Journal Article

Technicality and Indeterminacy in Probation Practice: A Case Study

Gwen Robinson

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 33, issue 5, pages 593-610
Published in print July 2003 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online July 2003 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/33.5.593
Technicality and Indeterminacy in Probation Practice: A Case Study

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‘Technicality’ is a theoretical construct which, in the context of professional practice, refers to those aspects of the work which can be prescribed, ‘programmed’ or subject to routine practices. This paper considers the purported rise of technicality in probation practice, with particular reference to the relationship between increasing technicality and perceptions of ‘professionalism’. The paper presents a case study of one ‘technical’ initiative in the probation context: namely, a structured risk/needs assessment instrument. The case study examined the implementation of this instrument in two area probation services, with a view to establishing its impact both on the exercise of professional judgement (‘indeterminacy’), and on perceptions of professionalism among users and their managers. On the basis of the case study it is argued that, contrary to many recent commentaries, neither significant reductions in indeterminacy nor an inevitable process of deprofessionalization can be automatically ‘read off’ from attempts to introduce greater structure and/or standardization to social work and probation practice. The tentative conclusion of this paper is that the professional future lies not in a wholesale rejection of technicality, but rather in achieving a positive, workable balance between technical and indeterminate aspects of practice.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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