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Error, Blame and Responsibility in Child Welfare: Problematics of Governance in an Invisible Trade (ESRC)

Error, Blame and Responsibility in Child Welfare: Problematics of Governance in an Invisible Trade 

(An ESRC funded study, see ESRC, RES-166-25-0048-A, 2009, £283,000; PI Sue White, Lancaster; co applicants Professor Andy Pithouse, Cardiff and Professor David Wastell Nottingham).

The study team drawn from Cardiff, Lancaster and Nottingham examined the impact of the growing standardisation and regulation of social work under New Labour’s modernisation programme, particularly those reforms introduced in the wake of high-profile failures in child protection. By examining practice in five local authorities [3 in England, 2 in Wales], the researchers found that the imposition of standardised processes and limited timescales through ICS (an ICT and performance management system), created unintended negative consequences for child protection. In seeking to bypass the professional judgements of individual social workers in particular cases, standardisation appeared to increase rather than reduces the likelihood of error. The study demonstrated that growing standardisation affects social work in a number of ways that limit the ability to take reasonable risks and make informed professional judgements.