Analysing the impact of management and organisational arrangements on the delivery of social work Essay

An assignment of 2500 words analysing the impact of management and organisational arrangements on the delivery of social work drawing on material researched and gathered on first placement. This assignment will discuss the context of the Family Support Resource Services (FSRS) within the wider social care sector and the policies that impact on the operational aspects of the organisation; it will discuss the management structure, the funding of the service and the implication for Social Work practice.

The Family Support Resource Services (SSD), is a relative new statutory service that came into operation in January 2004 in response to the ‘Every Child Matters’ Green Paper, which advocates a universal children and family service. It is a Lancashire County Council initiative. This service was established as it was felt that there was an over reliance on Residential Care, and the services that were in place previously, namely the Family Centres and Nurseries, were obsolete due to the influence of agencies such as Sure Start and Home Start. This was intended to be a targeted service.

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The service is consistent with the 5 Key Outcomes outlined in the Children’s Bill, i. e. Being Healthy, Enjoying and Achieving, Staying Safe, Making a Positive Contribution and economic well-being. It offers 7 days per week service, if required, 8am – 8pm. The service provides support to children, young people (0 -18) and their families. The Service Manager informs us that in the area in which the service is located, the 9 wards are in the top 20% most deprived in England, accommodating approximately 10% of Lancashire’s 260 thousand children (0-17).

In the surrounding area Social Services work with nearly 900 children with a Disability, approximately 41 children are on the Child Protection register, and there are approximately 162 children ‘Looked after’. The North West has some of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in Europe. The Family Support Resource service (FSRS) provides for a selection of ‘needs’. The Service User is usually referred by the Children and Families, Initial Assessment Team then co-worked alongside the Social Worker or transferred to FSRS, and reviewed independently.

A tailored package of support is available to the Service User. This could include: Parenting skills, Behaviour management, Self protection, Parenting Assessments, Direct work with Young people, Life Skills, Assisting teenage parents, and providing supervised contact sessions. The key aim of the service was to empower parents and reduce the number of children coming into the care system. Historically, in the UK children are viewed as the responsibility of their individual family, particularly in terms of their care.

It has been argued that this view has had the support of traditionally opposing constituencies, underpinning, for example, the post-1945 Beveridge model of social welfare and the New Right approaches of the 1980s and 1990s (Daniel and Ivatts, 1998). The emergence of Conservative administrations from 1979 marked an important break in relation to a general welfare consensus, in response to what many regarded as the inadequacies of the ‘The traditional model public administration’ (TMPA).

This was characterized as an administration under the formal control of the political leadership, based on a hierarchical model of bureaucracy, staffed by permanent, neutral and anonymous officials. Hughes (2003) informs us that these individuals were motivated by public interests and served any government party equally. They did not contribute to policy but merely administered those policies decided on by the politicians (p17).

The 1980/90s saw the emergence of a new managerial approach in the public sector, namely: The ‘New Public Management’ (NPM), characterized by hands-on professional management – with a clearly defined individual in charge and accountable for result, performance measures, greater competition (compulsory tendering), and discipline in resource use. NPM presents many challenges for Local Authorities and the FSRS as there is a greater emphasis on working collaboratively across traditional service boundaries, including the idea of ‘joined-up services’, which are organised around users’ need rather than organizational convenience.

NPM origins come from two different streams of ideas. Firstly the ‘new institutional economics’, the ideology of which included contestability, user choice, transparency and concentration on incentive structures, and secondly ‘managerialism’ in the public sector based on ideas of ‘professional management. Tony Blair introduced a concept of a ‘third way’ which sees a move away from an emphasis on purchaser/provider to an emphasis on modernisation and improved service hence the ‘service user’ is viewed as the consumer (Powell 2002, p13).

The process of strategic management is identifying environmental opportunities and matching them to internal capabilities; its aims to specify clear goals and objectives; providing the maximum benefit to an organisation by looking to the future. (Hughes 2003, p132) The mission statement for the directorate stated “Putting people first – promoting independence, opportunity, protection and inclusion” (Lancashire County Council). How is this realized? Within the private sector, this is generally maximising profits for those owning the business. In the public sector, this distinction is not so clear.

Strategic management across both sectors has some fundamental similarities. The drive to identify, improve and promote core competencies, positioning these capabilities within society in a way which creates value for consumers, represents a key element of strategic planning in both sectors. Lancashire states in its values that every person be treated with respect, people who use their services and their carers should be fully involved in decisions about their lives, and that services should respond to the diversity of our local communities and, in line with a joined-up service, that working in partnership is a key component of this (www. ancashire. gov. uk).

