Welfare and social justice

My central position in the project also can and does constrain our work since none of the development work or plans for the project are outside the scope of my ability. The project is therefore constrained by the experience, abilities and skills of just one person. I consider it to be one my most important functions as the manager of Nightstop to change this culture to one that is more role and task based and does not rely so heavily on the work of one person. In this way I am attempting to reduce the amount of power that is currently present in my role as manager whilst using that power

'responsibly and ethically, within a broader anti-oppressive agenda, for the promotion of social welfare and social justice' (Coulshed and Mullender, (2001:2) As such this has clear implications for the style or approach to managing the organisation that I adopt, since I believe that the principles of informal education and anti-oppressive practice should not only apply to service users, they should also be an intrinsic part of the organisations relationship with its staff team. In this way the organisation has been built on my experience and skills as a manager and the way it runs is a reflection of those skills. This is in direct opposition to the theory espoused by Lawrie although knowing the culture of the organisation you are managing clearly aids management style.

My approach to management has much in common with human relations theories on management in general but Mary Parker Follett (1868-1933) in particular since she saw management 'as a dynamic concept where power must go with responsibility. Authority should be vested in knowledge and experience wherever these are located in the organisation, not in mere position on a hierarchy (and) that management should be based on the ethical principle of human worth and dignity, not the emotionally sterile pursuit of efficiency at any cost.' (Coulshed & Mullender, 2001:35-36).

Follett also argued that team work and participation in the decision making process were key factors in motivating workers and that management had to accept that it did not always know best. Instead she advocated that 'managerial vision should flow from the common purpose and from the shared work and aspirations of the whole group' (Coulshed & Mullender, 2001:36). All of which means that approaches to management that see people as cogs in the machine, regulated and controlled in a search for order and rationality, as is the case in a scientific or classical approach to management, which may well suit the needs of financial management, it is not appropriate in an organisations relationship with workers, where they seek to empower staff on the basis that

'Workers can empower others only if they feel as empowered as possible themselves within their employing agencies' (Coulshed & Mullender, 2001:2). This does not mean that accountability is not important, rather it suggests that there are ways of working with staff that enable accountability to be used sensitively and ethically. This does not fit easily with the principles of managerialism and new public management approaches adopted first by the conservative and lately by labour governments that currently lead statutory services. A preoccupation with rationality, targets, and the 3 E's that demand we be 'efficient, effective and economical' (Coulshed & Mullender, 2001:4) echo the philosophy of scientific management since

'a more rational approach to management is reflected in the high profile given to strategic planning, performance and quality management and use of performance indicators to measure efficiency and facilitate greater managerial control over resources.' (Horton & Farnham, 1999:248). New Public Management was built on the principles of private business and began to make its presence known during the Thatcher government of the 80's.

Thatcher transferred many state owned business to the private sector in the belief that they were better able to produce results because they were 'more efficient and responsive to consumer needs' (Farnham and Horton, 1999:247). Thatcher also 'aimed to managerialise the public services and create performance management and quality management cultures, aimed at achieving greater efficiency and effectiveness in the provision of public services' (Horton & Farnham, 1999:247). This again does not fit Lawrie's comments since it is a deliberate attempt to make organisations fit the management style.

Whilst no one would argue with achieving better and more effective services, Thatcher's determination to change the collectivism inherent in union activity also led to new practices in human resource management that weakened collectivist approaches whilst emphasising and developing a more individualistic approach to employee/employer relations (Horton & Farnham). This is in direct conflict with principles of informal education that seek to promote a greater sense of community/group identity.

As such its continued use by a labour government that claims to be committed to principles of active citizenship, community and service to others is questionable, since it begs the question, aren't employees in the public service sector also members of their communities? Unfortunately, just because we work in the so called 'caring professions' it does not mean that care is extended to the staff team, something I have witnessed time and again in my career. But looking after the staff team is not just a matter of respect for human dignity, it makes good business sense too, since

'it is hard to give the best service to users when you are ill at ease, harassed or under unreasonable stress yourself in your own working environment' (Coulshed & Mullender, 2001:70). Thus there exist arguments that 'the culture of public management, with its emphasis on performance, value for money, competition and entrepreneurialism, is undermining the public service ethic.' (Horton & Farnham, 1999:252). which results in a situation where 'the public are no longer being treated equally or equitably but according to market criteria or local managerial discretion.' (Horton & Farnham, 1999:252). 

Coushed & Mullender also argue that labours new public management is not capable of coping with the constantly changing, unpredictable nature of work with people. They argue that rational management is 'incapable of sorting out that untidiness of human difficulties or the uncertainties of direct practice in social work or social care – (since) social work organisations exist to serve messy, untidy and infinitely varied human beings and indeed all organisations – are staffed by them' (Coulshed & Mullender, 2001:4/5). This acknowledgement that direct work with people is unpredictable, requires a highly flexible staff team and thus a flexible style of management, needs to be brought alongside an understanding that workers regularly encounter situations of human distress that cannot help but affect them as people.

In practice this means that when dealing with an emergency, I not only have to take into account the immediate needs of the clients but also those of the staff team. Not only to ensure that they have followed procedure, but also that they are not so emotionally overwhelmed by the situation that they either leave or go long term sick. The fact that we recently had to deal with the murder of a young boy is a case in point since I not only lost one member of staff, but also had to spend time going over our child protection procedures with all staff and had to combine this with emotional support. This balancing act in management, staff support and client needs is reflected in formal supervision.