A more 'child-centred' system? The discretionary spaces of the child protection social worker.

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    The Munro Review (2011b) called for reform of the English child protection system so that practicing social workers were better able to exercise their discretion in the best interests of the individual child. This paper reports on the results of a multiple qualitative methods case study of one local authority child protection team. Utilising observation, documentary analysis, focus group, questionnaire, interview and ‘Critical Realist Grounded Theory’, the study explored the extent to which practicing social workers identified discretionary space within their practice. The main findings were that social workers had discretionary space in a de facto, de jure and entrepreneurial sense, and that this runs counter to assertions of ‘curtailed’ and ‘eroded’ discretion previously reported. The research does offer some evidence in favour of Munro’s image for discretion within a ‘child-centred’ system. However, it also suggests that further reform may be required to better imbed formally granted discretionary space into local policy and procedures, so that discretion becomes less ‘risky’ for the practitioner, and so social workers can more consistently employ their discretion in the interests of the individual child.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-15
    JournalJournal of Social Work Practice
    Early online date2 Feb 2022
    Publication statusPublished - 2 Feb 2022


    • child protection
    • social workers
    • decision-making
    • discretionary space
    • discretion
    • Munro Review


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