Decision making by senior social workers at point of first referral

Trevor Spratt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Citations (Scopus)


In the United Kingdom there has been difficulty in implementing the family support provisions contained in the 1989 Children Act, largely because of continued emphasis on child protection activity by local authorities. There is an observable international tendency for child-care referrals to receive investigative response, resulting in families being traumatized and children's needs left unmet. There has been a lack of research into how child-care referrals are initially categorized by senior social workers. This paper reports on research undertaken in two Health and Social Services Trusts within Northern Ireland to ascertain if it might be possible to treat more initial referrals as 'child-care problem enquiries' as opposed to 'child protection investigations'. Results demonstrate that, while such potential may exist, a preoccupation with the management of risk could lead to the development of child-care problems receiving quasi-child protection responses. Consequently, changes in initial decision making may not have the full intended effects in terms of the organizational release of resources for family support or a lessening of the traumatic impact upon families.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)597-618
Number of pages22
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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