This thesis is based on a study of senior social work supervisors in provincial offices of the Department of Social Welfare in the Central Districts region of New Zealand.
Senior social workers are middle management supervisors who are expected by the organisation to administer, manage and support a team of social workers in the delivery of the services required of the department under statute.
The Social Welfare Department's definition of the senior social worker's role is outlined and considered. The literature and theory surrounding the role of middle-management in organisations, including social service organisations, is reviewed. The approach to supervision by the social work profession and its theoretical assumptions are debated.
To examine and understand the position of senior social workers in the department, a middle range theoretical perspective is adopted, using the dramaturgical views of Erving Goffman.
A detailed analysis of personal interviews with senior social work supervisors in seven provincial offices is made in the light of the middle range theory.
The findings reveal that while senior social workers experience satisfaction in the performance of their task, they have difficulty balancing the requirements of the agency as against those of the social workers they supervise.
Suggestions for improvements in the preparation, training and support for senior social workers are set out in the final section.