Managers: are they really to blame for what’s happening to social work?

Sharon Lambley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Over the last 30 years a number of commentators have observed that social work in Britain is in a condition of crisis (Lymbery, 2001; Clarke, 1993; Jones and Novak, 1993) and neo-liberal policies and managerialist practices are transforming social work (Harris, 2003). The negative impact
has been well documented by those advocating radical responses to increased managerial control over the processes and outputs in social work (Jones, 2001, Rogowski, 2008, Ferguson and Woodward, 2009). Some blame managers for these transformations (Jones, 2001, Rogowski, 2008, Ferguson
and Woodward, 2009) whilst the media, politicians and the public continue to blame social workers when things go wrong (Cohen, 2002) even if the tragedy was unavoidable (Mass-Lowt and Hothersall, 2010). However there is evidence that some managers and social workers are working collaboratively
to resist managerialism (Evans, 2009) which supports those who argue that the transformation of social work is not yet complete (Kirkpatrick, 2006). This paper explores these contradictory viewpoints and finds evidence of a range of strategies and approaches that are being adopted by managers and social workers, including collaborative approaches which need to be better understood.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6-19
Number of pages14
JournalSocial Work and Social Sciences Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • managerialism
  • social work
  • crisis
  • blame
  • resistence


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