Barriers to retaining and using professional knowledge in local authority social work practice with adults in the UK

Ann McDonald, Karen Postle, Carol Dawson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Citations (Scopus)


The development of community care policy and practice in the UK has taken place in the context of the growth of neo-liberal ideologies and managerialism. This has had an impact on service provision and professional practice which has been pronounced in statutory agencies. Research evidence indicates that the workforce in adult social care is demoralized and de-motivated and that there is dissonance between working practices and social work education. Empirical research undertaken in 2003 found difficulties at three levels: structural, managerial and practitioner. The difficulties encountered compromise effective inter-agency and partnership working, indicate problems in the supervisory relationship and lead to practitioners acting defensively and without reference to theory or a clear knowledge base. When these findings are compared with those from earlier studies, explanations may be found beyond blaming individuals or locating conflict within service users’ expectations regarding services. The paper concludes that there is an urgent need to consider and debate the form that contemporary practice in adult care should take and the education of practitioners for this task, in order to support the workforce and to meet the social policy aims of community care.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1370-1387
Number of pages18
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2008

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