Lewis, JM; Nguyen, P; Considine, M
(OXFORD UNIV PRESS, 2021-09-11)
This paper considers the link between policy tools and governance modes – the characteristic ways frontline staff are meta-governed. It asks: Are substantive policy tools coupled to procedural tools (governance modes) that can guide local service delivery agencies and the work of individuals delivering welfare services? The substantive policy tools in this case are those typically utilised to reform welfare-to-work services: contracting-out of services and competitive tendering, and the regulation of quasi-markets. These are hypothesised to flow through to procedural policy tools in the form of corporate and market incentives and regulatory (bureaucratic) methods that shape how work is done (governance modes), privileging certain practice orientations at the frontline. Policy makers seek to shape these meta-level governance modes because they should result in systemic change, based on a reconfiguration of policy actors and their interrelationships, for both service delivery agencies and the individuals working in them. We identified four ideal-type governance modes (bureaucratic, corporate, market and network) and tracked which of these were dominant in-practice at the frontline in Australia and the UK at two levels: office and personal, at four points in time (1998, 2008, 2012 and 2016). We found that the dominant mode of organisation at the office level was corporate, followed by bureaucratic in both nations. But the bureaucratic mode had grown in strength over time, particularly in Australia, and as a personal priority for staff, as re-regulation occurred. The results indicate a coupling between substantive policy tools and governance modes at the frontline of welfare-to-work.