Social work assessment and intervention
Second edition
By Steven Walker and Chris Beckett

To see sections of this book in a PDF, please click here.

'The process of engaging in an assessment should be therapeutic and perceived of as part of the range of services offered.'

This DOH view acknowledges that assessment is more than an administrative task, a form of gatekeeping for resources or a means of determining risk. It confirms the need for assessment and intervention to be conceptualised as part of a continuum of contact between social worker and service user.

This essential book, acclaimed in its first edition, offers social workers an extensively revised, restructured and updated, comprehensive guide to empowering practice for them and the people with whom they work. It:
  • takes account of the latest legislative and policy requirements of English law, but also provides significant learning opportunities for practitioners in all parts of the UK
  • will help qualified or student social workers improve their practice by addressing national occupational standards guidance and embracing government expectations and the regulatory requirements of the General Social Care Council
  • is geared towards the needs of those on graduate training courses, PQ students, as well as for a range of in-service training in voluntary or statutory social work and social care
  • combines the two practice elements of assessment and intervention in a unique integrated way consistent with anti-oppressive practice and the foundational values and skills of modern psycho-social practice
  • is an accessible, practice-oriented guide to contemporary social work in the developing modernising context of multi-disciplinary team working, joint budget arrangements, inter-agency collaboration and social inclusion
  • addresses the need to deliver high quality care while managing the dilemmas presented by budget constraints and difficult decisions regarding rationing of human and physical resources.

  • Using case illustrations, evidence based guidance, and practical activities combined with extensive references, this valuable learning resource will help students, practitioners, managers, trainers and policy-makers to synthesise social work knowledge and theory to provide holistic support and effective services.

    Large format paperback. 176 pages. 9781905541683. Published 2010. £18.95.

    From the author's introduction to the second edition:

    Since the first edition was published "several authoritative reports have illustrated the gap between the rhetoric and the reality of life in modern Britain, and that Britain has become an increasingly divided nation where the richest 10% of the population are more than 100 times as wealthy as the poorest 10% of society - one of the highest levels of inequality in any modern industrialised country. They also show that the poorest people in society die sooner and become ill younger than the richest and that social mobility is stagnant with evidence that family wealth, private education and privileged access to University remain the key determinants of career success and well-paid employment...

    "The latest in a long line of government reports into the future of social work produced by the Social Work Taskforce (DCSF 2009) listed many recommendations to guide the future development of the profession...

    "The problem with this list of ideas is that it came without an action plan, timescale of implementation or identified funding linked to demonstrable change. Social workers will rightly feel that this is so much more rhetoric, while they observe deep cuts in public services and welfare provision which are bound to create more need within neglected and deprived communities...

    "At the time of writing in 2010 a new Government is embarking upon a programme of cuts and a deep-rooted ideological aversion to the public sector and the principles of the welfare state which will devastate communities and tear at the very fabric of society - testing social workers to the very limit of their endurance and resilience...

    "This book is designed as a practical manual; for use by busy practitioners, students, trainers and professional education providers requiring evidence-based knowledge and guidance to enable staff to engage with people in a supportive way."


    Social work practitioners, students, trainers, professional education providers, and libraries who serve them. It is specifically geared towards the needs of those on graduate training courses, PQ students, as well as for a range of in-service training in voluntary or statutory social work and social care.


    Part One: Principles of assessment and intervention
    Modern assessment practice

