#IROConf17 | Not to stop questioning…

Introduction / Trailer video

Two minute clip.

Guest Speaker | Professor Brigid Featherstone | Child Welfare Inequalities


Attempts to record, understand and respond to variations in child welfare and protection reporting, service patterns and outcomes are international, numerous and longstanding. Reframing such variations as an issue of inequity between children and between families opens the way to a new approach to explaining the profound difference in intervention rates between and within countries and administrative districts. Recent accounts of variation have frequently been based on the idea that there is a binary division between bias and risk (or need). Here we propose seeing supply (bias) and demand (risk) factors as two aspects of a single system, both framed, in part, by social structures. A recent finding from a study of intervention rates in England, the ‘inverse intervention law’, is used to illustrate the complex ways in which a range of factors interact to produce intervention rates. In turn, this analysis raises profound moral, policy, practice and research questions about current child welfare and child protection services.

Research paper: Child welfare inequalities: new evidence, further questions

Handout slides: Brigid Featherstone | #IROConf17 | Presentation Handout

Project website: Identifying and understanding inequalities in child welfare intervention rates

Related reading: Why some children are more likely to go back into care than others

Video clips:

  • Part 1: Compelling stories rooted in dominant values, a victim & a villain … (14 mins)
  • Part 2: The Inverse Intervention Law (10 mins)
  • Part 3:The Inverse Intervention Law & rates of children in care, child protection and a summary of key messages (7 mins)

Guest Speaker | Chris Bolton | Working with narrative to better manage risk and see beyond inattentional blindness


Many approaches to risk (and regulation) are built upon being able to predict ‘what happens next’, and take preventative action. These approaches can work effectively in highly ordered and predictable situations, but are of limited use in complex human situations. In some cases they can provide a sense of false assurance.

In addition the approach can amplify our biases towards inattentional blindness (seeing what you expect to see) and satisfaction of search (not looking beyond the obvious).

Gathering unstructured narrative (not stories) from situations can help to better understand their complex nature and where to take action. Structured use of narrative can provide an alternative approach to managing risks, moving away from compliance with ‘tick box’ regulatory frameworks, towards a system of anticipatory alerts.

I will share some of what I’ve been doing on this as part of my work with the Wales Audit Office and during a secondment to the Cynefin Centre at Bangor University.

Source: Chris Bolton | Welsh Audit Office, Good Practice Team | Twitter @whatsthepont Blog What’s the PONT

Handout slides: Chris Bolton – #IROConf17 Presentation Handout

Video clips:

  • Parts 5: Working with narrative to better manage risk and see beyond inattentional blindness (5 mins)
  • Test you awareness – do the test (referred to by Chris)
  • Part 6: Working with narrative to better manage risk and see beyond inattentional blindness (6 mins total)

The fun test by dothetest referred to in Chris Bolton’s presentation:

Guest Speaker | Dr. Jadwiga Leigh | Recalcitrance, compliance and the presentation of self: Exploring the concept of organisational misbehaviour in an English local authority child protection service

This seminar will explore the findings of an article which explored recalcitrance, compliance and performativity in a local authority child protection service in England. The findings draw from a study which examined how social workers reinterpreted certain legal requirements to meet their organisation’s performance targets. It was found that social workers disguised their resistance with organisational directives in an attempt to achieve potentially unachievable objectives and in turn avoid disciplinary action. This seminar will explore the reasons for why this took place, how certain individuals responded to change and what behaviours might be defined as loyal and compliant. The seminar will encourage interactive discussions relating to the concept of recalcitrance and compliance and whether it is developed, and enforced, by those in powerful positions on the basis of their own desire to be well regarded by others.

Link to the article: here

Handout slides: Dr Jadwiga Leigh

Video clips: Parts 7 – 8: Recalcitrance, compliance and the presentation of self (14 mins & 6 mins)

Guest Speaker | Dr. Jo Warner | The Emotional Politics of Social Work and Child Protection

Dr. Jo Warner is a Reader in Social Work at the University of Kent. Jo is a registered social worker, beginning her career in community development work and generic practice before becoming an academic. Her research focuses on sociocultural approaches to risk, particularly the way ‘risk work’ has shaped professional practice and the impact of cultures of inquiry, fear and blame, but also everyday risks as experienced by service users. Her book, published by Policy Press, is entitled The Emotional Politics of Social Work and Child Protection. She has also recently co-edited a book on risk and mental health: Beyond the Risk Paradigm in Mental Health Policy and Practice (Palgrave, 2017). Her current research continues to focus on the politics of risk in child protection.

Handout slides: Dr Jo Warner

Video clips: Part 9 – 10: The Emotional Politics of Social Work and Child Protection (11 mins & 10 mins):

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