Complexity and interprofessional working in children's services

Richard Hood

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Interprofessional working can be regarded as both a response to complex problems and a source of additional complexity. In the context of children’s services, there has been little research into what complexity actually means for practitioners working together in the team around the child. Drawing on the results of a qualitative research study, this thesis explores the phenomenon of complexity as something that is experienced by practitioners in complex cases, and constructed in their accounts of collaborative casework. For the study, core groups in two complex child protection cases were approached within an outer London children’s trust and seventeen practitioners agreed to take part in semi-structured interviews. Interview transcripts were analysed using two different qualitative methods: interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) and critical discourse analysis (CDA). The findings reveal complexity to be a multi-facetted phenomenon. It is shown how the dynamics of complex systems feed into relationships, processes of assessment and intervention, and the management of risk. Practitioners’ accounts of complexity are built on the conflict and congruence between different orders of discourse relating to professional and interprofessional practice. The findings enable a critical re-engagement with the literature on integrated children’s services and child protection. The implications of complexity are discussed in terms of socio-technical systems and the question of how best to facilitate interprofessional working in the team around the child. Some suggestions are made for policy and practice in this area.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Barn, Ravinder, Supervisor
  • Evans, Tony, Supervisor
  • Jones, Ray, Supervisor, External person
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Apr 2013
Publication statusUnpublished - 2013


  • complexity
  • interprofessional working
  • child protection
  • child safeguarding
  • interpretative phenonomenological analysis
  • children's services
  • systems methodologies
  • critical discourse analysis
  • complexity theory

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