Making in Social Work.

Available now in Paperback, EPUB, and PDF for just £12.99!

ISBN: 9781914171208

Edition No : 1

Extent : 112 pgs

Publication : Oct 12, 2021


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By: thecriticalblog
Title: How do social workers really make decisions?
Sourced From: thecriticalblog.wordpress.com/2021/10/18/how-do-social-workers-really-make-decisions/
Published Date: Mon, 18 Oct 2021 15:19:51 +0000

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