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Unit information: Assessment, Risk and Decision-making in 2015/16

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Unit name Assessment, Risk and Decision-making
Unit code SPOLM0024
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 focuses on a critical examination of current research and theoretical knowledge related to the assessment of children and families and its application to practice. It aims to:

  • Consolidate students’ knowledge and skills in relation to risk assessment and the assessment of children and families with a range of complex needs, including assessing whether to reunite, with their parents, children who have been in the care system.
  • Develop students’ theoretical and practical understanding of, and skills in, decision making in complex and challenging situations
  • Explore interagency working and decision making within professional networks in the context of risk
  • Consider theory and practice in relation to the involvement of service users in decision making
  • Support and enhance the development of skills in analytical and critical thinking in assessment

Intended learning outcomes

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

  • Demonstrate critical understanding of current frameworks for, and approaches to social work assessment of children, young people and families, and apply this understanding and analysis in the practice context
  • Critically appraise different approaches to risk assessment and the use of risk assessment tools in practice
  • Evaluate and explain the factors that support or hinder inter-professional decision making in situations of risk
  • Critically evaluate the range of theoretical, conceptual and practical issues affecting parental engagement with services, when children may be at risk of harm, and apply this understanding appropriately to practice
  • Devise approaches to support constructive decision making with service users, where possible
  • Demonstrate critical understanding and application of core social work values, including anti-oppressive practice, child-centred practice and recognition of service user 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 reflective assignment (3500 – 4000 words) critically analysing a piece of complex assessment work. The assignment should demonstrate advanced understanding and critical application of relevant theory, research and practice knowledge. Documentary evidence from the practice context will be required alongside the assignment.
  • Assessment through observation of a relevant aspect of the student’s practice by a practice assessor. 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

Barlow J., Fisher J. & Jones D. (2012), Systematic Review of Models of Analysing Significant Harm. London: Department for Education.

Calder, MC (ed) (2008) Risk Assessment in Safeguarding Children. Lyme Regis: Russell House Publishing

Holland, S. Child and Family Assessment in Social Work Practice. London: Sage. 2nd edition.

Horwath J. (ed) (2009), The Child’s World: The Comprehensive Guide to Assessing Children in Need. London & Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. 2nd edition

Turney, D. Platt, D., Selwyn, J & Farmer, E. (2012) Improving Child and Family Assessments: Turning research into practice. London & Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Wade, J. Biehal, N., Farrelly, N & Sinclair, I (2011) Caring for Abused and Neglected Children: Making right decisions for reunification or long-term care. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.