Balancing risk and innovation to improve social work practice

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Risk is a central component of innovation and innovation is seen as essential to the improvement of public services. The UK government clearly believe that unless public sector services engage with the innovation agenda and find ways to incorporate innovation into the delivery of front line services, future performance will remain inefficient and ineffective. Whilst it recognises that balancing risks with responsibilities is a significant hurdle to be overcome, the positive bias found within the policy literature and tendency to view innovation as a good thing may belie the difficulties associated with implementation in a social work context. This paper draws upon research examining the implementation of four new models of practice covering different areas of social work in the UK and Australia, namely Family Conferencing, Direct Payments, NEWPIN and Intensive Family Based Services. 1 Successful innovation requires organisations and individuals to engage in positive risk-taking, which, in many public service arenas, particularly a social work context, could present significant barriers. The paper explores the issues facing both individuals and organisations attempting to be innovative and examines what potential innovation has in this context to realise government ambition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1211-1228
Number of pages18
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number4
Early online date15 Feb 2010
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2010


  • risk
  • social work practice
  • innovation


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