Journal Article

Safeguarding: A Case for Intelligent Risk Management

Geraldine Macdonald and Kenneth Macdonald

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 40, issue 4, pages 1174-1191
Published in print June 2010 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online March 2010 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI:
Safeguarding: A Case for Intelligent Risk Management

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‘Risk’ in social work is typically read as risk-of-bads, and specifically extreme bads. This paper develops the implications of the logical objection to attempts to predict low frequency extreme events (such as child homicides). Our argument is that if we focus on these low probability high cost outcomes—these heart wrenching, but unpredictable, tragedies—we take social work away from the good that it can do, leave it open to inappropriate disapprobation, and, in terms of outcomes, do less well by the vulnerable. This point is reinforced by discussion of developments in other academic fields, and by further examination of the logic (and the morality) of protection under uncertainty. We explore the implications for the way social work should be evaluated. A proper academic understanding of risk, and decision making under uncertainty, has, we argue clear practical implications.

Keywords: Risk; decision making; child safeguarding; ethics

Journal Article.  7022 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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