Trish Hafford-Letchfield is Senior Lecturer in Social Work at Middlesex University in the UK. Here, she reflects on the current context of social work and social care management, and what led her to write her new book, Social Care Management, Strategy and Business Planning (August 2010, Jessica Kingsley Publishers).

Over the last few years I have read many books on management in social work and social care and these have provided an excellent treatise on the challenges faced by managers in trying to develop quality services in an ever increasing managerialist environment. Many text books in this area reflect the current debates going on in social care where the deployment of business sector principles within the environment of care have caused a number of tensions between ‘management’ and ‘professionals’, not least on how to do more for less and retain one’s integrity and values as a manager. Indeed, these were some of the themes that came out in the report of the recent social work task force. With the incoming coalition government, whilst we might not be sure what the future will bring, we know that things are likely to get tougher and more compromising. The challenge is how to progress our partnerships with users, carers and the community in an honest and integral fashion to develop appropriate and forward looking services whilst maximising use of scarce resource and delivering the governments policy agenda.

The introduction of market and subsequently business principles into care environments since the 1990s has meant that its associated language and terminology has deeply permeated current management ‘speak’. It has always intrigued me when working with leaders and managers in my role as an educator, mentor and manager, how easily these trip off the tongue or become part of our everyday language and applied to practice often in an uncritical way. I have developed and taught a number of leadership and management programmes which include preparation and reflection on the key roles and tasks undertaken by managers in social work and social care. Yet there are few texts that are specific to our unique environment. There has been a lack of appropriate literature in this area which speaks for the need for a sound knowledge base about the strategic and business planning aspects of a social care managers role and presented in a way that speaks directly to a managers own experiences and learning needs. This led me to develop such a text, one which aims to facilitate managers in engaging more confidently and knowledgeably with the practice aspects of strategy and business planning. Managers in social work and social care need to continue to be dynamic in its multi-layered approach to service development. Most managers have to learn the necessary skills and knowledge ‘on the job’ with little preparation yet have rich experiences to draw on from their prior experiences of direct practices.

Social Care Management, Strategy and Business Planning tries to bring these aspects together by firstly making the whole issue of business planning more accessible and friendly, but by also acknowledging the values and ethics inherent to managing care. In covering some of the theoretical concepts underpinning effective management of care services, it also incorporates a ‘how to’ approach around a range of different but hopefully, relevant topics. I hope people find it reflects some of the key critical debates and issues in social care as well as offering some very practical and helpful advice on how to tackle everyday tasks involved in managing a team, service or organisation. I have drawn on some of my own experiences in working in the voluntary sector as a senior trustee and as a management mentor but more importantly have engaged management practitioners from different areas of the field to comment on the topics and share their ‘top tips’ so to speak. No doubt in ten years we may be looking at a very different picture but managers are part of developing this picture so I hope this is apparent.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2010.

Trish Hafford-Letchfield has spent many years managing adult services in a local authority and has remained in practice through her continuing involvement with the voluntary sector as a Trustee and management mentor. Trish has been involved with leadership and management education for several years. She has published widely in this area and has a specific interest in older people and equality issues in both education and practice.

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