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Introduction to Case Studies

Knowledge for assessment and intervention

Research information can be considered under two headings: knowledge for understanding and knowledge to inform intervention. The first helps you move from a description of circumstances to an analysis of the key issues, sorting the essential and distinguishing the significant from the less important and the inconsequential. While it is true that assessment is a continuous process and, therefore, subject to change as new facts come to light, social workers, like other professionals, are required to make judgements at points in time based on what is known. This may provoke anxiety, but the first sort of knowledge should help you see the wood from the trees. Sometimes practitioners can become overwhelmed by too many facts. Skilled assessment requires the application of knowledge about what is significant for likely future outcomes.

The second type - knowledge for intervention - is information derived from research which helps you understand which particular services are likely to meet the needs that have been identified in your assessment. It should help you move from understanding to more effective action. We need always to bear in mind that some social situations in which we are seeking to intervene are complex and difficult to change. Neither clinical nor research knowledge provides a magic bullet. But using them together, we should be able to operate as more responsible and more effective (but, still fallible) workers.

This section of the learning resource contains four case studies, covering the following areas of social work and social care:

  • Disability
  • Mental Health
  • Older People
  • Child and Family

Each case is described in four simplified stages. There is a danger in seeing this as a neat linear process; the reality is more likely to be about an iterative, cyclical process in which information is assessed; a plan is formulated; implemented; and reviewed.
This process leads to more information, more assessment, a revised plan, subsequent reviews etc. While any intervention should aim to be systematic and knowledge-based, it is unhelpful to pretend that social work or parallel interventions always proceed smoothly from A to B.

Plan, implementation, review, assessment

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