Journal Article

Accountable and Countable: Information Management Systems and the Bureaucratization of Social Work

Judith Burton and Diane van den Broek

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 39, issue 7, pages 1326-1342
Published in print October 2009 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online April 2008 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bcn027
Accountable and Countable: Information Management Systems and the Bureaucratization of Social Work

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Summary

A key feature of new public management is the tendency to equate quality and accountability with documentation (Tsui and Cheung, 2004). Human service organizations increasingly rely on computer databases to compile and record client information and to demonstrate outcomes for quality assurance and accountability purposes. This has resulted in substantial changes in work practices, processes and relationships for social workers. This paper draws on interview data from social workers in several Australian agencies to examine professional interactions with, and response to, changes in their work after the introduction of new technologies. It particularly focuses on the shift of accountabilities from professional values and identities to organizational and bureaucratic accountabilities. The paper recognizes that while social workers have always been subject to organizational accountabilities, due to the changes in social service delivery and limited practitioner input into the implementation of new technologies, tensions between professional and bureaucratic accountabilities have intensified.

Keywords: Information technology; accountability; bureaucracy; call centres; social work

Journal Article.  6551 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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