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About this book

What does the law require of social workers when deciding how to intervene to protect children and adults at risk? What social work standards should guide decisions about whether, when and how to invoke statutory powers and duties in practice?

Making Good Decisions provides an accessible and practical guide to the legal rules and principles that should guide everyday social work practice. It sets out the key elements of administrative law, equality and human rights legislation which shape how social workers practise and illustrates how knowledge and use of legal principles can support core social work goals, including empowerment, equality and social justice. An invaluable reference point for all students and practitioners, this book will support and empower social workers to feel more confident in making and challenging decisions, more credible when presenting assessments and plans, and more creative when working with service users and carers.

The text is supported by a range of innovative features and boxed information to aid learning and stimulate reflection:

- Key Case Analysis boxes summarize the details of particular legal cases and outline the implications for social work practice
- Practice Focus boxes apply legal principles and processes to practice through the use of social work scenarios
- On-The-Spot Questions reinforce understanding and encourage critical reflection

Table of Contents

2. Foundations of Good Decision-Making

One key principle held over from Chapter 1 holds that decision-making must reflect an acceptable standard of professional competence. Thus, in child care, judges have ruled that abruptly denying a parent help, and without explanation, was very poor social work practice (Re A (Children [2010]). Professionals must investigate child protection concerns with proper care, including presenting allegations to parents (TP and KM v UK [2002]). Evidence given to a court must be full, detailed, precise and compelling, given by a social worker with detailed knowledge of the case, with minutes of case conferences and other decision-making meetings available (X Council v B (Emergency Protection Orders) [2004]; Re X (Emergency Protection Orders) [2006]).
Michael Preston-Shoot

4. Partnerships within Decision-Making

By now it should be clear that service-user involvement is axiomatic to lawful decision-making both in individual cases and when planning service provision. Equally clearly, what will have emerged from the reported case law decisions and ombudsman investigations are occasions where respect for people has broken down. Partnership working with children and adults in need or at risk, with individuals and their communities, is one way of making their humanity visible (Bilson, 2007). Partnership working turns knowledge of need and risk into acknowledgment. It is when the personal dimension of a child’s or carer’s experiences is recognized through dialogue, and when the formal structures of law and social work processes are infused with empathy and compassion (Sachs, 2009). It is when their perspectives and their horizons, essentially their individuality, become known, their lived experience and biography and its influence on the encounter in the here-and-now (Clark, 2012). Put another way, the act of listening, giving voice to, and exploring options with service users engenders substance into the principle of empowerment.
Michael Preston-Shoot

6. What can we Afford?

What topic could be more pertinent for social workers to consider in a context of financial austerity? In fact, however, the tension between needs and resources has been a long-running feature of social work practice, perhaps just brought into starker relief by substantial fiscal retrenchment across the public sector. Indeed, the pressure of meeting financial targets, leading to compromises in levels of medical and nursing care and shortcomings in the standards of care provided to patients, was one significant component in a major recent scandal within the NHS (Francis, 2010; 2013).
Michael Preston-Shoot

9. Embedding and Ensuring Best Practice

Chapter 8 explored the evidence for the difficulties that some social work organizations have in learning from tragedies, failures in decision-making and departures from the best standards of professional accountability. It is easy to focus on breaches of good governance and workforce support, thereby ignoring the many transactions that take place between social workers and service users, or between agencies, in order to facilitate purposeful and effective work between practitioners and those with whom they work.
Michael Preston-Shoot
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