Provost - Research Publications
Now showing items 1-12 of 20
The Category Game and its Impact on Street-Level Bureaucrats and Jobseekers: An Australian Case Study
(CAMBRIDGE UNIV PRESS, 2019-10-01)
A key question concerning the marketisation of employment services is the interaction between performance management systems and frontline client-selection practices. While the internal sorting of clients for employability by agencies has received much attention, less is known about how performance management shapes official categorisation practices at the point of programme referral. Drawing on case studies of four Australian agencies, this study examines the ways in which frontline staff contest how jobseekers are officially classified by the benefit administration agency. With this assessment pivotal in determining payment levels and activity requirements, we find that reassessing jobseekers so they are moved to a more disadvantaged category, suspended, or removed from the system entirely have become major elements of casework. These category manoeuvres help to protect providers from adverse performance rankings. Yet, an additional consequence is that jobseekers are rendered fully or partially inactive, within the context of a system designed to activate.
Selling the unemployed: The performance of bureaucracies, firms and non-profits in the New Australian 'market' for unemployment assistance
Major changes to the organization of welfare programmes indicate the emergence of a new welfare state (NWS) model which claims to put an end to the traditional 'one size fits all' ideal of universality and standardization. The stated aim of such arrangements is to improve service for the client, reduce costs for the taxpayer and lift the performance of the system as a whole. The Labor government reform of the Australian employment assistance system between 1994 and 1996, and the Coalition's first modifications of this scheme in 1997, provide a means to investigate the performance of a NWS system which uses private and public agencies to provide a basic, mandatory employment assistance service. Using verified data on the comparative performance of public, private and non-profit agencies and qualitative data from a study of Best Practice among high-performing agencies, the study shows that this system produces greater service variation than the previous universal service system. Overall, the system also does better in achieving employment and education outcomes with long-term unemployed clients. However, the study shows that such outcomes differ between different classes of client and between different types of service provider. In particular, outcomes are lower for the more disadvantaged, and are higher for those who have training programmes available to support them.
Markets, networks and the new welfare state: Employment assistance reforms in Australia
Contemporary theoretical debates point to a transformation of societies and social organisations away from universal forms of mass production and consumption, organised through mass institutions, towards smaller, diversified, entrepreneurial units linked together by new forms of market and network co-ordination. This greater diversity is also held to be a feature of service users who require individually fashioned solutions to non-standard problems and tailored products for their different tastes. Applications of these accounts of social and economic transformation to the public sector propose similar patterns to those evident in private industry and in regional communities. The large, standardised bureaucracy is seen to give way to de-coupled, multiple agency models of service delivery within a new type of welfare state. The study uses interviews and surveys (n = 365) with service delivery staff in the Australian employment assistance sector where transformations of this type have recently been sponsored by government. These data indicate that many of the key propositions of the post-Fordist account are valid. Smaller, non-unionised units dominate the new order and services are devolved to the local level. However a number of the expected patterns of flexible specialisation, diversity and networking are not found, suggesting marked differences and possible tensions between public and private sector forms of organisational development in the new order.
Governance, Boards of Directors and the Impact of Contracting on Not-for-profit Organizations - An Australian Study
This article investigates strategic changes in the governance of not-for-profit (NFP) boards in response to Australia’s fully contracted employment services system. Of interest are changes in board demography, behaviour, procedures and dynamics, with special attention to the impact of those changes on boards’ identity as a representation of community interests. As Australia is in the vanguard of social service contracting, the Australian experience affords insight into the impact of contracting upon the identity of the NFP sector. We find that NFP directors operating in this quasi-market have come to define board ‘professionalism’ as the main strategic move to accommodate the increasingly commercial and competitive nature of contracting. Boards have adopted a more business-like view of how their agency should operate, changed their board’s skill set and utilized strategic recruitment processes, including selecting new board members based on perceived skill deficiencies of the current board and paying board members for their service. NFP boards have also introduced more comprehensive induction, training and evaluation systems. These findings provide Australian policymakers with evidence of the cultural impact of service delivery reforms on NFP agencies. They also afford leaders of NFPs an opportunity to reflect on important changes in the governance of their organizations, including the potential for ‘mission drift’ and loss of local forms of legitimacy.
New public management and welfare-to-work in Australia: Comparing the reform agendas of the ALP and the Coalition
(ROUTLEDGE JOURNALS, TAYLOR & FRANCIS LTD, 2014-09-01)
Since the 1990s, the adoption of new public management (NPM) as a management philosophy has translated into multiple waves of reform in the employment services sector in Australia, namely Working Nation (1994–96), Job Network (JN: 1996–2009) and Job Services Australia (JSA: 2009–present). Each wave has sought to improve the preceding policy. In this article, we examine changes implemented during the Rudd/Gillard Labor governments. Using government policy documents and survey data from frontline employment services staff, we compare JSA to JN against five benchmarks. Our data indicate that JSA has generated modest improvement. JSA is also a system with less emphasis on strong forms of sanctioning. Our combined data suggest that policy actors operating under NPM conditions are indeed able to influence specific aspects of frontline practice, but they must spend great effort to do so and must accept new imperfections as a consequence.
