Accessing Social Work Case Files for Research Purposes: Some Issues and Problems

David Hayes, John Devaney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Citations (Scopus)


The use of social work case files as an important research resource is being threatened by the increasing regulation of both the research process and access to personal identifiable information. While these developments can be seen as a reaction to specific incidents of inappropriate research and the misuse of personal information, it is argued that the pendulum has swung too far the other way, and in seeking to protect the rights of vulnerable individuals, the lives of these same individuals may go unstudied with the consequence that they receive less appropriate services. Drawing upon the current research of the authors, this article explores the difficulties encountered in gaining access to social work case files for research purposes without the explicit consent of service users and highlights the uncertainty surrounding this issue. Suggestions are made for improvements in the situation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)313-333
Number of pages21
JournalQualitative Social Work
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2004


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