Journal Article

The Order of Chaos: Exploring Agency Care Managers’ Construction of Social Order within Fragmented Worlds of State Social Work

Malcolm Carey

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 39, issue 3, pages 556-573
Published in print April 2009 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online January 2008 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bcm143
The Order of Chaos: Exploring Agency Care Managers’ Construction of Social Order within Fragmented Worlds of State Social Work

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The paper explores the experiences of a small group of agency care managers, based in local authority Social Service Departments (SSDs). Utilizing a method influenced by ethnomethodology, it considers attempts by agency staff to construct order in their disparate worlds of work. It was discovered that organizational and legal procedures are especially significant in personal attempts to acquire order. In addition, conformity to established norms, including the ability to gain peer acceptance and support (both inside and outside the SSD), were also of importance. Despite some improvements, however, forms of personal order were rarely achieved (or achievable), due to an array of chaotic influences. They included the abundance of convoluted and ever changing organizational and legal procedures; limited discretion and access to training; and brief, and superficial, relations with colleagues and clients. It is argued that agency social work provides more intense exposure to the uncertainty and change that epitomize care management. Such temporary employment may also help to further fragment state social work, and increase the superficial relations and hazards that encompass market-driven public sector employment. It is concluded that agency work needs to be contextualized within broader trends—most notably globalization and marketization.

Keywords: contingency labour; deskilling; flexibility; globalization

Journal Article.  7301 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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