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Working with Risk

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Title: Working with Risk

Author: Hazel Kemshall, Bernadette Wilkinson, Kerry Baker

Publisher: Polity Press

Reviewer: Dr Jo Wilson, managing director, WHS

What was it like?

An interesting book, which applies working the Risk to Social Work Practices. It is systematically written in seven chapters with summative conclusions.  Chapter 1 begins with Understanding Risk and how assessment and management are core issues across a range of settings and contexts in social work practices. It looks at the Climate of Uncertainty and how these present key dilemmas and challenges for Social Workers including the importance of balancing vulnerability and risk to others. 

How Risk decision can be life changing but must be informed and balanced in order to make positive, thoughtful, robust and ethical decisions about risk.  Chapter 2 addresses the Skills for Risk Assessment examining the balance between planned and purposeful risk taking and risk avoidance. Through risk being about enablement with choice and empowerment, with the need for individual growth and development. Chapter 3 reviews the Art of Decision Making through the skills required to make good judgement and avoiding biases and discrimination in risk management. Chapter 4 moves on to Risk Planning and Management to reduce risk through individual specific assessments and desired outcomes. Also for the need for combining Professional knowledge and Skills with Procedural Compliance. Chapter 5 looks at Risk and Ethics with common dilemmas of issues such as care versus control, conflicting rights, compulsory detention and self-harm versus rights and choices. Chapter 6 covers Review and Evaluation of Risk through shared responsibility of managers and practitioners within an organisation, requiring time, training, commitment and resources. Also learning lessons from failures and sharing experiences for sharing good practices and outcomes. Finally Chapter 7 is an excellent chapter in Managing Self in the Organisational Context. It covers the importance of self-care, learning from others, having complex adaptive systems, which work well in self and organisational management.

What were the highlights? 

The book takes a systematic approach around each topic and clearly takes the reader through the steps and stages through enhancing their understanding and application of the skills and knowledge. The activities with scenarios and tables encourage application of the skills and issues covered in the text and they continue throughout the book.   

Strengths & weaknesses:

The strengths are the systematic and logical approach that this textbook takes in order to enhance knowledge and understanding. It is easy to follow and applies working with risk to social workers skills and challenges in both personal and organisational contexts to getting the right balance in the context of statutory regulations. 

Who should read it?

Social work students, social workers, managers and those involved in community care setting with children, adult services and mental health social work settings.

Working with Risk


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