Reframing social work assessment: Connecting spaces and people

Philip Heslop*, Suzanne McGladdery, Petia Sice

*Corresponding author for this work

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This paper seeks to reframe social work assessment, reflect on complexity, autopoietic theory, narrative, and life stories, and introduces a conceptual interactive practice tool, Connecting Spaces. This tool is being designed to facilitate assessments and therapeutic work with children and vulnerable adults in person and online. Social work is concerned with systems involving people, often during crisis, their environments, and networks where engagement and assessment cannot function outside of communication between assessor and assessed. Social workers are nested within their own personal, biological, and professional networks including employing agency and professional regulatory bodies. Complexity arises because social workers must condense information into stories of what might happen and make sense how best to support people. Munro (2011) in her review of child protection explains social workers try to understand and help people and she reflects on the interplay between conscious analysis and intuition in assessment and decision making. Ten years on from Munro’s recommendations The Case for Change (Children’s Social Care Independent Review, 2021) highlights the continued need for less bureaucratic process-led practice and more direct work with children and families.
Given the prominence of attachment theory in social work, it is a surprise Siegal’s Mindsight, which is the capacity to clarify, label and analyse the internal emotional world and its response to the external word, has gained little attention in social work. The potential for Mindsight’s application in social work is enhanced by narratives, storytelling and life story therapy with children and vulnerable adults. Connecting Spaces can be used to create a narrative about the person's life: past, present and/or future. The aim is to inform and improve decision making by enabling the person's understanding, views, wishes and feelings to be explored, heard, presented, evidenced, and considered. Further, it has the potential to present and consider multi-perspectives and narratives such as in family and wider systems. This flexible communication conceptual tool is designed to have a range of uses and it is intended to be provided in both digital and physical form to suit a range of needs. This tool does not aim to replace but to enhance building relationship, safety, and communication in direct work with a child or vulnerable adult.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberSYSTEMIST-2021-07-03
Pages (from-to)53-69
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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