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Defining Risk, Managing Vulnerability: questioning the certainties in interventions with 'problem' young people

Tuesday 2 July 2013, 1.30PM to 4.15pm

Speaker(s): Professor Jo Phoenix, School of Applied Social Sciences, Durham University and Dr Kate Brown, Lecturer in Social Policy, University of York

Monitoring, Assessing and Managing Risk and Vulnerability – Jo Phoenix

Twenty-first century services for ‘problem’ young people have experienced many of the same shifts that have been experienced across
a range of professions and people-facing services: the growth of actuarialism and an attendant concern to measure, manage and reduce risk; the reconfiguration of the relationship (and responsibilities and authority) between central and local government, between local government and services; and, the proliferation of ways monitoring, assessing and ‘enhancing’ performance. This rise in ‘risk-crazed governance’ has been well discussed in criminological literature and is beginning to make an appearance in social work
literature (see The British Journal of Social Work, Special Issue “Risk and Social Work: Critical Perspectives”, volume 40, issue 4, June 2010). In order to understand the what this means in practice and in relation to ‘problem’ young people, this seminar applies this
literature to practices involved in dealing with young people defined as ‘at risk’ of sexual exploitation. It challenges some of the taken-for-granted professional ‘wisdoms’ that have emerged in the last two decades by contextualising the contemporary concerns about sexual exploitation, by asking a set of seemingly simple questions about the relationship between risk, harm, vulnerability and sex and drawing out those ‘other wisdoms’ that practitioners have about their efforts to define the riskiness and manage the vulnerability of sexually exploited young people. 

Vulnerability and Young People: Dilemmas, Disagreements and Discretion – Kate Brown

The protection of ‘vulnerable’ young people is a now a key priority within children’s services, and addressing ‘vulnerability’ is seen as an important element in delivering interventions for individuals and families.  However, difficulties can arise when ideas about vulnerability are put into practice. The meaning of vulnerability is not always clear, and supposedly vulnerable young people sometimes behave in ways that are ‘problematic’, presenting challenges in terms of how their vulnerability is managed. Using research undertaken with vulnerable young people and with professionals involved in the supporting this group, this presentation will aim to question the certainties of practices focussed on vulnerability. It will encourage delegates to reflect more closely on some of the complexities which arise in their everyday practice: how clients are measured and classified; the role of professional judgements in this; and tensions which can result where young people and professionals see ‘risk’ differently.

At this seminar, delegates will have the opportunity to reflect on what they have heard, and to discuss with researchers and peers the practical implications arising from a number of research projects.

Location: York

Admission: See flyer for details


Telephone: 01904 321 237