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Title: The burden of accountability in social work with children and families
Author: Pepper, Hannah
ISNI:       0000 0004 5993 0931
Awarding Body: University of Bristol
Current Institution: University of Bristol
Date of Award: 2016
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The research is concerned with the way in which social workers engaged in child and family work encounter the need to be accountable for their work. The concept of ' accountability' is problematised as an essentially contested term, the mechanisms and implications of which should not be assumed. Using a broad conception of ' accountability', the research focuses on both formal accounts, recorded electronically, that can be read and judged extralocally, and informal, oral accounts shared within small team working arrangements. The research was conceived in the wake of the Munro Review of Child Protection, which included in its recommendations a reduction of prescription and performance indicators. Guided by Dorothy Smith's Institutional Ethnography, the research adopted the standpoint of workers engaged in the everyday activities of children's social work. The ethnographic fieldwork took place over three months in a single English local authority children's services office. Social workers, social work assistants, managers and administrators were observed through participant observation as they engaged in activities which made their work visible (and thereby accountable) to others. Participants' experience of such activities were further explored through field- and extended interviews The research findings map ways in which the department's data-system (its Integrated Children's System, or ICS) and wider management systems, attempt to simplify the complexity of casework with families, through standardised procedures and statistical representations informing a 'performance improvement' agenda. The systems themselves introduce additional complexity, uncertainty and anxiety to already complex and unpredictable work. During the fieldwork, the team at the centre of the research underwent reorganisation in response to Ofsted's judgement of the authority's child protection arrangements as 'inadequate'. The reorganisation disrupted established informal forums (team meetings), revealing them to have been valued ' safe' spaces for sharing accounts, where emotion, uncertainty and the social act of social work itself could be discussed.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available