Spolander, Gary Christopher (2021) ‘Social worker’ perceptions of organisational and professional changes to their work in Canada, England and South Africa. Doctoral thesis, Keele University.

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Growing global inequality, austerity and retrogressive social policy (Basu et al., 2017) provide the context for social work practice. The profession is committed to empowering people and addressing social justice, inequality and social cohesion but is struggling to achieve its mandate under pressure from shifting social policy; everchanging organisational structures and austerity. This study explored this impact through guided conversations with 18 social workers in both rural and urban areas in Canada, England and South Africa. Using a three-legged case study design, participants discussed and explored their perceptions of organisational and professional change, impact on their work, how management practice modified decision making and focus, professional risk and trust, and how these were accommodated.

The presentation of social work voices explored their experiences under three broad themes. These were: professional identity and development, social work practice and work with service users and other professionals. The discussion theorises these voiced experiences through the review of contemporary literature.

The results highlighted that preventative services have all but disappeared with participants feeling compromised ethically, emotionally and professionally by mediating service demands, organizational delivery, service user needs and their own professional judgements. Changing professional structures, new public management, managerialism, and marketisation have introduced new pressures and requirements to practice, affecting their relationships with colleagues, service users and their managers. Surprisingly, no comprehensive research has been undertaken on the impact of these changes for social work.

The repercussions of these changes have been experienced at macro, mezzo and micro levels, with rising demand for services but reduced resources to help those in distress. Participants highlighted the main challenges of undertaking work within this context, the personal challenges and impact, and how they attempt to manage these competing pressures. As a profession, social work must seek, understand and theorise the impact of these changes to their practice context and how it might exacerbate de-professionalisation within the profession, undermine its contribution to relieving social distress, challenge public support and demoralise the existing and future workforce. The study concludes that the profession must therefore critically consider these impacts, or it may become the victim of these changes.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Social Work, comparative study, New Public Management, globalisation, managerialism, marketisation, austerity, social justice.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Social, Political and Global Studies
Contributors: McGhee, D (Thesis advisor)
Depositing User: Lisa Bailey
Date Deposited: 24 Mar 2021 11:58
Last Modified: 24 Mar 2021 11:58
URI: https://eprints.keele.ac.uk/id/eprint/9301

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