Journal Article

Social Work Admissions: Applicants with Criminal Convictions—The Challenge of Ethical Risk Assessment

Peter Nelson and Malcolm Cowburn

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 40, issue 4, pages 1081-1099
Published in print June 2010 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online March 2010 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bcq022
Social Work Admissions: Applicants with Criminal Convictions—The Challenge of Ethical Risk Assessment

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The decision to admit an ex-offender to social work training may play a part in combating the social exclusion of people who have committed criminal offences, but it may also knowingly place social work service users and carers in positions of increased vulnerability. This paper brings together critical perspectives on both the nature of risk and ethical decision making in the context of social work admissions of applicants with criminal convictions. It locates the concepts of risk and risk assessment within General Social Care Council (GSCC) guidance. The epistemological assumptions underpinning risk assessments are explored and the differences in psychological and sociological approaches to understanding risk are outlined. However, decisions to admit or reject an ex-offender involve ethical and moral judgements. The contribution of ethical thinking to decision making, in relation the admission of ex-offenders, to social work training is described. The paper concludes by suggesting that social work admissions procedures need to be informed by: an explicit epistemological standpoint, transparent risk assessment procedures and clearly articulated ethical thinking.

Keywords: Social work training; ex-offfenders; risk assessment; social exclusion

Journal Article.  7333 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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