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Towards a framework for ethical innovation in children’s social care

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-09, 23:43 authored by Martha Hampson, Carlie Goldsmith, Michelle LefevreMichelle Lefevre
Purpose Substantial government investment has accelerated innovation activity in children’s social care in England over the past decade. Ethical concerns emerge when innovation seems to be propelled by a drive for efficiency and over-reliance on process output indicators, as well as, or even instead of, improving the lives of children, families and societies. No ethical framework exists at present to act as a check on such drivers. This paper reviews the literature with the aim of considering how best to address this gap. Design/methodology/approach This paper draws on a review of innovation in children’s social care, conducted as part of an Economic and Social Research Council-funded project exploring innovation in services for young people exposed to extra-familial risk and harm. Findings This study proposes a new conception of “trustworthy innovation” for the sector that holds innovation in children’s social care to the standards and principles of the code of ethics for social work. This study offers an ethical framework, informed by the interdisciplinary school of organisational ethics, to operationalise this extended definition; the analytic framework guides policymakers and the practice sector to question at every stage of the innovation process whether a particular model is ethically appropriate, as well as practically feasible within a specific context. Implications for local decision-making and national policy are set out, alongside questions raised for future research. Originality/value This paper is the first to offer an ethical framework for innovation in children's social care. The conception of “trustworthy innovation” offers a guide to policymakers and the practice sector, which they can use to ethically test every stage of the innovation process and make decisions about whether a particular model is ethically appropriate, as well as practically feasible within a specific context.


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Journal of Children's Services









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  • Social Work and Social Care Publications

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