The quality of risk assessment and decision-making is a key concern within children’s social care services.
Decision-making and risk assessment in children’s social care and child protection have been extensively studied and several systematic reviews already exist. Yet there has not been a systematic review of the evidence on how to improve the quality and effectiveness of decision-making.
There are several reasons why this is a crucial area for children’s social care:
- Decisions are made under conditions of uncertainty, so that even decisions that are reasonable do not guarantee a good outcome.
- Many risks in this field are affected by both institutional factors and external events. Over the past ten years, rates of child protection interventions and admissions to care have greatly increased, while decisions at any threshold are affected by the level of demand elsewhere in the system.
- Other factors include the ripple effect of court judgements and legal proceedings, and the fallout from public scandals about deaths from child abuse.
These conditions mean that quality and effectiveness of decision making and risk assessment are socially contingent and so it is crucial to understand how they are understood and operationalised in practice. An evidence base that can specify the complex interplay between factors shaping effectiveness under different circumstances and conditions will also be helpful for operational purposes.
As part of work undertaken to support the Independent Review into Children’s Social Care, What Works for Children’s Social Care has commissioned a brief evidence review into this area to capture a growing evidence base and inform the recommendations of the Independent Review.
The aim of the evidence review is to improve the quality of decision making and risk assessment for children referred to statutory CSC services. It will do this through a systematic search of the literature, focusing on empirical studies of decision-making in statutory services in the UK and some other countries with a comparable child welfare system.
The evidence review will answer the following questions:
- How are quality and effectiveness understood and operationalised in studies of decision-making in children’s social care?
- What factors affect the quality and effectiveness of decision-making?
The evidence review will be carried out from July-September 2021 and will report in mid-October 2021.