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  • Author or Editor: Sharon Lambley x
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Social work and social care continue to face an unprecedented period of challenge and uncertainty, requiring the development of leadership capabilities at every level of the workforce as well as in the community. This critical and reflexive book looks closely at the pivotal but demanding role that leadership and management play in promoting social work and social care. It focuses particularly on the value that is potentially created when the human relationships between people delivering and people using public services are effective, and the conditions are present to nourish confidence, inspire self-esteem, unlock potential and erode inequality. Aimed at new, aspiring and experienced managers, and senior practitioners, it draws on a range of disciplines not typically found in social work and social care and encourages readers to broaden their examination of leadership in areas such as the design of organisations, the role of service users in leadership practice and the phenomena of dignity within the context of organisational culture and dignity.

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As an active researcher, and an ‘on, off ’ mental health service user for 20 years, Carr (2010a) suggests that while she doesn’t know much about leadership theory, she does have knowledge about the impact of good or bad leadership on service users. When commenting on the decision to close a local emergency mental health clinic, Carr stated: ‘This may well have been a tough decision for the leaders involved, but perhaps not as tough as the decision to stay alive when living had become unbearable’ (Carr, 2010a, p 21). Closing an emergency service, she further suggests, ‘shows how leaders can become detached from the human consequences of their style, values, decision making and exercise of power’ (Carr, 2010a, p 20–24). For service users like Carr, leadership needs to demonstrate humanity and social justice as well as empathy with service users who are living their lives in difficult circumstances. Recent policy developments argue for greater involvement of service users in power-sharing and decision-making; this can be very challenging to deliver in practice, however, particularly when service providers may be reluctant to share power, or when they are suspected of neglecting or abusing a vulnerable child or adult. These tensions (care and control) are evident in many areas of care work. In reviewing leadership and management theories, Lawler and Bilson (2010) developed a theoretical framework that is used in this chapter to explore leadership from a service user perspective. The framework allows for some consideration of the different leadership and management approaches used, and reflects on service user experiences of leadership.

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The effective leadership of people and organisations is complex, requiring knowledge, skills and understanding across a number of disciplines in addition to appreciating the context of social work and care organisations. To facilitate understanding of this complexity, this part of the book focuses on people within organisations and therefore the next two chapters include debates from management and organisational theory, while seeking to locate these debates within leadership in social work and care. This is an area that has not been extensively explored within contemporary social work literature, or certainly not in seeking to critically locate social and care workers within strategic organisational contexts and environments. Where current literature has explored these issues, the focus has been on those at frontline management with less attention on those organisational aspects that are involved in the development of strategy and its implementation in the management of organisations. This chapter’s approach takes a critical macro view of changing organisational contexts in which leaders and managers seek to deliver care services at a senior level in these agencies. It has important considerations for leaders, professionals, commissioners and regulators in seeking to understand the nature and impacts, intentional or unintentional, of organisational strategy.

The discipline of human resource management (HRM) covers a wide range of organisational and worker activities and processes, and as a result this makes the subject both complex and confusing for many frontline managers and staff. This situation is often compounded by the relatively little attention given to the development of people systems, with poor workforce intelligence available to support the management of such a diverse environment as in social work and social care (Evans and Huxley, 2009).

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In taking a wide-ranging critical review of leadership and management in social work and social care, our journey so far has taken us through a number of related and connected issues for people and their organisations. For example, we have considered challenging and important theoretical and practice-related debates and suggestions on the future way forward for care to be delivered. This chapter builds on the strategic workforce issues raised in Chapter Four by focusing on the operational and tactical levels of workforce management. This is the place where many of us may have more direct experience with the direct operational challenges debated by leaders, practitioners and managers about the social work and social care workforce. This chapter therefore continues to critically review key workforce-related debates necessary for leaders and managers involved in operational service delivery. We should recognise right from the onset that the ground for debate and discussion in this regard is very broad, and as a result, we will narrow these to areas related to operational workforce debates to enable a more in-depth exploration. This chapter therefore narrows its coverage to critical debate and theory that often encompasses HR development as well as critical management theory, to facilitate our deliberation on the operational workforce challenges for leaders and their organisations. Chapter Seven then develops some of these challenges in more detail, and focuses on these more specifically in practice terms. In recent years there has been an underlying assumption that the coordination of large organisations, including social work or social care agencies, requires a permanently appointed occupational group of managers, that this group of staff are the best equipped people to undertake this role and should therefore be remunerated more than those providing direct services.

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Having explored the strategic and operational context that support care, we now return to focus on the core of leadership practice. As traditional relationships between recipients of care services and professionals change, so must ideas about how services can support staff, service users and carers. In Chapter Two we considered systems theory as a particularly useful paradigm for thinking about the interdependency of organisations through its alliances and partnerships. In this chapter, a systems perspective has also been adopted to help examine how organisations can ensure appropriate support to staff, service users and carers, as these relationships are transformed by neoliberal ideas and policies through more inclusive approaches, including inclusive leadership, as new ways of relating become established.

Organisations that commission or provide care services operate within complex systems, which, when examined closer, are comprised of sub-systems populated by service users and carers, managers, professionals and support staff. In England, for example, local councils are part of a national government system. Each local council has a children’s services department, where social work is organised and carried out by social workers in‘looked-after children’s teams’, ‘duty and assessment teams’, and so on. Social workers routinely interact with other systems (for example, other government departments) and sub-systems (local police stations, hospitals, and so on). In some cases care provider organisations may be joined together in formal partnerships, or they may have joint working arrangements. In England, in common with other European and UK countries, some care and health organisations have merged to become fully integrated services, and increasingly more services are being delivered by voluntary organisations or social enterprises.

