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Resisting risk-averse practice : the contribution of social pedagogy

Milligan, Ian (2011) Resisting risk-averse practice : the contribution of social pedagogy. Children Australia, 36 (4). 207 - 213. ISSN 1035-0772

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The increasing predominance of practices associated with risk and ‘risk management’ within social work has been noted in recent years. Some writers have observed threats to fundamental values of social work and cite the problem of risk-aversion and excessive caution. In residential child care settings in Scotland, the author and colleagues noted an increasing problem of ‘risk averse’ practice in relation to very basic and non-risky outdoor activities such as trips to the beach or cycling. This paper gives an account of various policy and guidance responses that were developed as regulatory authorities began to recognise the dangers of over-protection and the growth of written ‘risk assessments’ within small-scale group homes that were intended to provide ‘homely’ care for children and young people. The paper notes the contribution of training in social pedagogy which has recently been undertaken by some residential staff in Scotland and elsewhere in the United Kingdom. One of the impacts of this training has been a reported decrease in risk-averse practice including a greater willingness to undertake outdoor activities. The reason why the adoption of a social pedagogic approach might challenge risk-averse practice is tentatively suggested.