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Decision-making in children’s social care: quantitative analysis

Every day, social work practitioners make decisions about the wellbeing of thousands of vulnerable children and families. These decisions are often complex, concerning emotive issues in conditions of uncertainty. They are often made under both time and resource pressure. This report uses raw data on social work cases to reveal decision-making patterns.


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Every day, social work practitioners make decisions about the wellbeing of thousands of vulnerable children and families. These decisions are often complex, concerning emotive issues in conditions of uncertainty. They are often made under both time and resource pressure. Previous research has revealed how professional decision-making in social work, and many other disciplines, can be influenced by a range of psychological factors, as well as contextual factors such as the availability of information and resources.

The Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) has previously conducted qualitative research exploring judgment and decision-making in children’s social care, identifying several behavioural factors that may impact social workers’ ability to make decisions.

Drawing on the recommendations of BIT’s previous report, BIT was commissioned by the Department for Education (DfE) to conduct a complementary quantitative research project, using raw data on social work cases to reveal decision-making patterns. This report presents the findings of this research.

Date Published

July 8, 2016