BEILHARZ, PETER; CONSIDINE, MARK; Watts, Rob
(Allen and Unwin, 1992)
If the topics of popular argument and political conjecture are any indication, the citizens of most modern societies have been long puzzled by the origin, purpose and effectiveness of their social institutions. Not the least of their concerns has been the difficulties which have confronted almost every attempt to redress problems of poverty and inequality. A wide array of programs, professions and social institutions has been developed to deal with these conditions, yet major problems persist. Even more puzzling has been the fact that in some areas the problems actually appear to have multiplied and the measures devised to treat them have more than once been indicted as prime causes of a host of new maladies.One important lesson from the past twenty years of effort by activists and administrators has been the recognition that the means used to organise a welfare service is just as important, if not more so, than the service itself. Paternalistic information systems, invasive assessment procedures and rigid entitlement rules are but a few of the ingrained habits of bureaucracy which have caused many to turn their fire on the state itself. In our discussion of these issues we identify administrative complexity as a major, persistent obstacle to service improvement. We do not attempt to dismiss these problems of social administration with a few abusive remarks about the indolence of the public service. Instead we examine some of the attempts that have been made to rethink basic questions to do with staffing, resource allocation and management.