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On the margins of the child protection system: creating space for relational social work practice

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Kirk, G 


jats:titleAbstract</jats:title>jats:pIn the UK, a threshold divides between two categories of children, child protection (CP) and child in need. Each category tends to be treated as a homogeneous entity, despite containing heterogeneous levels and forms of risk and need. CP practice, accompanied by regulation, protocols and procedures, aspires to achieve a coordinated multi‐agency response to identified concerns with available resources targeted towards this category. However, it is well known that those children assessed as falling just below the CP threshold can still have high levels of need and risk, requiring a level of social work involvement beyond the low‐resource and low‐oversight model that generally accompanies a child in need categorisation. This paper probes an approach to practice, which divides levels of risk within the child in need category enabling adequate, coordinated support and oversight to be provided for children and families with complex needs. Evidence from our study evaluating this approach suggests that a simple protocol provided a clear process within, which social workers and agency partners felt confident and safe to practice outside of the formal CP framework. The protocol prevented drift and helped to create a space within, which relational social work practice flourished.</jats:p>



child protection (policy and practice), partnership/empowerment, research in practice, social work

Journal Title

Child and Family Social Work

Conference Name

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Wellcome Trust