The role of professional judgement in social work assessment: a comparison between Norway and England

Samsonsen, Vibeke, Danielle Turney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
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Good quality assessment has a significant role to play in contributing to better outcomes for children in need of protection, so it is important to understand what supports best practice. This paper focuses on the role of professional judgement in assessment, and compares two very different national approaches. In England, governmental responses to perceived failings in the child protection system have led to a highly proceduralised and bureaucratised system and a corresponding down playing of the role of professional judgement. In Norway, professional discretion and judgement have been seen as key to the assessment process, and governmental response to criticism of child protection practice has been to support their use through provision of increased resources. However, too much emphasis on professional judgement and too little procedure may be as problematic as the reverse (Report of Auditor General of Norway, 2012). So this paper explores the different ways in which professional judgement is understood and addressed in each system and asks what we can learn from them in terms of best assessment practice. Acknowledging child protection as a ‘wicked problem’, we propose a model of Grounded Professional Judgement based on notions of epistemic responsibility and accountability to support the exercise of professional judgement in situations of uncertainty.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)112-124
Number of pages13
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Work
Issue number1
Early online date14 Jun 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2017


  • Assessment
  • child protection
  • Grounded Professional Judgement
  • England-Norway comparison
  • epistemic responsibility


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