The Emergence of Managerialism 2

The argument of the last post has a similar attraction to the belief, often expressed from the time of my training to now, that for example changes in the benefit system would do more to help unemployed offenders out of criminal activity than a myriad of earnest helpers proffering advice, therapy et al.

However, the fact remains that I have chosen to work in social work and not in politics. I think that the co-existence of these two viewpoints is one of the distinguishing features of social work. Whilst I acknowledge the truth of my colleague’s view (see last post), I am not inclined to abandon my own. Indeed, the failure to articulate the kind of organisational processes to which I referred, in the face of the obvious power of structural and political change mechanisms, has led us into immense difficulties. It is almost trite to illustrate this by reference to the series of ‘action plan’ type responses to the management of child abuse cases. More close to home in the Probation Service is the struggle to integrate national standards of practice with the human reality of ‘transactions’ between probation staff and offenders.

This note starts the attempt to articulate management and practice in the Probation Service in a way that can balance what I might call ‘political’ ideologies of management. To oversimplify, one ideology starts with the objective external world (in this case the management action plan with its measurable objectives) and seeks to work from there to staff behaviour, whilst the other starts with the internal emotional world of staff and their practice with clients, and seeks to work from there to impact on the objective external reality. It will tend to be one-sided but with a belief in the integration of the two viewpoints, rather than the victory of one over the other. I shall try to explore the subject by drawing on practice experience as a probation officer and social worker. This experience gives us a distinctive viewpoint on organisational behaviour and management processes, and the continuity of perceptions between practice and management needs to be emphasised if the service is to develop as an agency concerned primarily with change……



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