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Judging Social Work Expertise in Care Proceedings

Potter, Ann (2019) Judging Social Work Expertise in Care Proceedings. In: The Third Wave in Science and Technology Studies: Future Research Directions on Expertise and Experience. Palgrave Macmillan, USA, pp. 71-85. ISBN 978-3-030-14334-3


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This chapter examines interdisciplinary communication and evaluation of professional expertise, within a legal process. In England, social workers provide evidence to the Family Court as professional witnesses in care proceedings, which determine whether a child should be removed from their family. Recent legal and policy developments restrict the use of independent expert witnesses and encourage the Family Court to rely on social work expertise. This chapter outlines an empirical, socio-legal study, which explored how the judiciary, lawyers and social workers evaluate social work evidence within care proceedings, across and between the disciplines of law and social work. Collins & Evans’ theory of expertises was used in analysis of professional focus groups, interviews and courtroom observations. The chapter concludes with a focus on how the concepts of interactional and meta-expertises can provide a deeper understanding of the range of expertises involved in effective interdisciplinary communication and evaluation.

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