Child Welfare as Child Protection Then and Now: What Social Workers Did and Continue to Do

David Hayes, Trevor Spratt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


The research reported here builds on the work of one of the authors who, some thirteen years ago, in a similar study, examined the potential for social workers to shift from a child protection to a child welfare practice orientation. As with the original research study, this present project seeks to examine the everyday practices of social workers with children and families as revealed by file analysis, vignette questionnaires (reported here) and interviews with families and social workers (to be reported). A twenty-item vignette questionnaire was completed by fifty-five social workers (65.5 per cent response rate). It was found that there was little agreement on coding decisions with regard to which cases should be designated child protection or child welfare. Further analysis revealed that, regardless of such coding decisions, families tended to receive similar responses by social workers. The results demonstrate that, whilst there has been a reduction in the headline numbers of child protection investigations undertaken across Health and Social Care Trusts in Northern Ireland, the everyday patterns of practice with families and children where parenting concerns remain evident reflect child protection risk management priorities and practices. 

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)615-635
Number of pages21
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number3
Early online date24 Oct 2012
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Child protection
  • child welfare
  • children and families


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