Performance management in modernised social work

John Harris and Peter Unwin

in Modernising social work

Published by Policy Press

Published in print March 2009 | ISBN: 9781847420060
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781447302827 | DOI:
Performance management in modernised social work

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This chapter discusses the rise and consolidation of performance management and its impact on social work in the United Kingdom, focusing on the era from 1945 to 1979, during which faith was placed in professionals as guarantors of the performance of welfare-state services, including social work. It reviews the New Right's erosion of professionals' responsibility for safeguarding performance standards and its introduction of managerialist approaches to performance management (1979–1997), and then looks at the intensification of such approaches under New Labour (1997 onwards). The chapter also examines issues and implications raised by the current performance-management regime, highlights the day-to-day realities of using measures that are primarily quantitative in a work environment which continues to be viewed by much of its workforce as being essentially qualitative, and considers the key features of the performance-management regime. It concludes that performance issues will continue to be seen by many as an instrument of control unless their political, ethical, cultural, and moral implications are open to debates in which the range of stakeholders with interests in social work can participate.

Keywords: United Kingdom; performance management; social work; New Right; New Labour; welfare state

Chapter.  9406 words. 

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