    Understanding assessment
    Practice guidance
    Mental health assessment
    Caring for carers
    Community care assessment
    Children and families assessment
    Common assessment framework
    Assessment as process
    Three models of assessment
    Creative assessment practice
    Chapter summary
    Modern intervention practice
    The problem with theory
    Methods and models of practice
    Crisis intervention
    Community work
    Family therapy/systemic practice
    Psychodynamic practice
    Cognitive behavioural practice
    Task centred practice
    Narrative practice
    Postmodernism and social work
    Anti-discriminatory and anti-oppressive practice
    Resources and intervention
    Endings, closure and doubt
    Chapter summary
    Risk assessment and risk management
    Two approaches to risk
    Risk control
    Risk management
    Minimising risk is possible
    The social construction of risk
    Risk assessment in child care
    Risk assessment in mental health
    Risk assessment with elderly people
    Elder abuse and assessment
    Towards holistic risk assessment
    Chapter summary
    Safeguarding and protecting vulnerable people
    The prevalence of abuse
    Stages of the safeguarding process
    The Children Act 1989
    The Children Act 2004
    National Service Framework for Children, Young People and Midwifery Services
    National Service Framework for Older People 2001
    National Service Framework for Mental Health 1999
    The care programme approach
    New Horizons
    Interagency working
    Skills and knowledge for safeguarding
    Chapter summary
    Part Two: Challenges and dilemmas in practice - by Chris Beckett
    Shifting roles in assessment and intervention
    Diversity of roles
    Conflict of roles
    Social work and social control
    More on the control agent role
    The control agent role and direct work
    Implications for assessment
    Implications for intervention
    Some ethical considerations
    Roles and relationships
    Chapter summary
    Working with limited resources
    Social work's involvement in rationing
    Rationing in voluntary organisations
    The manager-practitioner split
    Individual budgets and direct payments
    Competing for resources
    Resources and intervention
    Time is a resource
    Philosophy and resource allocation
    Time is a resource
    Avoiding waste
    Economy and efficiency
    Chapter summary
    Aiming for consistency and fairness
    Thresholds of need
    Need and eligibility in children’s services
    Thresholds of risk
    Harm and risk
    False negatives and false positives
    Where to draw the line?
    Chapter summary
    Part Three: Synthesising, integrating and developing practice
    Empowerment and socially inclusive practice

    Community practice and social development
    Cultural competence
    Socially excluded groups
    Elements of socially inclusive practice
    Anti-racist practice
    Disability equality and social exclusion
    Legislation and policy
    Globalisation and emancipatory practice
    Chapter summary
    Cultural, spiritual and religious dimensions
    Applying theory to practice
    Citizenship, nationality and race
    What is culture?
    Professional cultures
    Care, control and partnership
    Partnership practice with young people
    Understanding spirituality and religion
    Religion and belief
    Culture and spirituality
    Psychology, religion and spirituality
    Therapy and cultural belief
    Chapter summary
    Integrating methods, skills and values
    Strategies for integration
    Intuition versus analysis
    Ethics and values
    Social work skills
    The practice context
    Participatory practice
    Multi-disciplinary and inter-agency working
    The challenges in working together
    Integrated practice
    Service user involvement
    Recording and record keeping
    Chapter summary
    Evaluation and evidence-based practice
    Types of evaluation
    Performance assessment
    Satisfaction surveys
    Process versus outcome
    Useful terms and concepts
    Evaluating social work - the people's perspective
    How to evaluate
    The social work dilemma
    Reflective and reflexive practice
    Research methods
    What works in practice?
    Change and the practice evidence-base
    Chapter summary


    Steven Walker
    is Principal Lecturer in the Faculty of Health and Social Care, Anglia Ruskin University.

    Chris Beckett is Senior Lecturer in Social Work at the University of East Anglia, Norwich.


    "Provides philosophical and practice guidance to practice dilemmas with the aid of activities that readers are urged not to skip as their responses will in themselves be a resource to practice... In having to resolve so many conflicts of accountability, social work is almost unique amongst professions.” Professional Social Work.

    "Helpful, given the pressure that can be felt by front line workers to consider assessment to be the completion of a form and a fixed task. Intervention can so easily be considered simply as something for which we don’t have adequate resources... addresses overarching issues such as rationing of services and thresholds of need which are particularly pertinent in the "Big Society" of today. There is much that is useful in this book.” Rostrum.


    "A thoughtful and ethically realistic book which addresses the principles and dilemmas of contemporary social work practice... it draws on a wide-ranging examples of practice across all the mainstream client groups… an engaging and stimulating book... reading this book has challenged my assumptions about the nature of assessment and intervention in social work practice; it has encouraged me to think critically, analytically and ethically about them and their intertwined relationships... it will be an important resource." Health and Social Care in the Community.

    "An extremely informative book on which to build and develop high standards of practice and, together with the extensive further reading list, it provides the reader with a useful range of learning material." Practice

    "An accessible and thought-provoking guide, with succinct summaries if the main points and clear advice on common dilemmas faced by social care professionals." Adoption and Fostering.

    "An in-depth examination of contemporary assessment practice and contemporary models of intervention... an impressive resource-cum-guide." Care and Health.

    "A vast amount of information is covered... The authors have also included activities and case scenarios... This interactive approach, coupled with a comprehensive list of further reading, makes it particularly useful." Community Care

    "I would recommend this book." Rostrum.