Doing, describing and documenting : inscription and practice in social work
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The thesis explores the role of inscription in the management of social work and the effect of this on front-line practice. Inscription is a response to current trends in public sector management, in particular the focus on transparency, accountability and performance management, which drive an increasing demand for the documentation of work in areas of professional practice, traditionally assumed to be at odds with codification. The research investigates the effect of new documenting procedures in social work, specifically, the introduction of a ‘standard assessment format’ and responses to this by social work practitioners. The thesis uses a constructivist theoretical framework drawn from Actor Network Theory, which understands inscription as a performative technology, which is used to manage the process and content of practice through representation and translation. The thesis is based upon an exploratory, critical case study in a Local Authority Children and Families Social Work Service between November 2004 and May 2006. The thesis explores the translations between practice (doing), articulation (describing) and textual representation (documenting). For front-line practitioners, practice is understood as the ‘doing’ of work whilst the ‘describing’ and ‘documenting’ of work are categorised as secondary, bureaucratic concerns, with no material effect on the core processes and outcomes of social work practice. The research indicates that social work practice is in fact is a series of practices, which include the doing, describing and documenting of work. The research suggests that the conceptualisation of practice as ‘doing’, rather than ‘describing’ and ‘documenting’ work determines practitioner responses to the use of inscription in managing social work practice.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy