The Personal Social Services
In this chapter we assess management change in local authority social services departments (SSDs). As in health, over the past two decades considerable effort was made to reform practice in this area. From the mid 1980s dominant modes of professional organising were strongly criticised as inefficient, self-serving and largely ineffective in terms of meeting the needs of clients. Questions were raised about the presumed failure of these systems to control the work of front line professionals and ensure accountability. Indeed, for many, the personal social services ‘…became a metaphor for all that was considered to be wrong with the welfare state’ (Harris and McDonald, 2000: 57). Increasingly, policy makers argued that existing modes of organising were inadequate and that radical change was necessary to modernise services (Dominelli, 1996; Langan, 2000). As we shall see, these concerns led to moves first by Conservative and, more recently, New Labour, governments to restructure management. One might say that the past two decades witnessed a ‘pandemic of organizational change’ (Hunter, 1996). Yet, questions remain about the extent to which such pressures have led to transformations in practice. It is far from clear that SSDs have been re-cast into the kind of efficient, ‘managed’ professional services envisaged in policy and guidance.
KeywordsSocial Work Social Service Local Authority Front Line Housing Association
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