This chapter focuses on the issue of how social care can be managed by providing two distinct - and gendered - life histories of people involved in managing private residential care homes. From these are derived two 'ideal-types' of the management of social care which, while derived from a study of the residential care setting, could be applicable elsewhere in the public, private and voluntary sectors.
Despite the drive to promote 'care in the community' and a move away from residential provision in large-scale institutions, residential care continues to be important. There has, however, been a marked change in the pattern of provision (Johnson 1984; Glennerster and Hills 1998). Whereas in the period up to 1980 the majority of residential places were in the public sector, private and voluntary homes now provide the majority of residential places for the elderly, the younger physically handicapped, those with learning difficulties and those with mental illness. The 1980s and 1990s saw the privatisation of residential care, not its decline (the number of residential places went up in this period). This trend, moreover, was not confined to the UK but was also occurring in many European countries simultaneously (Baldock 1993). Of course, much of the care provided for in the private and voluntary sector is publicly funded, part of the blurring of the boundary between public and private sectors.
The distinction between private, voluntary and public residential homes is widely used in the literature on residential care, but what does this distinction signify? It is tempting to see homes in the private sector as differing from those in either the public or voluntary sectors in one crucial respect, from which others follow: the existence of the profit motive. From this may be thought to stem all sorts of evils: low wages and poor conditions; cost cutting, which jeopardises health and safety or renders those in care isolated and bored; the termination of care where there is no longer sufficient profit to be made; or the hiking up of rates to vulnerable clients who cannot easily 'shop around'. It seems easier, perhaps, to accept people profiting from cornflakes than care. But a moment's thought suggests we need to be cautious about how we see