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A webinar with Idamarie Leth Svendsen and Frank Ebsen (Copenhagen) with reflections from Rick Hood (Kingston University).

With theories of heuristics and decision-making ecology as our analytical lens, we examined social work practitioners’ use of heuristics (rules-of-thumb) as a response to real-world situations, emphasizing the legal framework and how the work was organised.

Three heuristic rules guided decisions in all cases: (i) Form and maintain the first impression. (ii) When in doubt or disagreement, wait. (iii) Avoid parents’ resistance. Key takeaways are that these heuristics help social workers and managers and are connected to satisficing strategies as a natural response to legal and organisational factors. However, the heuristics can also lead to a lack of transparency, delayed interventions and other kinds of bias.

See: Frank Ebsen, Idamarie Leth Svendsen, Line Pape Thomsen, Susanne Jørgensen, Decisions in Child Protection—Heuristics, Law and Organisation, The British Journal of Social Work, 2023;

This event is part of Contemporary issues and debates in social work education, research and practice.

At this event

Dr Kresta M. Sørensen from the University of Copenhagen presented the findings of her research investigating the perspectives of children in foster care on the their engagement with social workers. Her presentation included two stop-motion films created with children in foster care to describe their experiences watched by over 100 social professionals and researchers.

This webinar was part of the series Contemporary issues and debates in social work education, research and practice presented by the NIHR Policy Research Unit in Health and Social Care Workforce.

At this event

Mary Baginsky

Reader in Social Care

Carl Purcell

Research Fellow