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Unit information: Social Work with Children and Families with Complex Needs in 2015/16

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Unit name Social Work with Children and Families with Complex Needs
Unit code SPOLM0021
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Academic Year (weeks 1 - 52)
Unit director Dr. Turney
Open unit status Not open




School/department School for Policy Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


This unit will examine a range of specific issues related to safeguarding children and young people and working with children in need, whether within their own families or in the care of public authorities. It will address current research on the key forms of child abuse, consider the individual, family and environmental factors that can put children in need of different kinds of service provision, and identify what is known in terms of evidence-based interventions.

The unit will enable to students to:

  • Examine and evaluate the current research and practice context of work with children in need, children in need of protection, children looked after by public authorities, and issues around reunification
  • Apply in practice a critical understanding of the impact on children and families of domestic violence, drug and alcohol misuse, parental mental ill-health, learning disability, and managing complex medical/health needs,and familiarise themselves with current knowledge about effective evidence-based interventions
  • Evaluate the effects of poverty, marginalisation, and social exclusion on children and families
  • Explore best practice in working in partnership with parents/carers and children, the role of social work values, of service user perspectives, and the place of social work in relation to minority groups

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of the unit, students should be able to:

  • Understand and critically evaluate the range of social care provision for children in need (including those in need of protection) and their families within the current policy context
  • Critically analyse key theoretical and research perspectives on child neglect and child abuse,
  • Evidence a critical awareness of a range of factors that can adversely affect parenting capacity, such as domestic violence, substance misuse, parental mental illness, and parental learning disability,
  • Demonstrate a thorough understanding of evidence-based interventions and their appropriate use to address identified needs and promote best outcomes for children and their families/carers
  • Critically evaluate the evidence for best practice with children looked after by the state, reunifying children, and children placed for adoption.
  • Demonstrate critical understanding and application of core social work values, including anti-oppressive practice, child-centred practice and recognition of service user and carer perspectives.

Teaching details

Teaching will take place in 1.5 hour sessions, normally over a 3 day block with a further re-call day. The unit will combine lectures, seminar discussion and practical exercises.

Assessment Details

Summative assessment will consist of:

  • A critical and reflective assignment (3500-4000 words) that demonstrates advanced understanding of social work with children and families with complex needs, supported by the critical application of relevant theory, research and practice knowledge. Documentary evidence from the practice context will be required alongside the assignment;;and
  • Assessment through observation by an appropriate practice assessor of a relevant aspect of the student’s practice; this assessment will be based on criteria linked to the Professional Capabilities Framework.

The assignment will be marked and graded. The observation of practice will be assessed on a Pass/Fail basis; all practice-based elements of the assessment are must-pass but zero-weighted.

Both pieces of work must be passed to gain the credit points for the Unit.

Reading and References

Cleaver, H., Unell, I. & Aldgate, J. (2011) Children’s Needs – Parenting Capacity. Child abuse: parental mental illness, learning disability, substance misuse, and domestic violence. London: Department for Education. 2nd edition.

Davies, C. & Ward, H. (2012) Safeguarding Children Across Services: Messages from Research. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Farmer, E., Sturgess, W., O’Neill, T & Wijedasa, D. (2011) Achieving Successful Returns from Care: What makes reunification work? London: BAAF.

Ferguson, H. (2011) Child Protection Practice. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Howe, D. (2005) Child Abuse and Neglect: Attachment, development and intervention. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

McAuley, C., Pecora, P & Rose, W. (eds) (2006) Enhancing the Well-being of Children and Families through Effective Interventions. London and Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.