Research on school based social work in Aotearoa New Zealand- new publications

 Liz Beddoe and Irene de Haan

Over the last two years we have been exploring schools’ responses to child abuse and neglect. In our earlier post we shared our initial findings about school social workers’ experiences.

We were interested in SWiS’s experiences working with teachers and principals in schools around the identification and response to child maltreatment. We also explored with participants their experiences of becoming a school based social worker, the strengths and challenges of the role. We reported some interesting recurring experiences that our participants shared. The major challenge we heard about was the complexity of relationships school social workers need to build and maintain in order to work effectively for children.(see Beddoe, 2017 for more).

We have now published two new articles which are now freely available in open access:

Addressing concerns about child maltreatment in schools: A brief research report on social work involvement in reporting processes

Liz Beddoe, Irene de Haan


INTRODUCTION: School-based social workers (SWiS) in Aotearoa New Zealand work alongside teachers and principals to improve child wellbeing. The SWiS experience in addressing concerns about possible child abuse and neglect (CAN) is under-researched.

METHOD: In the first phase of the project, the authors undertook semi-structured interviews with 20 SWiS to explore their experiences of how school professionals addressed CAN.

FINDINGS: Some considerable variation in making formal notifications of concerns to the statutory agency was found. In some schools SWiS made all the notifications, in others none, and in some schools the process was variable. Stigma associated with child abuse was reported as a factor in attitudes towards reporting. School-based social workers reported the need for better education and policy to guide schools to address CAN.

IMPLICATIONS: More joint education is needed to ensure a common knowledge base and better interprofessional work. There is potential for SWiS to support this work if better resourced.

Read full text here

If you could change two things’: Social workers in schools talk about what could improve schools’ responses to child abuse and neglect

Liz Beddoe, Irene de Haan, Eileen Joy


INTRODUCTION: Given recent legislative changes to the child welfare system in Aotearoa New Zealand, it was deemed timely to examine the challenges faced by school-based social workers and other school professionals in responding to child abuse and neglect (CAN).

METHOD: A qualitative study of school professionals’ responses to CAN included 20 semistructured interviews with school-based social workers. The participants were asked to describe two things that, from their perspective, would improve schools’ responses to CAN. This article reports on this aspect of the study.

FINDINGS: Four main themes were identified in social workers’ responses: the necessity for improved training for teachers on CAN; better support for teachers; a more holistic approach to child wellbeing; and enhanced understanding of child welfare.

IMPLICATIONS: These findings pose challenges to both initial teacher education and crossagency child protection. School social workers use their relationship skills and knowledge to act as bridges between teacher education, school leaders, teachers and the Ministry for Children Oranga Tamariki and believe they can do more.

Read full text here


Beddoe, L., & de Haan, I. (2018). Addressing concerns about child maltreatment in schools: A brief research report on social work involvement in reporting processes. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 30(1), 58- 64. doi:10.11157/anzswj-vol30iss1id421

Beddoe, L., de Haan, I., & Joy, E. (2018). ‘If you could change two things’: Social workers in schools talk about what could improve schools’ responses to child abuse and neglect. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 30(1), 45-57. doi:10.11157/anzswj-vol30iss1id420

Beddoe, L. Managing identity in a host setting: School social workers’ strategies for better interprofessional work in New Zealand schools. Qualitative Social Work, 1473325017747961. Read abstract here


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Interprofessional supervision: a matter of difference

A new article by Allyson Davys

With its origins grounded in the apprenticeship tradition it is perhaps not surprising that social work adheres to a model of supervision where both supervisor and supervisee are social workers and where it is common for social workers to be supervised by their line manager. Interprofessional supervision, where the participants do not share the same profession, and which is frequently external to the social worker’s organisation, therefore presents a challenge to traditional social work supervision practice. Continue reading

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Evaluating social work supervision

A new article by Allyson Davys, Janet May, Beverly Burns, Michael O’Connell

The question of whether the practice of professional supervision is effective, and how its effectiveness can be measured, has been debated by both social work and other professions. This study explored how practitioners, supervisors and managers in Aotearoa New Zealand currently evaluate the supervision they receive, provide and/or resource.  The study had an interprofessional focus involving counsellors, mental health nurses, psychologists and social workers. This article focuses on the findings from the social work cohort data. Continue reading

