Society expects social workers and other professionals to use the best available knowledge in making decisions. Statistical (numerical) data are rapidly becoming an increasing part of the repertoire of knowledge available to professionals. However, social workers can at times seem reluctant to use statistics to inform their judgement processes when considering the assessment and seriousness of risk factors. This paper explores and considers the potential use of statistical methods in understanding risk factors. Potentials of using statistics include reducing variability in human judgements, increasing accuracy and reducing human bias. When contemplating these potentials, it is important to consider ethical issues, legal and organisational issues as well as technical issues. Acknowledging that potentials and challenges need to be weighed, it is imperative that the profession engages in the development of adequate statistical methods to improve the knowledge and skill base for social work in the best interests of clients and families.
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- decision-support systems
- risk assessment
- risk factors