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Managers have to make decisions and be concerned for clients whom they have never met.

Third, although practitioners keep an eye to the future when planning their work on a particular case, top managers have a macro-interest in the future of the whole organisation, ensuring that it will remain a going concern to meet future needs while also dealing with ever changing current circumstances. Fourth, social work and management processes share a concern for problemsolving and enabling, but the degree of authority in organising people to get work done is greater for line managers.

Finally, the selection and orientation of new staff, although involving the team, is normally a specific task for people in management positions. Why study management? Before we move on to explore another side of this coin, by questioning if all managers should be social workers, let us recap the position so far: 1. Managerial administration is the process of organising resources to get work done and, at this level of generality, all social workers are involved in it.


Although certain roles carry the title of manager, team leader or senior, in every organisation each person is part of the administrative structure and is thus administratively, as well as professionally, accountable for the work they do. At the same time, managers who have this title have specific functions that are essential ingredients of their role as administrators; some of these are different in degree rather than kind from the work of social workers, but others are related to the authority which is exercised. Should all managers be social workers?

Is it necessary for those who develop and maintain social welfare organisations to be qualified social workers?

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At that time, many top managers were promoted through the practitioner ranks and only a few were from other professions. The rise of the managerial ethos in the s undermined this position, with generic management training and skills coming to the fore. At the same time, SSDs themselves started to diversify and increasingly employed a variety of professionals, notably nurses and occupational therapists, to undertake roles in adult services.

More recently, not only have social work-qualified managers started to disappear but also the social services as a separate entity. Various forms of restructuring have taken place. In some, Care Trusts perform a similar function for adult services. At the same time, social workers are increasingly employed outside these settings altogether, in multidisciplinary teams of various kinds. In all these examples, there is no reason why the team or organisational managers should be from a social work background. In the voluntary sector, there are equally significant changes.

Charitable organisations have had to become more businesslike, more competitive in an age of contracting out, are held to account for their performance and are reliant on marketing their image and their work in order to sustain an income; their managers face new challenges accordingly Jackson and Donovan, Of course, there is enormous diversity among voluntary bodies in the UK and only a fraction have a social work identity or even employ qualified social workers, although, at the same time, there is a continuing trend for local authorities to contract out public services to voluntary sector provider agencies.

The private sector has also increasingly entered social care, as a provider of a wider range of services, bringing its own ethos of customer relations and financial management. It is not uncommon for managers to run their own care homes or be employed in relatively small businesses.

A social work qualification would not be high on the list of requirements for such a position. All these developments radically change the balance of the argument about what is needed in a manager. Moreover, just as good teachers or good nurses do not necessarily make good managers, experienced social workers may not make an automatic transition, either. If we look back to the Introduction, it was suggested that administration combines the three elements of direction long-term planning , management sustaining the system as a going concern and supervision.

If, as we said, these correspond with three general levels in the hierarchy, then we might be able to answer the question by proposing that, in large organisations, the two top tiers primarily call for sound management and are precisely the levels at which staff are increasingly studying for MBAs , while the supervisory roles are best carried by those who have competence in the professional activity they are supervising.

Interesting backing for this view comes from a study which shows that third-tier social service managers mainly do have professional qualifications, but that their thinking may well turn to obtaining management training once they begin to move up the career ladder; they begin to identify as managers rather than as social workers Lawler and Hearn, Nevertheless, it is only in the most senior roles that professional managers are starting to be seen, that is, those who have trained in generic management skills and have chosen to use them in the public sector, as opposed to those who have risen through the ranks to a top-level management post.

The appointment of people with social work qualifications and backgrounds to key posts in Primary Care Trusts, combined local authority departments and other multidisciplinary settings demonstrates that social workers have a great deal to offer at all levels. Their experience in relating to other professionals and their organisations equips them well for managing multidisciplinary teams, and they benefit from the fact that both management and social work are all about people and relationships. It would be a shame if more social workers did not aim for the top, including women, black staff and others who have traditionally been under-represented at that level.

Adding mentoring, management training and skills on the way up can only help. Whoever is given the role of manager, a solid grounding in the nature of the service being provided, credibility with staff and an understanding of the roles of those in direct contact with the public are essential. Whatever the position held in a social work organisation, there are certain commitments that all managers have to make and particular challenges to address, as listed below: 1.

Despite, and in some senses because of, the breadth of issues tackled in the personal social services, this is nevertheless a highly specialised field. Social workers have their own skills, knowledge and values. As professionals, their expertise in planning and decisionmaking within their own field has to be acknowledged and mirrored in the way the agency involves them in administrative processes. The importance of relationships needs to be highlighted: between service users and workers; among team members; with other disciplines; and also with numerous local, regional and national bodies.

