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Key debates about writing in professional social work

As with any professional practice, there are a number of key debates surrounding professional social work writing. Just some of these debates are highlighted here with suggestions for further reading/discussion.  As a practising social worker you may wish to engage with these debates in different ways.

Professional language and jargon

There is ongoing debate about the need to avoid ‘jargon’. But what exactly what counts as ‘jargon’ (unhelpful, obscure ways of using language) and what counts as useful professional language? The debate is illustrated in the tweet below and article in Community Care

There is also concern and debate about the use of ‘euphemistic’ language. See discussions in Social Care Institute for Excellence

The amount of time spent on writing and concerns about bureaucracy

Writing clearly is an important part of a social worker’s professional practice. However, is too much time spent on writing? Debates around how much time is spent on writing and whether such time should be spent on other priorities, such as working directly with children and adults are illustrated in the articles below.

Barklow, M. and Lillis, T. (2019) Social work writing and bureaucracy: A tale in two voices. A DISCUSSION PAPER FROM THE CENTRE FOR WELFARE REFORM

Moriarty, J., Baginsky, M. & Manthorpe, J. (2015). Literature review of roles and issues within the social work profession in England.  Social Care Workforce Research Unit, King’s College London

Lillis, T., Leedham, M. Twiner, A. (2020) Time, the written record and professional practice: the case of contemporary social work, Written Communication, 37, 4 is now available at

You may find it helpful to send your thoughts to professional bodies and unions, such as BASW or UNISON, or write an article or a blog for a journal such as Community Care or organisations such as the Centre for Welfare Reform

The use of ICT systems

The introduction of ICT systems in the mid 2000s was heralded as a way of providing a coherent, integrated recording system. To what extent have ICT systems improved recording practice and social work practice in general? To what extent have the templates developed for use in ICT systems improved the quality of written records? Such debates are illustrated in the articles below.

Smith, R.J. &  Eaton, T. (2014).  Information and communication technology in child welfare: The need for culture-centered computing, The Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, 137-160.

White, S., Wastell, D., Broadhurst, K., & Hall, C. (2010). When policy o’erleaps itself: the ‘tragic tale’ of the Integrated Children’s System. Critical Social Policy, 30(3), 405-429.