Quality, risk and governance: social workers’ perspectives

Brian J Taylor, Barbara Campbell

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Purpose – Governance is an emerging aspect of social care organisations embodyingprofessionally-led risk management, quality assurance and service improvement. The purpose ofthis paper is to put forward a broad conceptualisation of the main dimensions of quality and risk insocial care.Design/methodology/approach – A survey was undertaken to seek the perspectives on social caregovernance (SCG) of social workers in the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust in NorthernIreland where clinical and SCG is formalised in the integrated health and social care service.Findings – The 123 respondents were from a wide range of grades, aspects of work (practice,management and training) and both children’s and adult services. Approximately, 60 per cent of social workers thought themselves knowledgeable on SCG, but this self-reported knowledge wasconsiderably higher amongst managers and trainers than practitioners. The risk register was familiar to 61 per cent of respondents. Social workers thought that useful ways to learn about SCG were team meetings, local workshops and engagement in developmental projects rather than training events.Research limitations/implications – The 41 per cent response rate is typical of surveys of busyprofessionals.Practical implications – Social workers were generally not very aware of the systems beingdeveloped to implement accountability and support through SCG, presenting challenges to the tasks of managing risk and improving the safety and quality of services.Originality/value – The paper shows that Northern Ireland is pioneering the development of SCG inparallel with clinical governance in health care. Valuable lessons are being learned about theapplication of concepts of risk and quality in the complexity of social work.Keywords Northern Ireland, Social services, Social workers, Governance, Leadership, Quality, Risk, Social care governancePaper type Research paper
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)256-272
JournalInternational Journal of Leadership in Public Services
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 25 Dec 2011


  • Governance
  • Leadership
  • Northern Ireland
  • Quality
  • Risk
  • Social Care
  • Social Services
  • Social Workers.


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