What distinguishes human service management from that in non-service sectors is the fact that many agencies are dependent upon other organisations; planning has to take into account the restraints imposed by legislation and policy imposed from outside, as well as those inherent in relying on others to purchase or provide services. Management approaches in social work cannot always be the rational and tidy ones suggested in some of the management literature. Service goals may contradict one another for example caring versus controlling antisocial behaviour and there are additional demands in making services holistic and appropriate rather than fragmented or impersonal, as well as in matching them wherever possible to the felt needs of a particular community for instance in providing home care services which are acceptable to people of varying ethnic backgrounds.

Human services operate in turbulent environments, frequently subject to political whims and media-led changes, therefore long-term plans have to be flexible. This makes staff care and staff development particularly important in social work, but also means that any requests from management are likely to be experienced as yet one more demand from those who are not actually involved in doing the frontline job. Perhaps most importantly, the commitment of social work managers must not be to the organisation as an end in itself or to their own personal ambitions.

The challenge to management outlined in this book is to harness management theories and those styles in social work which are best suited to the developments of the new millennium. If this makes management sound as if it is all about listening to, and working with, an infinite variety of people while undertaking a taxing job, then social workers ought to be extremely good at it! And, of course, many of them are. This tension exists both within social work and about social work.

At times students and practitioners have protested that it was necessary to forget theory once in practice. The argument has been that theory is abstract, inaccessible, and that it reduces spontaneity in helping people. Using theory implied distance and objectivity which contrasted with feelings and the living reality of social work encounters.

As such it was seen to be a stumbling-block to developing individual style, and the most that could be hoped for was that students would admit that they might subconsciously be using theory that they had absorbed during their education and training. Other discussions that have taken place, mainly among academics, are that social work has suffered because it has been seen to be theory-less or atheoretical.

The suggestion is that because social work is about practice then it is neither a profession nor an academic discipline, it is merely the appliance of other social sciences Orme, a. Policy-makers could argue that anyone can do social work, or that social work was not necessary.

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Or they could introduce policies and practices, such as care management, that sought to displace social work to the extent that they rename it social care. In universities the fact that social work did not develop, or was not seen to be developing, theory meant that its legitimacy was being challenged. Social work did not have a place in universities.

In a text about social work practice it is vital that we consider the role of theory. This is not because theory should prescribe how social work must be practised, but because the use of theory is the hallmark of a good practitioner. This introductory chapter will explore what is meant by theory, and how social workers apply theory in practice. To do this is not merely a justification for the text; it is a contribution to the defence of social work as an activity.

Why practice needs theory Over time students have become less antagonistic to theoretical ideas, naming and trying to integrate what can at first glance appear to be a smorgasbord of apparently contradictory explanations of behaviour. Education about theories that might underpinndecision-making, or that might inform what action to take, isnenjoying resurgence in the form of the social work degree but this has not been without a struggle.

The competence-based approach to education and training introduced in the s CCETSW, a , reflected assumptions that social work is a set of functions, and that practitioners need to be trained merely to perform these functions. Such an approach was unethical, failing to provide users of social work with appropriate interventions, and as such it is incompetent.

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As Howe argues, practitioners who develop and offer coherent applications of what is going on in their practice keep their professional bearing and sustain their commitment. Service users deserve professional and committed practitioners. More importantly if such a mechanistic approach is adopted, there is no understanding that the information gleaned during social work interventions might be interpreted in many different ways, depending on which theoretical approach is used.

Nor is there any expectation that students and practitioners will review their intervention in the light of the growing amount of practicebased research available in social work. The competence-based approach see Ford and Hayes, , for a discussion of this approach requires certainties; that if you are dealing with A, you can intervene with B and that will secure an acceptable outcome C.

In the history of social work such assumptions were associated with a scientific approach when social workers, in their quest for a professional identity, looked to medicine. In a climate of increased managerialism, workers are scrutinised on performance indicators that include the number of service users or problems dealt with, the time taken to respond to a referral or to prepare a report or other calculations of throughput and output.

However, this might suggest that there is a certainty about what theories should be taught, that theory for social work practice is uncontentious. The use of that phrase brings us back to the developing relationship between theory, practice, education and training. A change of government in the late s and concerted efforts by academics and practitioners led to a reclaiming of the place and function of social work. The incoming Labour government initially attempted to dismiss the need for social workers. In the process this offered a chance to increase qualifying levels in social work.

In the development of the degree some important tensions emerged. Others felt that undergraduate study of both practice and theory would prepare workers for the complexity of the social work task Orme, a.

Theory, practice and research The developments in social work education and training were accompanied by increasing attention to the relationship between research and practice. That a research base for social work is necessary is indisputable. Initiatives such as Making Research Count and Research into Practice focus on ways of encouraging social workers to utilise research findings to inform their practice. Debates about the nature of the research, appropriate methodologies, ethical issues and the impact of research are central to social work, both in academia and in practice.

Parton suggests that crucial to discussions about an evidence base for social work is an understanding of whether evidence of good practice refers to the way problems can be solved, or the effectiveness of the organisation.