Jill Manthorpe on a study of how social workers deal with the
pressures of being care managers, and Jane Watt looks at research
on four social inclusion projects’ community work.
A study of care managers working with older people.
Constant change and restricted resources may characterise much
social work activity, but they were two of the main issues
identified in a study of care managers working with older people.
In this research, Postle interviewed 23 care managers and their
managers in two social services areas.
The care managers also highlighted the impact of the service
context and the growth of managerialism on their practice. Both
resulted in reduced contact time with clients and a limited use of
their abilities with older service users. Paperwork seemed to take
up considerable amounts of time, with information technology rarely
saving much time with its supposed greater efficiency.
The increased volume of work squeezed out direct engagement with
service users, and some care managers saw a growing blurring of
differences between qualified and unqualified staff. Postle
considers that emphasis on competence and on procedures serves to
dilute professional skills such as reflection and judgement.
The interviews revealed that care managers could respond to
their work in a variety of ways. Some clearly brought their social
work skills into the work of care management and forged
relationships with service users in as helpful a way as they could
– not always with the support of their managers. Others found care
management tasks appropriate and were willing to take on functions
of gate keeping and assessment. Less comfortable, however, were
those who felt frustrated by their limited abilities to work with
service users, and there were some who had become further
demoralised or confused about their role. A small group of them
seemed to have adapted well to a more client-processing role and
were more satisfied.
This research offers a useful and interesting picture of care
management. In common with other studies it found evidence of
Source: Karen Postle, “The social work side is
disappearing. It started with us being called care managers”,
Practice 13(1), 2001.
Jill Manthorpe is a senior lecturer in community care at
the University of Hull.
An action research project on social inclusion and community
Recent social policy has concentrated on regenerating
communities in partnership with communities, which has thrown up
potential benefits and some problems.
This report covers a three-year action-research project and
provides a thorough examination of the issues, from philosophical
concerns to examples of practice.
The four projects examined were based in Scotland.
– Participative approaches to community care in Kincardine (a
large village in Fife).
– Participation of ethnic minority carers in inner-city
neighbourhoods in Glasgow.
– A council-wide disability strategy group in partnership with
community organisations, in south Lanarkshire Council.
– Community link volunteers and care needs in remote rural
communities in Lochaber.
The case studies are clear and helpful so that the reader can
easily draw parallels (or not) with their own community.
There are many basic lessons to be learned. For example, in
Kincardine, most of the first year of the project was spent
clarifying roles and relationships between services. It was also
realised that for most of the community, community care was a much
broader idea than a specific set of services. Participation
required a much more holistic approach.
The report summarises the four perspectives of active
stakeholders: community leaders; service users; frontline workers,
and managers. These perspectives have significant implications for
agency policies and strategies, and the most prominent themes are
interdependence and trust.
The conclusions show that, “there can be no template for forming
partnerships”, and that community development is an organic process
that must embrace local history, perspectives, aspirations and
The project and its findings will be excellent reading for many
at those local authorities intending to take forward the issues of
social inclusion and caring communities.
Source: Alan Barr, Carolyn Stenhouse and Paul Henderson,
Caring Communities – A Challenge for Social Inclusion,
Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2001.
Jane Watt is a freelance social worker and