Writing a social work essay on child abuse

Common social work essay questions: child abuse disclosure by Dr Liz Davies , senior lecturer, children and...

by Dr Liz Davies, senior lecturer, children and families social work, Faculty of Applied Social Sciences, London Metropolitan University.


“Children will know if you can hear or not hear” (Nelson 2008:25)

Making reference to children’s and survivors’ voices, describe the social work response to a child’s disclosure of child abuse.

(Nelson S (2008) See Us, Hear Us. Dundee. Violence is Preventable)

This essay was set for an essay question of 3,500 words for a second-year social work module focused on child protection.

The student is expected to have located the source and context of the quote, which is Dr Sarah Nelson’s research of children’s experience of child sexual abuse and social work intervention. The introduction must include an outline of how the student is going to provide a response to the question grounded in reflection on the knowledge gained from Nelson’s research as well as from adult survivor accounts such as those of Frampton (2003) and Cooper (2007). The student is expected to make reference to the key text for the module (Davies and Duckett 2008) and a module presentation from a survivor.

Power dynamics

The title demands a knowledge of the social work response to the child. This should include a child-centred approach and an understanding of the power dynamics of childism as an example of anti-oppressive practice. They must situate their response in a practice context, differentiating between social work as assessment and the role of a child protection investigator, and demonstrate their knowledge of legislation and protocols making reference to current guidance (DfE 2010), London (or other local) Child Protection Procedures (LSCB 2009) and Achieving Best Evidence (CJS 2007).

The essay should also include an analysis of professional dangerousness – the blocks to good practice – such as Stockholm syndrome and the rule of optimism. Case material from practice experience may be included but should be brief, anonymised and used only to illustrate a point. Recent inquiry reports may be included but the student must be critical of their sources and any websites cited must be as recommended – given the high risk of accessing abusive websites exploitative of children.


The essay must be well structured, avoiding lists but including paragraphs which allow a flow of ideas – with few subheadings throughout. The conclusion should refer back to the points raised in the introduction and summarise the essay content. Top marks go to the student whose essay evidences a strong knowledge base and demonstrates their critical thinking and reflection on the topic placing the child’s need for protection firmly at the centre.

Plagiarism is easily spotted because of the expectation that the essay will be firmly based in the module content and make reference to specific recommended literature.


Cooper, T (2007), Trust No One. London. Orion.

Criminal Justice System (2007), Achieving Best Evidence in Criminal Proceedings. London. The Stationery Office (PDF).

Davies, L and Duckett, N (2008), Proactive child protection – the social work task. Exeter. Learning Matters.

‘DCSF-00305-2010″>’DfE (Department for Education) (2010), Working Together to Safeguard Children: London. The Stationery Office.

Frampton, P (2003), Golly in the Cupboard. Manchester. Tamic.

London Safeguarding Children Board (2009) London child protection procedures. London. LSCB.

Do you have questions about essays? Get advice from fellow students on CareSpace.

Keep up to date with the latest developments in social care Sign up to our daily and weekly emails.

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.