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Title: Pre-birth assessment in social work
Author: Hodson, Ann
ISNI:       0000 0004 2712 8151
Awarding Body: University of Huddersfield
Current Institution: University of Huddersfield
Date of Award: 2011
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The Children Act 1989 imposes a duty on Local Authorities in England to ‘safeguard and promote the welfare of children’ and to ‘promote the upbringing of children by their families’ wherever possible. If, during pregnancy, concerns are identified that suggest the child may be at risk of harm a referral may be made to the Local Authority for a pre-birth assessment. When completing a pre-birth assessment social workers and other professionals are often involved in the process of collecting and analysing information, which will ultimately be used as a basis for planning and decision-making and can have life long consequences for the family. Removing a baby at birth brings with it an inevitable impact on the process of attachment and bonding, as well as the impact of subjecting a family to court proceedings and all of the emotions that entails. However, allowing a baby to be discharged from hospital to a family who are unable to provide appropriate care and protection or do not have the necessary support in place to assist them may result in irreparable harm to, or even the death of the baby. Sitting within the context of general child and family social work assessment, pre-birth assessment has received a very limited amount of specific research attention. This thesis comprises a report on the outcomes of my own research, which was exploratory in nature, and details the findings from a mixed methods study of relevant legal and procedural frameworks in England, Local Safeguarding Children Board procedures and a case study of pre-birth social work assessment practice in one Local Authority. The findings were that pre-birth assessment is a complex process guided by a national and local procedural framework which does not recognise the unique status of the unborn child. Having evolved from a historical perspective based on protecting live children, the procedural guidance is contradictory as it does not acknowledge that an unborn child has no legal status and a pregnant woman maintains rights over her own body. The case study also revealed that social workers in the host LA were practising in an environment of managerial systems which aimed to improve accountability and yet the very systems designed to ensure children did not fall through the ‘safety net’ of professional support were, ironically, prompting systems which made practice in (and research into) pre-birth social work assessment a challenge. A narrow forensic approach to pre-birth assessment was found to have developed, with the documentary process of completing pre-birth Initial and Core Assessments (as defined by the Department of Health (2003) documentation) becoming split from the process of actually ‘doing’ a social work pre-birth assessment.
Supervisor: Masson, Helen ; Parton, Nigel ; Deery, Ruth Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: HM Sociology ; RJ101 Child Health. Child health services