Julie Brown


While central government guidance has standardised children’s social work processes, social work practice remains fundamentally the application of professional knowledge in complex and unpredictable situations. Existing empirical studies have prioritised the perspective of social workers and their frustration with the changes imposed on them by central government and local management and have neglected the view of management. This mixed methods study includes content analysis of official guidance and an analysis of interviews with local authority managers and social workers. This evidence reveals both the roles and attitudes towards control, of policy makers, managers and practitioners in their exercise of control over frontline children’s social work. The clarity of roles and responsibilities that the statutory guidance brings is generally welcomed. Managers plan for compliance, reframing the statutory guidance as good practice and social workers understand their obligation to follow the guidance, referring to their line manager where there is a conflict with the social worker’s professional analysis, so embedding the guidance in to day to day practice. But in contrast with the mechanistic descriptions of the guidance, social workers see their role as underpinned by professional social work values and speak positively about the support and reflection that takes place with their managers. Practicing in accordance with these values is undoubtably challenged by pressures, workload the culture of the department.

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