“Nobody wants to remove a baby... That’s the crux of it”
: Social Workers’ Experiences of Undertaking Pre-Birth Assessments

  • Cally Anne Bleasby

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Social Work


Pre-birth assessment is an area of children and families social work which has received very little attention in terms of research and practice guidance. There is evidence across western countries that statutory intervention to protect newborn children has increased significantly over the last decade, with growing concerns that research and guidance to support practice have not increased at a similar rate. A gap in current research is the experience of social workers undertaking the work, with no studies focused solely on this area to date. This qualitative study used semi-structured interviews to explore the experiences of social workers undertaking pre-birth assessments within one region of England. The findings have situated pre-birth assessment as intrinsically complex, fundamentally emotional, and highly uncertain; where the consequences for the children, families and social workers can be catastrophic, and yet appear to be broadly unrecognised. Pre-birth social work is placed as a distinct area of practice where there are several unique challenges to assessment and decision making, with the child at the centre of the assessment remaining invisible throughout the work. Overwhelmingly, social workers reported feeling unprepared for the work which has significant moral and ethical implications due to the potential impact of the decisions being made. The findings highlight the need for urgent developments in the way pre-birth social work practice is approached and several recommendations for practice, policy, education and research are made.
Date of Award2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorMark Smith (Supervisor) & Maura Daly (Supervisor)

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