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Case study

Case Study: Black Box and Child Protection Social Work

This case study is taken from a particular aspect of our work but it illustrates features of the workshop which are applicable to a number of situations.


Black Box has proved extremely successful for developing the skills of social workers and other professionals charged with safeguarding children and young people. The emphasis of recent policy in this area — such as the Common Assessment Framework — has been on improving the communication between different agencies, and Black Box has been very effective in this regard.

A social worker has to go in to a home and make accurate assessments of the situation of the children living there. Reflecting on the relationship between evidence and interpretation, becoming aware of the processes by which we make judgements and form hypotheses, identifying the conventions and prejudices which may shape the pressured assessments which we make, accurately recalling the detail of what we have experienced in its absence — Black Box provides a space to challengingly and reflectively engage with all of these areas.

Team building and multi-disciplinary groups

We were commissioned to provide a Black Box workshop by Burnley Pendle and Rossendale NHS Primary Care Trust to provide continuing professional development for two teams involved with child protection. These teams had just been formed and included not only social workers but also community support workers, health visitors and other professionals: colleagues who had to work efficiently together, but who come to the situation with different professional frameworks and agendas.

The workshop would have provided insightful and valuable continuing professional development if we had been working with a homogeneous group, but working in a multi-disciplinary team was particularly beneficial. Delegates have appreciated exploring issues from the point of view of colleagues in other professions, and examining differences and similarities in response to the images presented in the box. These benefits were multiplied by the fact that our workshop was commissioned with the idea of building new teams who would be working together.

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