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Social construction of the managerialism of needs assessment by health and social care professionals

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Abstract

Managerialism in community care has not only radically changed organisational structures delivering care, but the assessment of health and social care needs, the justifications for the assessments, and the experience of those who require publicly funded services. The present paper describes the social construction of the managerialism of needs assessment by health and social care professionals, and illustrates this through the identification of older people as a particular kind of client. The argument draws on ‘third way’, modernity and postmodernity thinking to show needs assessment as a socially constructed area of welfare. The empirical work in this study is based on the views of 38 health and social care professionals obtained by semi-structured in-depth interviews and a postal questionnaire. The views of these professionals show that the social construction of needs assessment takes place in managing the matching of eligibility criteria against types of services. The key to this process is the application of the concept of management that places health and social care professionals in roles where they are acting for state, voluntary or private agencies, and not in all contexts working together with older people. The study shows that professionals identify older people into two groups or ‘classes’, i.e. those having health needs as distinct from those with social care. The techniques used amount to an exercise of power by professionals over older people. Change is necessary to break down the dominance by professionals in the needs assessment process. A broader concept of the ‘third way’ vision by ) is also required to achieve greater relevance to how health and social care is organised, and how relations between professionals and older people are integrated into the idea and practice of participatory care. Therefore, the emancipatory side of modernity remains a largely unfinished project.
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Keywords: health and social care; managerialism; modernity; needs assessment; older people; postmodernity; professionals; social construction; ‘third way’

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2002

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