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Critically consider the argument for and against social work practice being based on research evidence. To what extent might this undermine social workers' discretion to select and apply theories?

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Introduction

02007869/SW06p Critically consider the argument for and against social work practice being based on research evidence. To what extent might this undermine social workers' discretion to select and apply theories? Answer with reference to the Department of Health's guidance on assessing children in need. INTRODUCTION In writing critically for the argument for and against social work practice being based on research evidence, there is a need to identify the conceptual entities making up research evidence. It is quite a topic that covers quite a wide range of issues in social work. The essay is approached by examining the nature of research-evidence, the question of what is evidence, its components and the relationship between these components, together with extraneous variable such as politics, ethics which influence evidence, will be addressed in the essay. Main arguments for and against social work practice being based on research evidence will be presented including the argument in support of the view that the choice of theory is greatly limited for evidential practitioners who are interested in objective measurable replicable, validity oriented social work practice. All these shall be linked to the Department of Health guidance on assessing children in need. Dilemmas and the issues of anti-oppressive practice will also be examined in this essay. Angus Fall, Ainlee Walker, Jasmine Beckford, Lauren Wright, Maria Cowell and Victoria Climbie , all had one thing in common- all were young and died from their abusers. "These youngsters were all failed by our child protection system"(The Guardian,16/10/02). The near frenzy report of these unfortunate individuals, and many enquiry reports that followed, put the practice of social work under a close scrutiny. The unfortunate mournful deaths of these kids warranted social workers being put "into the un-comfortable position of having to demonstrate exactly why they had, or had not taken particular actions"(Lloyd and Taylor 1995:692). Assessment and indeed the whole social work practice came under government attention. ...read more.

Middle

So far, these are some of the views of those for and against social work practice being based on research evidence. The limited length of this essay does not permit many more views of opponents and proponents. At this juncture, it is relevant to use these arguments to examine the Department of Health guidance on assessment of children in need. At the moment, the government's view is that practice should be "evidence- based ...and the use of knowledge from research ...record and update information systematically"(DoH2000: 16:1.58), this is in their issued guidance that directs that assessment should based on knowledge from research findings, theoretical ideas and practical experience to build a correct situation and analysis of what is happening in the family being assessed. Briefly, the guidance is introduced to promote or improve decision-making process in the assessment of children in need and their families. It urges practitioners to focus on the child and never lose focus while considering other dimensions in the assessment process. It is a practice framework that is supposed to have a general applicability and aids in understanding "what is happening to all children whatever circumstances they may be growing"(DoH 2000:26:2.25). The guidance asks practitioners using it to reflect on how what they are doing impacts on the their assessment, and whether their decision is having a successful impact on their clients (see ibid:p. 86:6.30). The guidance represents the framework for the assessment of children in need in a triangular form with three inter-related areas: the developmental need of the child, the parenting capacity and family, and environmental factors (DoH 2000). The DoH's guidance is reportedly based on research evidence and is to be used as a framework for EBP. There is no doubt that EBP has a lot of advantages and likely to remain the approach to practice in social work for a long time since it enjoys a strong support from the government and suits the Government very well because of the quantitative nature of approach that allows them to monitor the 02007869/SW06P profession better in terms of money spent and the quality of service. ...read more.

Conclusion

However, the profession of social work is essentially about dealing with human beings who have values and behaviours that are quite very complex and reflection of inner psychological functions, which are extremely difficult to assess and quantify (Sullivan 1998:756). I also concur with Jordan (1986:25), who opined "many problems that social work tackles are rather unsolvable and far more complex and remote forces than a precise scientific knowledge-for -use" can accommodate. It has also been asserted that with all pomp and pageantry surrounding EBP, "there is little evidence to date on the efficiency in terms of improving the overall lot of the patient in the beleaguered health and social care systems" (see Swinkel et al.20002:346. Also the nature of what constitute evidence seems to be the main concern in the perspectives presented by both the supporters and opponents of EBP. as Swinkles et al. noted that EBP sits "uncomfortably in professions such as social work , which have traditionally relied on qualitative methods as a means of generating new knowledge and informing practice but which are often neglected within EBP"(ibid,). Also the assessment of children in need, being usually multidisciplinary, as reflected in the guidance, makes it difficult for a practitioner evaluating and reflecting on practice, to conclude that success of his approach is solely because of his research evidence he has used when other disciplines are involved. I also agree with Webb (2001:71), who opined that EBP with its systematisation, regimentation, managerialism really reduces social work practice to "framework of routinised operation". Thus the DoH's guidance for the assessment of children in need reduces practice to a routined operation and limits the choice of theory a practitioner can use. I will like to make a final conclusion by saying that EBP is good but the way the proponent of the approach are championing it as a all-or-non affair and forcefully "confining rational decision making procedures to those utilized by natural sciences...reduces professional judgement to decisionism", may be bad for practice because advanced EBP may turn practitioners into another bureaucrats, too formal for client and lacking in warmth. 1 ...read more.

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