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Appears in Collections:Faculty of Social Sciences Journal Articles
Peer Review Status: Refereed
Title: Can I Have A Word? Social Worker Interaction and Sense-Making
Author(s): Helm, Duncan
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Keywords: safeguarding children
qualitative study
Issue Date: Sep-2017
Citation: Helm D (2017) Can I Have A Word? Social Worker Interaction and Sense-Making. Child Abuse Review, 26 (5), pp. 388-398.
Abstract: This paper explores the ways in which practitioners in children and family social work teams make sense of information in their work. By examining observations and recordings from an ethnographic study, the paper focuses on how informal discussions within the office space inform and affect social workers' analysis (or sense-making). Three elements of sense-making activity are illustrated with vignettes and extracts from field notes: methodical doubt, proximity/reflexivity and security. These three distinct features of practice are then discussed and the significance of the findings considered in relation to contemporary practice. The paper highlights the importance of informal interaction and discussion in the social work office as part of the process of social workers' sense-making. It indicates that feelings of trust and security may be linked to intellectual curiosity and an ability to work with uncertainty in sense-making. Ethnography can provide a means of illuminating this complex and inaccessible element of practice and the findings add to the body of knowledge. Practitioners and organisations may wish to reflect on the findings and consider how they contribute to, and are affected by, such cultures and practices.
DOI Link: 10.1002/car.2463
Rights: This item has been embargoed for a period. During the embargo please use the Request a Copy feature at the foot of the Repository record to request a copy directly from the author. You can only request a copy if you wish to use this work for your own research or private study. This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Helm, D. (2017) Can I Have A Word? Social Worker Interaction and Sense-Making. Child Abuse Rev., 26: 388–398, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance With Wiley Terms and Conditions for self-archiving.

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