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If staff do not recognise dignity, if they feel taken for granted, if their self-esteem is dented, then it becomes more difficult for them to deliver dignified care. (Tadd et al, 2011)

So far we have referred to culture in a number of different ways. This chapter focuses on a relatively neglected topic in social work and social care, that of ‘dignity’ within the context of organisational culture. Despite dignity being widely used in UK current policy and practice documents (see, for example, DH, 2010; Commission on Dignity in Care for Older People, 2012), it remains a difficult term to define and even more difficult to operationalise. This chapter begins by presenting various definitions of this term and discusses some of the complexities that exist between the direct professional relationships social workers have with service users and the organisations in which social workers are employed. In arguing for the usefulness of the concept, Jacobson (2007) has drawn a distinction between the discussion of ‘social dignity’, or dignity as defined in social situations such as health or social care, and intrinsic ‘human dignity’, or the ‘intrinsic dignity of human beings’ (SCIE, 2012).Whatever its theoretical manifestations, this notion of dignity has a meaning for the way in which relationships are conducted at an organisational level and for users and carers.

As well as discussing the literature where some of these concepts are defined, this chapter also explores where problems have emerged within the working practices of organisations, using, as an example of where things have gone wrong, one recent serious case review based in the UK affecting residential care.

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So far in this book we have talked a great deal about support, but what about the support needed by leaders and managers themselves, and their own needs for support and development? As outlined in previous chapters, within the UK, messages from both major reviews of social work and serious case reviews (Scottish Executive, 2006; DH, 2010; DfE, 2010; Centre for Workforce Intelligence, 2011) have highlighted working conditions on the front line of services in which poor communication and antagonistic relations between staff and managers have served to work against the capacity of managers to lead and to manage services. There is evidence relating to the experience of managers in relation to unmanageable workloads, and a significant issue is managers’ own expressed unmet needs for adequate support and CPD. A more coherent approach to leadership and management development merits further attention. In England, the Munro review of child protection (Munro, 2011) and the SWRB (Social Work Taskforce, 2009) both emphasised the particular importance of s) both emphasised the particular importance of skilled and confident frontline managers in terms of their essential contribution to practice. A range of approaches to supporting and developing aspiring, new-in-post and experienced team managers has emerged and given particular emphasis to access to training and to development in professional supervision (DCSF, DH and BIS in partnership with the Social Work Reform Board, 2010; Bourn and Hafford-Letchfield, 2011). The National Skills Academy for Social Care (2009), the Leadership Group for the Children’s Workforce (Hartle et al, 2009), the NHS Leadership Academy (a single, comprehensive home for leadership) and the Scottish Leadership Foundation provide just a few examples of the public bodies charged with consulting on proposals designed to bring greater coherence to the development of middle management across an increasingly integrated workforce.

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As a general introduction this chapter examines the phenomenon of leadership, with particular reference to how ‘leadership’ might serve our purpose in social work and social care. Genuine discussion about leadership should be informed by the context for practice and examined through different lenses, for example, structural, organisational, professional and operational (Lymbery, 2001). Within social work and social care, leadership is perceived as fundamental to achieving new paradigms of care which shape the way in which future services are subsequently designed and delivered (van Zwanenberg, 2010).This language and the models that support them are not necessarily shared in the rest of the European Union (EU) or the world. A cursory look through any UK government policy document, however, that has an impact on care, demonstrates that as a metaphor, leadership is already deeply embedded in discourse about care provision. This chapter intends to provide a more critical appraisal by revealing the contested nature of leadership that merits further exploration. Leadership, for example, is significantly associated with the operation of power and influence and within the discourse around care – particular models of leadership have become highly privileged or preferred. This chapter aims to facilitate the development of alternative or more subjective viewpoints about how we theorise about leadership and its direct application to practice.

While we aim to give a basic outline of more common or frequently discussed models of leadership, our core purpose is to emphasise its relational aspects that are crucial to effective social work and social care. Similarly, we assert that the role and purpose of social work itself is highly contested, and so we should explore the reasons behind this.

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Chapter One provided a broad introduction to some of the critical debates about what is considered ‘leadership’ in social work and social care. Leadership constitutes complex phenomenon dependent on a critical evaluation of its context. By drawing on a wider source of literature and a more diverse knowledge base, we now consider these complex concepts associated with leadership given the abundant literature on leadership. Wide-ranging debates about the true meaning of leadership and its actual usefulness in achieving a vision for those we work with are dependent on how leadership interacts with a demanding socioeconomic and public policy environment. This chapter explores some of the ideas associated with our understanding of this broader context. It discusses ways in which organisational theorists have characterised organisational structures and cultures, for example, and the impact of different cultures on organisational practice and how leadership might make sense of and have an influence on these. Within this book, this chapter is pivotal in bridging ideas about both operational and strategic leadership across different levels of an organisation, and signposts leaders to think about the organisational culture and thus the nature of the services and the teams in which they work. It highlights the differences in perspective from those working at the frontline, as well as frontline managers to senior leaders in organisations, in relation to a number of external and internal factors that influence how leadership is fostered, developed and supported. Metaphors can also be a good use of understanding better how organisations work alongside case studies that help to analyse and apply ideas about leadership.

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