Practice Needs to Be Braver: The Role of Entry to Care Panels


The English child protection system is a professionally orientated one. It is a system in which notions of risk and need are determined by professional child protection workers and managers, with significant decisions made about children known to be at risk. This includes decisions about fostering or alternative care. Yet, families tend to be left out of the various forums and debates where risk determinations and practice decisions actually happen. In this article, we examine how we have tried to address this imbalance by introducing an entry to care panel system. The panel can offer a helpful pause to rushed and pressured decisions to use care as an alternative to working with situations of risk. Child protection workers and their managers are invited to take a discursive look at how risk operates in each case. This has resulted in better child protection practice. We show how the type of panel we introduced played a significant part in evening out of the care numbers in two English local authorities. Our argument is for the panel to be seen as a practice initiative—An example of purposeful bureaucracy, where decisions reached or ratified are informed by risk and need discourses. We argue that this practice initiative has helped our workers to adopt a more critical approach to risk discourses in their child protection work. Practice based tools were introduced alongside of the panel to support this way of working. We show the gains for our practice, and importantly for the families we work with, as we work differently and more expansively with risk discourses.

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Stanley, T. , Lincoln, H. and McGee, P. (2014) Practice Needs to Be Braver: The Role of Entry to Care Panels. Sociology Mind, 4, 151-160. doi: 10.4236/sm.2014.42015.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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