Journal Article

Professional Categorization, Risk Management and Inter-Agency Communication in Public Inquiries into Disastrous Outcomes

Christopher Hall and Stef Slembrouck

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 39, issue 2, pages 280-298
Published in print March 2009 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online October 2007 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bcm119
Professional Categorization, Risk Management and Inter-Agency Communication in Public Inquiries into Disastrous Outcomes

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This paper suggests a conceptual shift in the way we approach information sharing by foregrounding the role of categorization. We argue that the establishment of professional categories, while being central to institutional intervention, is contingent on the complexities of everyday inter-professional encounters. It is important therefore to analyse situations in professionals report on the negotiation of categories as well as how professionals account for a failure to align sender and receiver frames. The data analysed in this paper consists two excerpts each from a public inquiry in the UK (the Victoria Climbié Inquiry) and one in Belgium (the Parliamentary Commission Dutroux). In conclusion, we address a number of themes in contemporary debates about improving interagency and within-agency communication. In particular, we advocate the promotion of language awareness rooted in interactional analysis and the need to understand the on-the-ground dynamics of evolving everyday practice as important prerequisites for bringing about and responding to change.

Keywords: categorization; information sharing; public inquiries

Journal Article.  7773 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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