The White Paper Modernising Social Services (Department of Health, 1998) set out a consolidated version of the Government’s objectives for children’s social services. They outline the social services role, and what they are expected to achieve together with other agencies in the community for some of society’s most disadvantaged families and most vulnerable children. This and other work has made clear that targeted help is required to ensure that disadvantaged children and young people are able to take maximum advantage of universal services – in particular education and health – as well as any specialist services. Framework for Assessment of Children in Need and their Families 6. 2)

A result of different specialist services being involved is that professional alliances and identities are being questioned (Henderson and Seden, 2004), and some believe that social workers are slowly losing their identity (Beresford and Croft, 2004). Care Managers and key workers now perform the duties of assisting ‘service users’ gain health and social care services they need via public and private agencies, who may or may not be trained Social Workers.

This creates problems in that it devalues the social work professional. This was demonstrated in the FSRS (in cases held independently), which consisted of staff that were termed key workers – these were not trained social workers. However, other agencies and the ‘Service User’ considered these Key Workers as Social Workers. To be successful strategic management requires a learning organisation which encourages managerial styles favouring proactive action, accepting risks taken and viewing failures as learning opportunities.

Within the public sector this style is often supported by rhetoric, but not by practice, and it is argued that public sector managers often remain “reactive” even where strategic plans are in place. (Heffernan 2006, p141) Additionally, public sector culture is one which does not easily tolerate mistakes and a ‘blame culture’ often ensues. Changing the culture of the public sector remains one of the critical challenges in delivering effective strategic management. This is reflected in the management structure of the FSRS replicating the same structure as the Social Work Teams which characterises Weber’s theory of Bureaucracy.

This includes a ‘Hierarchy’ system with a clear chain of command, with information flowing freely. Likert (1961) called this a ‘Link Pin Structure’ whereby each person is responsible to a person in the level above (Cited in Payne 2000). This forms a line of accountability with individuals being ‘line managers’ of those below them and responsible to those above them. Individuals at the lowest level of the hierarchy, being members of the team but have no one to manage.

The problem lies in the premise that management styles may embrace the concept of strategic management in theory, but in practice often reflect that the hierarchy tradition is still entrenched. The structure of the FSRS was also bureaucratic in nature in that there were rules to follow that offered consistency. These came in forms of policies and protocols. Policies guidance included ‘Working together to safeguard children, the ‘Framework for Assessment’ and ‘Assessing Children In need and their families’ which allowed a universal assessment of need.

This structure also engages with the accountability aspect of NPM – if a worker is deemed to have strayed from policy guidance then they alone are accountable. Protocols consisted of ‘idiot guides’ to the functioning of the service e. g. how to make up a file, how to fill in a time sheet etc. This structure enhances the services ‘Mission Statement’. The Mission Statement of Social Services directorate objectives includes becoming a people led organisation shaped by individuals’ experiences, devolved decision making and accountability as close to local people and staff as possible.

Additionally, investment in their workforce to ensure staff have the capacity and resources needed to focus on developing and delivering high quality services, integrating services with their partners, working collaboratively to improve outcomes for people, to improve performance in all areas to match that of the best performing authorities, and to measure the issues which matter to people who use the services (www. lancashire. gov. uk). How is this achieved? Traditionally the state was regarded as the ‘model employer’.

Boyne 1999 characterised this model of Human Resource Management (HRM) as Paternalistic (promotes and protects well being of workforce), Standardised (national terms and conditions) and Collectivised (staff participation, consultation, trade unions). FSRS operated within the Soft HRM as it had a focus on training and development. However it also was concerned with economy and efficiency: staff a cost to be minimised (Hard). Whilst on placement the service was under the constraints of a budget freeze, as overspending had occurred throughout the county.

The impact of this being that five posts were vacant, which in turn could affect performance indicators, i. e. if there is not enough staff to deliver a service how can targets be achieved? The Objectives, Indicators and Targets for Social Services are regulatory guidelines that make banner statements/goals. They address operational aspects of family life, attempt to maximise the potential, socially integrate, ensure that expressed and comparative needs are met, and enhance user involvement. They offer a Professional Service within the assessment process, monitor and regulate, and offer value for money (Department of Health, 2006).

