In defense of actuarialsim: Interrogating the logic of risk in social work practice

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This article presents findings from a study of risk-based decision making which challenges aspects of the well-established consensus regarding the role that actuarially generated knowledge plays in risk based decision making in social work. Firstly, it suggests that there is little direct relationship between the process of risk assessment and its outcome. Secondly, it highlights that subjective practitioner judgement plays a role in elevating risk levels beyond those which actuarial calculations warrant. Finally, although risk aversion is evident, this cannot be reductively attributed to actuarial knowledge generation strategies. Instead, it is a function of practice in an environment in which fear of blame is a very real concern. I conclude with discussion of the implications of these findings for ongoing debates regarding forms of knowledge in practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)395-410
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of social work practice
Issue number4
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Dec 2017

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  • risk; actuarialsim; social work; decision making

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