Decision making and risk in social work: Critical reflections on digital technologies

Lene Mosegaard Søbjerg, Brian Taylor

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


‘Big data’ is changing society. This chapter reflects on how social workers should engage with the emerging world of digital technology as it affects our decision making in situations of uncertainty (risk). Making a professional judgement to inform decision-making processes is an essential part of social work practice, and is particularly challenging in the context of high risk situations such as possible child neglect, elder abuse, suicide or homicide by people with mental health problems, re-offending, and accidents by people with a disability or dementia. Whilst there are ethical challenges in the increasingly widespread use of computerised big data, the use of such knowledge – properly shared with clients – may be empowering. And where reliable knowledge is created – such as in relation to risks of harm - professionals have a responsibility to use this. This debate links to more general discussions about the use of knowledge in decision making. We must also consider the extent and ways in which formalised (and increasingly computerised) systems may reduce professional capability and limit discretion. The chapter concludes by identifying places where such crucial discussions should occur so as to best develop informed and competent professional social workers for the ultimate benefit of clients, families and society.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRevitalising Critical Reflection in Contemporary Social Work Research, Education and Practice.
EditorsChristian Svensson, Pia Ringø
Place of PublicationLondon
ISBN (Print)9781032163178
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 9 Dec 2022


  • social work
  • digital technology
  • decision making
  • risk
  • big data
  • professional judgement
  • reflections


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