Reducing Child Protection Error in Social Work: Towards an Holistic-Rational Perspective

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Social work in the United Kingdom remains embroiled in concerns about child protection error. The serious injury or death of vulnerable children continues to evince much consternation in the public and private spheres. Governmental responses to these concerns invariably draw on technocratic solutions involving more procedures, case management systems, information technology and bureaucratic regulation. Such solutions flow from an implicit use of instrumental rationality based on a ‘means-end’ logic. While bringing an important perspective to the problem of child protection error, instrumental rationality has been overused limiting discretion and other modes of rational inquiry. This paper argues that the social work profession should apply an enlarged form of rationality comprising not only the instrumental-rational mode but also the critical-rational, affective-rational and communicative-rational forms. It is suggested that this combined, conceptual arsenal of rational inquiry leads to a gestalt which has been termed the holistic-rational perspective. It is also argued that embracing a more rounded perspective such as this might offer greater opportunities for reducing child protection error.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)379-393
JournalJournal Of Social Work Practice
Issue number4
Early online date23 Feb 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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