The ethics of predictive risk modelling in the Aotearoa/New Zealand child welfare context: child abuse prevention or neo-liberal tool?

Author: Keddell, Emily

Date: 2014-07-28

Publisher: Sage

Type: Journal article

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University of Otago


The current White Paper on Vulnerable Children before the Aotearoa/New Zealand (A/NZ) parliament proposes changes that will significantly reconstruct the child welfare systems in this country, including the use of a predictive risk model (PRM). This article explores the ethics of this strategy in a child welfare context. Tensions exist, including significant ethical problems such as the use of information without consent, breaches of privacy and stigmatisation, without clear evidence of the benefits outweighing these costs. Broader implicit assumptions about the causes of child abuse and risk and their intersections with the wider discursive, political and systems design contexts are also discussed. Drawing on Houston et. al. (2010) this paper highlights the potential for a PRM to contribute to a neo-liberal agenda that individualises social problems, reifies risk and abuse, and narrowly prescribes service provision. However, with reference to child welfare and child protection orientations, the paper suggests ways the model could be used in a more ethical manner.

Subjects: ethics, risk, child protection, prediction, orientations

Citation: ["Keddell, E. (2014) The ethics of predictive risk modelling in child welfare: child abuse prevention or neo-liberal tool? Critical Social Policy, first published on July 28, 2014 as doi:10.1177/0261018314543224."]

Copyright: CC0 1.0 Universal