Political Studies Association Conference: The Impact of Bureaucracy and Managerialism on Social Work: Findings from a Systematic Literature Review and Thematic Synthesis.

  • Katheryn-Margaret Pascoe (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


Since the late 1980s, the rise of neoliberalism has seen the implementation of managerialism and bureaucratic structures to shape the delivery of social services throughout the world. This study will present the results of a systematic literature search of qualitative research addressing the question “What are practicing frontline social workers’ experiences of bureaucracy?” By including literature from 1990 to mid 2020, 39 articles were retrieved and analysed through a process of thematic synthesis.
The profession of social work is built on the foundations of social change, empowerment and social cohesion (IFSW, 2018). However, the thematic synthesis highlights how bureaucracy and managerialism has constrained the role of social workers, inhibiting their ability to challenge social injustice and advocate for social change. Importing market mechanisms focused on efficiency, value for money, accountability, risk management and predictability, managerialism has consequently increased standardisation, fragmentation, job insecurity and control in social work practice, increasing risks to both service users and social workers. While risks to service users and social workers presented as the dominant themes, forms of resistance were also evident, demonstrating that the social profession has not been unanimously indoctrinated by neoliberal and managerial ideals.

Following the impact of covid-19 which required a rapid adjustment of services and highlighted growing inequalities in society, now is the time to reconsider how services can realign with social work objectives of social justice, human rights, equity and respect for all human life.
Period30 Mar 2021
Event titlePolitical Studies Association International Conference 2021
Event typeConference
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Bureaucracy
  • Systematic review
  • social work
  • managerialism