Defensive practice as ‘fear-based’ practice: Social work’s open secret?

Journal article


Whittaker, AJ and Havard, T (2015). Defensive practice as ‘fear-based’ practice: Social work’s open secret? British Journal of Social Work. 46 (5), pp. 1158-1174.
AuthorsWhittaker, AJ and Havard, T
Abstract

Defensive practice has received attention through the Munro review of child protection, which has identified that current organisational cultures increase the likelihood of defensive practice. Whilst the wider socio-political climate that gives rise to defensive practice has been explored within the literature, little attention has been paid to the everyday realities of defensive practice. This paper reports the findings of a study into final year social work students' attitudes towards defensive practice within social work. Three focus groups were completed with a total of ninety final-year students that collected qualitative and quantitative data using interactive software. This paper examines how participants perceived defensive practice, both in general and when faced with real-life vignettes. Participants distinguished between pro-active behaviour (sins of commission) and passive behaviour (sins of omission), generally regarding the latter as less serious because it was less tangible and easier to attribute to more positive motives. Whilst the literature identifies defensive practice as deliberate behaviour, the focus group discussions suggest that it is a subtler and less conscious process. Whilst there was there was a general consensus about the nature of defensive practice, there was considerable disagreement about specific vignettes and several competing explanations are explored.

KeywordsDefensive practice; accountability; anxiety; focus groups; new public management; Social Work; Social Work
Year2015
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Journal citation46 (5), pp. 1158-1174
PublisherOxford University Press
ISSN1468-263X
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1093/bjsw/BCV048
Publication dates
Print01 Dec 2015
Publication process dates
Deposited03 Jul 2017
Accepted01 Mar 2015
Publisher's version
License
CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
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https://openresearch.lsbu.ac.uk/item/87588

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