Relentless changes to the way social care and other public sector professionals are expected to deliver services in the face of government cuts is eroding confidence at the frontline, according to research.
The University of East Anglia’s report on the impact of government cuts on public services, Professional Culture Conflicts, found core services such as social care were suffering in the face of rapid reform, with many frontline managers hampered by “confused and inconsistent messages” from policymakers.
“The way some professionals spoke to us about their daily working lives summoned up images of the long-running American TV show M*A*S*H, where matters of life and death are treated with humour and a sort of grim optimism by professionals who are determined to fulfil responsibilities to the best of their ability against the odds,” said one of the report’s authors, Christine O’Hanlon.
“While new government policy appears to offer greater freedom and autonomy to professionals, in practice there has been an erosion of confidence among those on the frontline,” the report adds.
It recommends overhauling training for public sector professionals to maintain motivation in the wake of cuts: “Knowledge, skill, judgement and experience remain indispensable qualities, but we need to add to these the ability to anticipate and cope with paradox, uncertainty and conflicting values.”
The research was based on interviews with a small number of senior public sector professionals, followed by a wider discussion.
Still from M*A*S*H courtesty of 20thC.Fox/Everett/Rex Features