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Title: Working together for children : loosely coupled systems and inter-professional relations with particular reference to child protection
Author: Clarke, Merrill Luen
ISNI:       0000 0004 2704 4396
Awarding Body: Institute of Education, University of London
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 1997
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This study explored the impact in Britain of policies to improve co-ordination of services concerned with children and their welfare. To do this, it viewed the agencies as forming a child welfare system which could be described as loosely coupled. Such systems may be characterised by unpredictability and uncertainty, demanding that those involved in them exercise skills of interpretation to make sense of the 'world in which they operate. The insights gained from the literature on loosely coupled systems were used to explore the organisation of services relevant to children and, in particular, change over time in the strength and pattern of coupling. The study took a twin approach. First, it incorporated an historical analysis of policies designed to improve working relationships between workers and agencies. Second, it drew on fieldwork with practitioners, responsible for the delivery of services, to explore change over time in the experience of working together. The fieldwork focused on issues, concerning school aged children. which could fall under the umbrella of child protection. The methodology involved interviews with primary school head teachers, education welfare officers, school nurses and local authority social workers. A vignette approach was used to explore their perceptions of situations involving children. In order to study change. two rounds of interviews were conducted. These took place in 1984/5 and 1993/94. This longitudinal element is a distinguishing feature of the study. Loosely coupled systems theory provided a useful basis for analysis. The study found that policies aimed at co-ordination have reflected changing ideologies and perceptions of the task to be done. The interviews indicated a number of changes in perception of practice and areas of greater agreement. To that extent there is evidence that the looseness of the system had tightened, at least in part, but elements of looseness remained.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available