'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.