Journal Article

Risk, Uncertainty and Public Protection: Assessment of Young People Who Offend

Kerry Baker

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 38, issue 8, pages 1463-1480
Published in print December 2008 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online July 2007 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bcm054
Risk, Uncertainty and Public Protection: Assessment of Young People Who Offend

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The intense media and political scrutiny that has long been associated with decisions made by social workers about child protection is now increasingly being seen in the criminal justice arena with regard to assessment of offenders who may present a risk of serious harm to other people. However, there has so far been little academic consideration of the decisions made by youth justice workers concerning young people who may pose a risk to others. This paper presents analysis of data collected from youth offending teams relating to such assessments and, in particular, looks at the extent and range of hypotheses that practitioners use. It is argued that, as in the child protection field, progress in collecting relevant information for assessments has not been matched by improvements in analysis and that practitioners may not be coping very well with the challenge of undertaking complex assessments. Consideration is then given to the question of whether assessment frameworks and organizational systems can take account of the interesting theoretical concept of ‘respectful uncertainty’ (Taylor and White, 2006, p. 937) whilst continuing to address the practical priority of making clear decisions at specific points in time about interventions with young people who offend.

Keywords: assessment; risk; young offenders; decision making

Journal Article.  8052 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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