Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: E-social work : a preliminary examination of social services contact centres
Author: Coleman, Nigel
ISNI:       0000 0004 2725 3075
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2011
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Access from Institution:
The use of technology has been a feature of public sector managerialism since its introduction by the Conservative government in the 1990s. Subsequently, New Labour's modernisation agenda embraced and promoted the use of information and communication technology (ICT) through its drive towards 'electronic government' ('e-government'). The target set for all services to be 'e-accessible' by 2005 put pressure on local authorities for their services to be 'open all hours' and encouraged them to utilise call centre technology to achieve this. As a result, 'contact centres' (as they were re-designated) are now in use by local authorities to deliver a diverse range of services including social services. Call centres emerged as one of the most widely adopted organisational forms in the private sector in the last two decades of the twentieth century, and have been utilised in a number of ways, primarily in the communications and service industries. The working conditions in call centres gained a reputation for being harsh and exploitative of employees in the pursuit of efficiency and economy and the labour process in them has attracted a considerable amount of academic interest and research. The principal approach underpinning this research has been Braverman's (1974) labour process perspective. The use of call centre environments and technology for social services was pioneered by Liverpool City Council in 2001 in partnership with British Telecom. The introduction of contact centres in this context epitomised 'new public management'. The use of contact centres to deliver social services is now widespread and the thesis presents an in-depth case study of one such contact centre, 'Northshire Care Direct' (NCD) in the North East of England. It identifies how social work practice has been affected by an organisational form, which, until recently, had not been utilised in this context. In addition to its being used to underpin call centre research, Braverman's (1974) labour process perspective has also been used to analyse the social work labour process and, in this sense, was apposite as a means of shedding light on a setting that conjoined social work and call centre technology. The thesis therefore uses Braverman's labour process perspective as an overarching conceptual framework to shed light on the labour process at NCD and how it impacted on social workers from professional and personal perspectives. The findings challenge the dominant view of call centre environments, which represents them as highly controlled and inherently stressful settings that inevitably damage employees' well-being. The thesis argues that contact centre social work represents a new (and, thus far, neglected) development that further extends the incursion of ICT into the organisation and management of social work practice. The emergence of the twin phenomena of 'e-social work' and 'e-management' is identified. The thesis argues that the contact centre context takes the role of ICT in social work further than before. In acknowledging that it is a snapshot of only one such centre, and that different practices may exist elsewhere, it argues that the findings can only be indicative of the direction of travel. It concludes that the social work profession needs to engage with further developments in order to mitigate potentially negative effects for service users.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: New College Durham
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare