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'Managing Risk in a High Blame Environment: Flight Deck Simulation in Childcare Social Work' Sue White (Professor of Social Work, University of Lancaster),

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Presentation on theme: "'Managing Risk in a High Blame Environment: Flight Deck Simulation in Childcare Social Work' Sue White (Professor of Social Work, University of Lancaster),"— Presentation transcript:

1 'Managing Risk in a High Blame Environment: Flight Deck Simulation in Childcare Social Work' Sue White (Professor of Social Work, University of Lancaster), David Wastell (Professor of Information Systems, University of Nottingham Business School), Dr Sue Peckover and Dr Chris Hall (Centre for Applied Childhood Studies, University of Huddersfield), Andy Pithouse (Professor of Social Work, University of Cardiff), Dr Delores Davey (University of Cardiff), Dr Karen Broadhurst (University of Lancaster

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3 Investigating error and blame Multi-method ethnography 5 sites Micro-world simulation informed by ethnography

4 Practitioners and managers must invoke a range of rationalities to justify, explain, excuse or exonerate action where they are managing competing imperatives and where they anticipate internal and/or external scrutiny and moral evaluation That is, where they may be blamed for a low probability, but highly consequential tragedy involving a child, or a relatively high probability ‘mistake’ in allocating scarce resources or failing to meet a PI Little is known to date about how practitioners and managers learn to cope with these competing imperatives in everyday practice

5 Negotiating Access Our first findings related to the difficulties in negotiating access in this high risk, high blame environment Impact of JARs Worries about performance targets

6 Practicalities of practice

7 Classification in Restructured Services Temporal dimension to teams – shift away from generic locality based work CRM - e-Government Is it a contact or a referral? Is it a ’47’? Is it an Initial or a Core? Does it need longer term work?

8 Findings: Taking Referrals and Assessing Risk Social work managers operate in morally precarious territory, where cases are packaged as ‘high risk’ by referrers but the service must be heavily rationed. There are several improvisational devices which operate to translate enforced delay (“there is nobody to see this case”) into the institutionally legitimate rationality of strategic deferment (for example, “I will seek more information”)

9 Monday Morning in Erewhon

10 Example of ‘Risk Assessment’ used in Erewhon Office Figure 3: Example of ‘Risk Assessment’ used in Erewhon Office

11 Risk Scores and Organizational Practices Cases can only be risk scored as 1, 2, 3, 4, 6 or 9, Only those receiving a score of 6 or 9 would routinely be accepted as referrals, with the latter triggering an immediate response. 9 gets an immediate response

12 Fieldnotes from the front line… telephone call to Felicity French to confirm that I will meet with her at 10am tomorrow. Felicity French a bit cagey - said that she needed to let me know what was going on in the Referral and Assessment Team. She said that they had all been called into a meeting that morning with the manager. The manager, Deborah Davies was very annoyed and giving them all a bit of a ‘dressing down’ about the state of affairs in the team. They have missed the performance indicator this week for the % of Initial Assessments being done within 7 days and missed it by a lot. There’s no way of recouping the situation, once the % has been recorded. Deborah Davies is very annoyed, she has been on sick leave herself for two weeks and has come back to find that workers have been slacking behind her back. Felicity French added, that the problem is that part of Deborah’s annoyance is directed at ‘inappropriate chatting’... ‘social chatting’ and people not getting on with the job and that this included ‘chatting with Jane Jackson the researcher’.

13 ‘Adolescents are difficult because they do not always get the service they deserve. ….if they are breathing, fed, clothed, got money in their pockets and a B and B, I will say, “that’s it, see you in another life”. …. Really these cases need more care…. The life skills they would have got from their parents. But I can’t do that. I’ve got a baby in a crack house. I’ve got to deal with that. But I know this is something we should be able to provide a service to. This is my next generation of parents’.

14 Stories and Local Cultures: The Iron Fist… e.g. Three children, Mo has a recent partner who is violent - children have witnessed scenes of DV- 8 year old says 'I love my mummy and do not want to go into care' - social worker and team leader are pushing for the 'iron fist'- reason- mum failing to follow through with advice to prosecute partner and take an injunction. Rationale: 'iron fist' better than facing a serious case review/child death – ‘baby in the canal’ worker described the impact of 'taking a chance'- mother drunk dropped baby in canal – was not predicted and the grandmother was 'trusted' not to let anything serious happen - passer by rescued baby

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17 Microworld Simulation ‘In particular, we will be concerned with the principles that govern information sampling, the valorisation of one institutional provenance over another, the cognitive biases that mould the sense-making process, and the moral and technical heuristics which are invoked to justify decisions. In particular, we shall be concerned with the post hoc reasoning whereby emergent errors are rationalised. If errors are hard to observe in the “blooming, buzzing confusion” of real work, it is nonetheless possible to contrive errors within an artificially constructed reality’.

18 By simulating something of the complexities, tensions and pressures of this professional world in the tractable, measurable space of the laboratory we are able to interrogate institutional “common sense”, to treat its contents and its historical nature as topics in their own right

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