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Title: How social workers become and continue to be : exploring what matters in their constitution, development and generative capacity
Author: Grant, Scott
ISNI:       0000 0004 7655 5571
Awarding Body: Glasgow Caledonian University
Current Institution: Glasgow Caledonian University
Date of Award: 2017
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Very little is known about the occupational experiences of newly-qualified social workers in Scotland. We know little about their transition into new professional roles, and even less about how they graft new skills, knowledge and values after the point of qualification. These factors matter as new practitioners enter a field where techno-rational principles of New Public Management dominate the regulation of working practices. The professionalisation of roles and tasks mean that particular skills and knowledge on technical and procedural issues are often valued more by managers and agencies, at the cost of neglecting the professional learning and development of staff in areas of practice that can have the most impact on outcomes for service users. In addition, recent policy shifts toward public protection and risk management across all aspects of social work means that new (as well as existing) practitioners face new challenges and demanding workloads which may result in future retention problems for social work as a whole. Drawing on two empirical studies and six publications, this thesis aims to provide new knowledge and insight into a deeply neglected area of social work research. No work has been done on newlyqualified social workers in Scotland for over 18 years (the last completed by Marsh and Triseliotis in 1996), leaving significant gaps in our knowledge and understanding of what happens to these practitioners as they enter and develop in their careers. This thesis will combine findings drawn from studies conducted by the writer on newly-qualified and experienced social workers. These research projects used a variety of methods including online surveys, focus groups, and workshops. This thesis will also draw upon additional work completed by the writer on comparative analysis, deeper subanalysis of data, and conceptual development of findings from empirical studies. Findings from this thesis suggest that experienced and newly-qualified social workers are not supported by employers to develop knowledge and skills. What seems to occur in most cases is an informal process of ongoing professional socialisation where new and experienced staff take advice and guidance from peers rather than managers; where staff often locate their own learning opportunities through shadowing and self-direct reading, and where development often takes an organic rather than structured shape. The most fertile setting for skill and knowledge development seems to be linked with staff being situated in organisations with supportive practice cultures. But a crucial finding is that deeply inculcated welfare-oriented dispositions seem to help social workers navigate through a contested professional field – resisting the worst of managerialism, operational demands and punitive social policy, whilst itself revealing a durable capacity for agency amongst practitioners based in services starved of resources and structured learning opportunities.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available