'Out of hours' social work : a study of local authority emergency duty
Throughout the United Kingdom it is likely that 'out of hours', the smallest number of social workers is covering the largest geographical areas, the highest proportion of referrals, the most hours per week with the least support and in some of the most dangerous situations. For nearly thirty years, the majority of the working week has been staffed by out of hours social workers, and yet no systematic research has ever been undertaken into any aspects of this social work service. The focus of this research then is local authority emergency duty team (EDT) social work. From a variety of perspectives and using a range of methods the researcher examines the past, present and potential future nature of out of hours social work. As an EDT worker and researcher simultaneously, the author highlights the types and variability of his own assessments and those made by colleagues locally and nationally. Having established that EDT social work deals with significant occurrences after hours, this research questions whether conventional expectations of social work assessment are applicable 10 circumstances that are radically different from day-time work. Employing statistical surveys, questionnaires, interviews and autobiographical commentary, this research collates and analyses EDT social work practice issues seeking to establish an assessment framework that can be applied to the generic, urgent and statutory demands that EDT and daytime social workers frequently face. The framework combines the qualitative and the quantitative, academic with practitioner, the personal and the political and reflects the nature of EDT social work. Addressing a research void, this study clarifies and attempts to improve out of hours social work practice, including that of the researcher. This research presents a systematic analysis of the risk assessments, the decision-making processes and the crisis work undertaken by the most experienced group of social workers in Britain. The findings of this research should be of interest to those involved in out of hours social work, but may also have relevance to (social) workers undertaking (risk) assessments of service users.