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Critical conversations: Social workers’ perceptions of the use of a closed Facebook group as a participatory professional space.


cloud_shelf_icons_300_nwmDeb Stanfield 

The use of social media in our world today continues to excite and confound us; despite its significant presence in our everyday lives, we are still grappling with its true nature and coming to terms with its power and peculiarities. Social work is poised to develop a unique, critical understanding of social media on multiple levels – our international colleagues are theorising and generating research about how social media is used in practice, for professional development, social action, research and in the delivery of social work education.  Continue reading

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Social workers’ experiences with whistleblowing

Whistleblowing in social work has not received a great deal of attention in practice or research and no Aotearoa New Zealand research was located when Sally Raymond an Aotearoa New Zealand mental  health social worker began her study.  Our recent article reports on her small exploratory qualitative study of whistleblowing that we believe provides a starting point in encouraging dialogue on this important professional concern. Continue reading

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Call for papers: Women in social work

Special issue proposal: Women in social work- practice, policy, education and research

Kia ora, Talofa lava, Kia orana, Mälö e lelei, Fakaalofa lahi atu, Bula vinaka, Namaste, Malo ni, Halo ola keta, Mauri, Fakatalofa atu, Kia ora and Warm Pacific Greetings

Stephanie Wahab, Ben Anderson-Nathe and Christina Gringeri write in the introduction to ‘Feminisms in Social Work Research’ (Routledge,2015, p. 1) that “social work as a profession and academic discipline has long concerned itself with women and issues related to women and their social conditions” citing reproductive rights, labour rights, violence and poverty among the areas of concern.  Continue reading

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What’s your agenda? Reflective supervision in community-based child welfare services in Aotearoa

Matt Rankine

A new article by Matt Rankine reports on findings of a qualitative research project exploring supervision in non- statutory child welfare agencies in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Matt notes that the contracting environment  of community-based child welfare services (CCW) in the  managerialist climate of  Aotearoa New Zealand  necessitates constantly renegotiated contractual partnerships, service targeting and measured outcomes. Continue reading

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Harmful supervision

“Supervision is an important component of professional learning, growth, and development in the helping professions. It is at the heart of professional practice on a career-long basis for some professions and a significant element in education and internship for others. Regardless of how long it continues in a professional’s career, it is a practice that is expected to model effective relationship building, the sensitive giving and receiving of feedback, and the careful management of power and difference” (Beddoe, 2017, 88). Continue reading

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Decision –making variability in child welfare project: A research update

Emily Keddell and Ian Hyslop 

Decision making in child protection practice is a complex process which can have significant implications for children and families in Aotearoa NZ. Emily Keddell and Ian Hyslop are currently engaged in a small mixed methods exploratory study into understanding what causes decision variability – that is, differences in decisions when the child and family circumstances are similar. (see earlier post here).

Emily and Ian are also interested in decision quality, and are exploring practitioner perceptions of what this might look like. The research design takes a decision ecology approach which considers the personal, technical or procedural process of decision making within a wider context of organizational drivers and macro/structural influences (Baumann, Dalgleish, Fluke, & Kern, 2011). Continue reading

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Questioning the uncritical acceptance of neuroscience in child and family policy and practice: A review of challenges to the current doxa

In January I asked  in my post on RSW Blog  ‘Brains, biology and tests for future burdenhood

Who hasn’t seen the brains?

The luridly coloured images of two children’s brains, side by side. Presented as cast iron evidence of the impact of child neglect.  I remember exactly where I was when I first saw that image. The venue was a lecture theatre at my university (at least 10 years ago) and the presenter was a professional I knew and (still do) held in high regard. The emotional impact of seeing the two brains was considerable- the ‘normal’ brain of a child of a particular age contrasted with the apparently shrunken brain of a child who had suffered abuse and neglect.

And  the brains were to reappear with alarming regularity….. I heard a while ago that there are still social workers handing around pictures of those brains., presumably to frighten struggling parents.  Perhaps they still adorn the staff room walls in early childhood centres. Continue reading

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