The significance of decisions made in the context of home visits is not doubted, yet little is known about how social workers form these decisions. This qualitative small-scale study investigated how decision-making may change with increased practice experience. The experiences of newly-qualified social workers (n = 2) and experienced practitioners (n = 2) were captured to explore key aspects of their use of knowledge. Key themes of emotion, intuition, judgement, interpretation, evidence-based reasoning and formal learning emerged for analysis. Over time the evidenced-based aspects of practice are seen to be valued more highly in social work reasoning, while the emotional elements of practice wane, and the study has critically reflected on the working environment for fostering this shift. Additionally, intuitive reasoning during home visits is prevalent in both groups. Whilst experienced social workers will be informed by previous practice experience, this study brings new understanding of decision-making by newly-qualified workers, and particularly their use of knowledge gained outside of social worker training. Regardless of experience, the narrative of the service user is found to be central to decision-making, and there is a vulnerability to this form of knowledge.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)370-385
Number of pages16
Issue number5
Early online date11 Mar 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Mar 2022


  • home visit
  • newly-qualified
  • practice experience
  • professional judgement


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