The last 30 years as seen through the eyes of a public professional

 
This could be the story of an local government professional, a librarian, a housing officer, a policy officer ,a finance officer, a personnel officer or an admin officer.
 
Tim trained as a social worker in the 80s. He went on marches in support of the miners. You wouldn't catch Tim selling the Socialist Worker in town on a Saturday. He wasn't that type of radical social worker. He would wear a jacket and tie to court if it helped his client and whilst he was only to willing to battle the system on behalf of his clients if the benefit system wouldn't cough up he would go to a charity rather than make a point at his clients expense. 
 
 He and his colleagues were sold on the idea that restructuring would improve services. Later he bought the idea that community care would be better for older people.
 
He was there when the politicians said it was "a matter of indifference to the public who provided their services". He didn't believe it then and he doesn't believe it now.
 
He was at the road show when the new chief executive said we needed to be ,"one organisation" . All managers were to be corporate which translated to social services are no different to libraries, housing or leisure services so no special pleading. Soon after that the social services training department was absorbed into the corporate training team. 
 
He was a senior social worker when social work became about assessments and eligibility criteria, being customer focused and demonstrating customer care or learning how to say no, sorry but you don't qualify for help. 
 
He was on one of the many working groups as part of the big cultural change initiative. The aim was to change the way people behaved if not the way they thought. This was necessary because successive  reorganisations hadn't delivered the changes required. Giving people a new title, changing their office base, changing the teams catchment area or changing who sat next to them did not change the way they thought. The cultural change program was for everyone starting with a weeks residential for senior managers. The number of managers in the organisation meant that three years latter we were still rolling out the programs to middle managers when the chief executive left. The new chief executive thought the culture change program was unnecessary, unaffordable and undeliverable. 
 
Every thing was about value for money, then it was about being competitive and then what we could or 
couldn't afford. 
 
He stressed professional values to the students he supervised but he found this increasingly difficult to square with managers obsession with performance and their language of targets and league tables. He struggled to keep up as priorities changed with bewildering frequency depending on which performance indicators would move the organisation up the league table. 
 
He was fond of saying the organisation had more pilots than Heathrow.
 
The management consultants said the organisation had an image problem the solution was a new logo and the setting up of a corporate communications team recruiting expertise from the private sector. They spent the first 18 months policing the correct use of the new logo, to ensure that it was always the specified size and in the specified top right hand corner of all publications.
 
For the last few years Tim has been using his extensive  experience to train staff , write procedures and guidance notes for staff whilst advising senior managers on the implications of new policies. He sees the job as identifying best practise but senior management are not interested in anything that involves additional resources. He views senior management as increasingly out of touch, setting over ambitious targets and unrealistic expectations and inclined to take any expression of caution as decent even personal disloyalty. He says they are more concerned with the reputation of the organisation than addressing concerns of staff or the gap between rhetoric and reality. So he is going to take up the offer of early retirement.
 
Blair McPherson ex social worker, former director, blogger and author www.blairmcpherson.co.uk

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