To read the full version of this content please select one of the options below:

Quality, risk and governance: social workers' perspectives

Brian Taylor (School of Sociology and Applied Social Studies, University of Ulster, Londonderry, Northern Ireland)
Barbara Campbell (South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust, Downpatrick, Northern Ireland)

International Journal of Leadership in Public Services

ISSN: 1747-9886

Article publication date: 16 November 2011




Governance is an emerging aspect of social care organisations embodying professionally‐led risk management, quality assurance and service improvement. The purpose of this paper is to put forward a broad conceptualisation of the main dimensions of quality and risk in social care.


A survey was undertaken to seek the perspectives on social care governance (SCG) of social workers in the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust in Northern Ireland where clinical and SCG is formalised in the integrated health and social care service.


The 123 respondents were from a wide range of grades, aspects of work (practice, management and training) and both children's and adult services. Approximately, 60 per cent of social workers thought themselves knowledgeable on SCG, but this self‐reported knowledge was considerably higher amongst managers and trainers than practitioners. The risk register was familiar to 61 per cent of respondents. Social workers thought that useful ways to learn about SCG were team meetings, local workshops and engagement in developmental projects rather than training events.

Research limitations/implications

The 41 per cent response rate is typical of surveys of busy professionals.

Practical implications

Social workers were generally not very aware of the systems being developed to implement accountability and support through SCG, presenting challenges to the tasks of managing risk and improving the safety and quality of services.


The paper shows that Northern Ireland is pioneering the development of SCG in parallel with clinical governance in health care. Valuable lessons are being learned about the application of concepts of risk and quality in the complexity of social work.



Taylor, B. and Campbell, B. (2011), "Quality, risk and governance: social workers' perspectives", International Journal of Leadership in Public Services, Vol. 7 No. 4, pp. 256-272.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Related articles