Mission-drift? The Third Sector and the pressure to be business-like: Evidence from Job Services Australia
(Australian and New Zealand Third Sector Research, 2014)
Becoming more businesslike is seen by many not-for-profit (NFP) agencies as necessary for survival, if not expansion, under the conditions required by New Public Management (NPM). Charged with delivering social services in a competitive environment, NFP agencies must often compete with each other, and with for-profit (FP) organisations, in order to obtain and retain government contracts. While some things are known about why NFP agencies emulate FPs, and the means by which they do so, little is known about whether adopting a more businesslike approach yields benefits. In this study we compare attitudes to profit maximisation against other client-oriented goals among NFP agencies delivering contracted employment services in Australia. We find that profit-maximising attitudes have increased dramatically between 1998 and 2012. Yet despite this, we find no correlation between a profit-orientated disposition and the rate at which services improve for clients. We conclude that while becoming more businesslike might be beneficial for a host of reasons, it does not appear to help agencies meet their key performance indicator: achieving positive outcomes for those they seek to serve.
Introduction: Markets and the New Welfare - Buying and Selling the Poor
(Wiley-Blackwell Publishing, 2014)
With welfare reformers in almost every country experimenting with forms of privatization and what its advocates have called ‘supervisory approaches to poverty’ or ‘a new behaviouralism’, it is timely to present this special edition of Social Policy & Administration. Dedicating a volume to the governance of quasi-markets in welfare services attests to the momentous nature of the radical re-design the welfare state has undergone over the past two decades. A similar reinvention has occurred across numerous policy fields and has affected most social services. Yet nowhere have the changes been more radical, and the results more pronounced, than in the realm of welfare-to- work, employment services privatization and jobseeker activation. All too often, social policy commentators are forced to lament that reforms were ‘oversold’ by policymakers, that things at the local level did not change all that much, or that major parts of the reform agenda of governments were effectively subverted by system inertia. Not in the case of employment services.
Quasi-Markets and Service Delivery Flexibility Following a Decade of Employment Assistance Reform in Australia
(CAMBRIDGE UNIV PRESS, 2011-10-01)
In 1998, we were witnessing major changes in frontline social service delivery across the OECD and this was theorised as the emergence of a post-Fordist welfare state. Changes in public management thinking, known as New Public Management (NPM), informed this shift, as did public choice theory. A 1998 study of Australia’s then partially privatised employment assistance sector provided an ideal place to test the impact of such changes upon actual service delivery. The study concluded that frontline staff behaviour did not meet all the expectations of a post-Fordist welfare state and NPM, although some signs of specialisation, flexibility and networking were certainly evident (Considine, 1999). Ten years on, in 2008, frontline staff working in Australia’s now fully privatised employment sector participated in a repeat study. These survey data showed convergent behaviour on the part of the different types of employment agencies and evidence that flexibility had decreased. In fact, in the ten years between the two studies there was a marked increase in the level of routinisation and standardisation on the frontline. This suggests that the sector did not achieve the enhanced levels of flexibility so often identified as a desirable outcome of reform. Rather, agencies adopted more conservative practices over time in response to more detailed external regulation and more exacting internal business methods.
NETWORKS AND INTERACTIVITY Ten years of street-level governance in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Australia
(ROUTLEDGE JOURNALS, TAYLOR & FRANCIS LTD, 2012-01-01)
The systemic reform of employment services in OECD countries was driven by New Public Management (NPM) and then post-NPM reforms, when first-phase changes such as privatization were amended with ‘joined up’ processes to help manage fragmentation. This article examines the networking strategies of ‘street-level’ employment services staff for the impacts of this. Contrary to expectations, networking has generally declined over the last decade. There are signs of path dependence in networking patterns within each country, but also a convergence of patterns for the UK and Australia, but not The Netherlands. Networking appears to be mediated by policy and regulatory imperatives.
Front-line work in employment services after ten years of New Public Management reform: Governance and activation in Australia, the Netherlands and the UK
(Sage Publications, 2010)
This study examines the impact of administrative reforms upon the work of front-line staff in the employment services of three reform-oriented countries – Australia, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. These changes have involved greater use of private agents, more detailed performance contracts, clearer expectations about outcomes for job-seekers, and increased competition between agencies seeking government work. The study compares the work characteristics and strategies of front-line staff in agencies in the three systems in 2008 and a decade earlier, using surveys. The results show that there are substantial differences in the level of tailoring and investment in these countries. There are three relatively stable modes of governance in these cases and the most stable of these types across countries and across time is what we term the corporate-market mode – more generally labelled New Public Management (NPM). Despite the expectations of theorists and of reformers, the role of network governance proves neither as stable nor as generalised as expected.
Exploring learning goals and assessment approaches for Indigenous health education: a qualitative study in Australia and New Zealand
In higher education, assessment is key to student learning. Assessments which promote critical thinking necessary for sustained learning beyond university are highly valued. However, the design of assessment tasks to achieve these types of thinking skills and dispositions to act in professional practice has received little attention. This research examines how academics design assessment to achieve these learning goals in Indigenous health education. Indigenous health education is an important area of learning for health practitioners to help address worldwide patterns of health inequities that exist for Indigenous people. We used a constructivist qualitative methodology to (i) explore learning goals and assessment strategies used in Indigenous health tertiary education and (ii) examine how they relate to higher education assessment ideals. Forty-one academics (from nine health disciplines) involved in teaching Indigenous health content participated in a semi-structured interview. Thematic analysis revealed learning goals to transform students’ perspectives and capacities to think critically and creatively about their role in Indigenous health. In contrast, assessment tasks encouraged more narrowly bounded thinking to analyse information about historical and socio-cultural factors contributing to Indigenous health. To transform students to be critical health practitioners capable of working and collaborating with Indigenous people to advance their health and well-being, the findings suggest that assessment may need to be nested across many aspects of the curriculum using a programmatic approach, and with a focus on learning to think and act for future practice. These findings accord with more recent calls for transformation of learning and assessment in health education.