The present study was conducted to identify recurrent social work errors in the forty-five public inquiries held in Britain between 1973 and 1994. This article reports the findings relating to the recurrent criticisms of social workers' knowledge base. The quality of investigations and assessments are repeatedly faulted. Also, many problems arise from social workers' failure to be explicit about what they are doing. The merits and shortcomings of increased training and handbooks to improve practice are then discussed. It is argued that social workers' widespread preference for a personal, private style of working is a major obstacle to changing their use of theories and to evaluating practice.
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