Slowing Down or Seizing Up? Social Work Practice in a Call Centre Environment

By Nigel Coleman.

Published by The Technology Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The Labour government modernisation agenda has embraced and promoted the use of information and communications technology (ICT) via ‘electronic’ or ‘e’-government. The target set for e-government for all services to be e-accessible by 2005 put pressure on local authorities for their services to be ‘open all hours’ and encouraged them to utilise call centre technology to achieve this. Call (or ‘contact’) centres are now in widespread use by local authorities in the UK to deliver a diverse range of services including social services. Despite this, as Bain et al. (2005) note, there has been a dearth of research into the use of such technology in the public sector, with the extensive studies that have been undertaken being almost exclusively confined to the commercial sector. This omission is even more pronounced in relation to social work settings. The paper aims to shed some light on the social care call centre as a relatively new form. It is based on an in-depth case study of a social services contact centre in the North East of England where qualified social workers work alongside unqualified ‘First Contact Officers’. It documents the experience of social workers in relation to their motivation for working in this type of environment, their coping strategies, perceptions of stress and the potential impact of the call centre on social work practice and skill levels.

Keywords: Modernisation, Call Centres, Social Work

The International Journal of Technology, Knowledge and Society, Volume 3, Issue 5, pp.1-10. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 566.421KB).

Nigel Coleman

Senior Lecturer, School of Health and Social Studies, New College, Durham, UK

I teach on the social work programme and specialise in mental health, community care and the organisational context of social work. I am a qualified social worker and worked previously as a manager and social work practitioner in the learning disability and mental health fields. Prior to this I qualified and worked as a nurse specialising in learning disability and challenging behaviour. My main area of research is around the use of ICT in social work with a particular focus on the use of call centre technology.


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