Social Service Management
Social workers traditionally have been trained for direct service to individuals, families, and communities. When they became managers, they mostly have learnt on-the-job. As social services have become more complex, funding more uncertain, and competition for resources greater, the management of social services has become a specialty in itself, requiring specialty education. What should that training be and what academic field should provide it? Are the skills and knowledge of social service management so similar to business and public management education that they should assume that training, or is it important for social service managers to have social work’s commitment to ethics, its mission, and the welfare of service recipients?
This course will include these issues and more specific discussions about what skills, knowledge, and perspectives social service management education should include. For example, should experience as a social service provider be a prerequisite for managing social services? What are the best ways to teach the ‘soft skills’ of social service management, such as leadership, decision making, its mission, governance, systems, structure, and advocacy? How should the ‘hard skills’ of budgeting, resource acquisition, needs assessment, strategic planning, program planning and design, and human resource management be taught? What are the options for affecting organisational change, improving organisational culture and climate, and improving service effectiveness?
Social services also face difficult, changing, and complex policy environments, often leading to difficult choices. These include a commitment to its mission versus the need for resources; how to serve the most vulnerable populations, which may not be the focus of current policy; how to affect policy without jeopardising current services; how to respond to the contemporary problems of immigrants and refugees, the uncertainty of international agreements, and the devolution of the welfare state; and how to work with new trends in social services such as ‘evidence-based practices,’ social enterprise, peer workers, and social innovation?