Funding is therefore a key component to achieving the key objectives. The budget for FSRS is devolved from SSD funding, from central government, via the local authority. When there is a shortfall of resources or choice for the tailored package of support mentioned at the onset, it is usually the Key worker or Social Worker who is held responsible. Additionally, if essential services/resources are not available to meet the required need of the ‘service user’, then these individuals are unable to exercise free choice unlike those individuals purchasing services with private funds. Heffernan 2006, p142)

Therefore, Social Workers are caught in the middle between needs and resources available to meet those needs when the devolved budget is unequal to the demands placed upon it. In this regard Gomm, (1993) stated: Instead of empowering ‘service users’, it has been said that NPM further empowers central government, due to the more narrowly defined kinds of public services which ‘service users’ can be empowered to demand. (quoted in Heffernan(2006) p. 140)

Empowerment of Central Government to move from a Welfare State to a Social Investment State is argued by Giddens (1998) as a State constructed where ‘investment in human capital, wherever possible, rather than the direct provision of economic maintenance should be central'(p8). Thus legitimate spending is in line with the principle laid down in the 5 Key Outcomes outlined in the Children’s Bill because it holds the promise of the future i. e. healthy population, reduced school failure and crime, and fosters employability.

In contrast spending for current need is motivated by the threat of reduced social cohesion; this can encompass direct financial support, alongside service provision, particularly directed at early years of children’s lives e. g. Sure Start (Featherstone (2006) p. 8). This is in line with ‘Bringing Britain Together’ (SEU 1998, discussed in Powell 2002) which advocates the ‘New deals for Communities’ which is concerned with supporting people and Social inclusion. The government to ensure standards are maintained has developed monitoring/auditing systems.

The Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) launched April 2004, is a single, independent inspectorate for all social care services in England, created by the Health and Social Care Act, 2003. CSCI incorporates the work formerly done by The Social Services Inspectorate (SSI). The CSCI is responsible for monitoring the performance of all Social Services departments in England. The Commission for Social Care Inspection inspects the way Social Services Departments work to ensure they meet the standards set by central government.

The Commission for Social Care Inspection awards each Social Services department a star rating every year. FSRS latest star rating, falling under Lancashire County Council is two out of a possible three stars. The report highlights areas for judgement in that a) the contribution of the local authority’s social care services in maintaining and improving outcomes for children and young people is a service that delivers only minimum requirements for users, and b) the council’s overall capacity to improve its services for children and young people is a service that consistently delivers above minimum requirements for users (Ofsted 2005)

In considering the judgement areas in line with the FSRS the implications of being under staffed would affect the maintenance of improved outcomes for children. However, it appears that the service when offered is consistently good; this could be attributed to a continuing programme of staff development. The FSRS were currently encouraging staff to attain a minimum of Level 3 NVQ ‘Caring for Children and Young People’ whose training needs had been identified through performance appraisals. The FSRS was interviewed by the Investors in People reward.

Investors in People Standard, a national award given to organisations who are meeting high standards in training and supporting their staff, focused on: induction of new staff, training and development for staff and the development of excellent communications within the organisation. The assessment was carried out by an independent external team of assessors. In their final report, the IIP assessors reported that staff had been very positive about how management was keeping them informed through such developments as the intranet.

Staff were also very positive about management’s commitment in creating opportunities for staff to influence the way the organisation delivered its services (www. lancashire. gov. uk). In conclusion, the FSRS main policy is the Every Child Matters (ECM) which advocates a universal service. The executive summary (ECM) states that the common threads which led to failure were poor coordination, failure to share information, absence of a strong sense of accountability, staff vacancies, poor management and a lack of effective training (p5).

The ‘New Public Management’ addressed these issues but not without challenges for the FSRS. The idea of ‘joined-up services placed greater emphasis on working collaboratively across traditional service boundaries but this devolves the role of the Social Worker. The Strategic Management structure allows room to consider objectives to realise a vision; in the private sector is seen as investment in the future.

However this system in the public sector cannot possible work as well by not taking into account the socio-political dynamics at work in any human organisation. The management structure, still entrenched in the traditional model of administration being a hierarchical model of bureaucracy, may be seen as a positive in that rules and consistency encapsulated in policies and protocols offers security and protects not only the worker, but also the ‘accountable’ line manager.

The Modernisation of Social Services sets out expectations, to achieve together with other agencies in the community, for some of society’s most disadvantaged families and most vulnerable children. There are problems with this when budgets are frozen because of overspend in others areas of the directorates – can resources meet need? The independent Audit of Children Services encourages improvement of services with the ‘service user’ viewed as the consumer, who is able to evaluate whether they are receiving value for money in the service they are receiving.