Meagher, Gabrielle and Parton, Nigel (2004) Modernising social work and the ethics of care. Social Work and Society, 2 (1). pp. 10-27. ISSN 1613-8953

Recent attempts to 'modernise' social work have emphasised the importance of collaboration, partnership, and participation with individual users of services and the wider community. However, technical-rational aspects of managerialism have proved dominant. Managerialist approaches to social service administration and delivery threaten important dimensions of social work; specifically its caring and democratic-transformative dimensions. However, social work theorists have only recently begun to re-engage with ideas of care. We argue that closer attention to feminist debates about the ethics of care can make a significant contribution to not only rehabilitating the ideal of care for social work but also to moving forward the modernisation agenda itself. We develop a feminist critique of managerialism, and argue that the discourse of the ethics of care offers useful ways of framing arguments to counter some damaging impacts of managerial reforms.