Loughborough University
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What role do case management systems have in constructing social workers perceptions of adolescents in care?

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posted on 2023-06-22, 07:49 authored by Annabel Goddard

Case Management Systems (CMS) are a software tool which guides practitioners case work. The tools have evolved as the dominant method to ensure consistent, efficient, and accountable practice. Typically, CMS have been designed around a risk management agenda and to enforce standardisation in a bid to ensure quality practice. More recently the rate of adolescents entering the care system have grown rapidly and social work with the cohort is emerging as a specialist area of practice. The present thesis recognising that development of CMS has occurred within a socio-economic and political context of neoliberalism and the risk society, explores the previously unconsidered effects of CMS on social work practice and the potential influence this has on practitioners constructions of adolescents in care. 

Important findings indicate CMS can contribute indirectly and directly to how and when young people in care are observed by practitioners, creating cyclical events whereby negative behaviours and characteristics are amplified or constructed. Risk reduction oriented case management is shown to be in obvious tension with the unpredictability and relationship-oriented stage of adolescent development creating unfavourable conditions for how young people in care come to be perceived by their social workers. Four negative characteristics are identified as becoming commonly associated with young people through the mechanism of CMS and in the context of the present political and economic context of social work. The labels of risky, resistant and responsible are observed to emerge from the practice context facilitated by CMS and also label this cohort as harder to work with or representing increased workload. 

In summary the research addresses a gap in knowledge regarding the appropriateness of CMS as a tool guiding social workers work with adolescents and considers ways to  inform future design and implementation of CMS in emerging specialism of social work with adolescents.




  • Social Sciences and Humanities


  • Criminology, Sociology and Social Policy


Loughborough University

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© Annabel Goddard

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.


  • en


Stephen Case ; Laura Valadez Martinez

Qualification name

  • PhD

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

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  • I have submitted a signed certificate

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