The state-voluntary sector relationship in public service delivery in the UK: the case of social care for older people
Harlock, Jenny (2012)


by Jenny Harlock, Department of Social and Policy Science, University of Bath, UK

AbstractOver recent decades, adult social care services have become the subject of transformations of welfare state governance and reform, as welfare states across Europe face increasing pressures on existing provision and resources and anticipate growth in future demand (Ascoli and Ranci 2002). Welfare states have therefore been experimenting with new models of social care (Newman et al., 2008). Within these new models, voluntary organisations are seen as facilitating modernised, personalised and ‘customer-oriented’ public services; thus they have been increasingly utilised in delivering government agendas for public service reform in a time of welfare state austerity (Evers and Laville, 2004). In this context Bode (2006) argues that there has been an emergence of “disorganised welfare mixes“, with new mechanisms to coordinate and manage these diverse social service systems, such as partnerships, steering groups and market-based mechanisms. Against this background, this paper examines the relationship between state and voluntary sector actors in the delivery of social care services for older people. Qualitative interviews with national policy actors, social care service commissioners, and voluntary sector providers revealed the pressures, tensions and frustrations produced for voluntary sector organisations providing diverse, intense and complex care services, as national policy ‘misrecognises’ (Fraser, 1989) the intensity and complexity of care provided, and its implications for staffing, training and volunteering. Interviews also revealed the tensions produced for social care commissioners as they struggle to manage the diversity of voluntary sector providers, as intended by national policy. Overall the dynamics between state and voluntary sector actors in the delivery of public services suggest that voluntary organisations are struggling to retain their identity as voluntary sector organisations as they provide increasingly intense and complex care services in the context of increasing demand and financial scarcity. ReferencesAscoli, U. and Ranci, C. 2002 (eds.) Dilemmas of the welfare mix: the new structure of welfare in an era of privatization, New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum.Bode, I. 2006 ‘Disorganized welfare mixes: voluntary agencies and new governance regimes in Western Europe’, Journal of European Social Policy, 16 (4): 346-59.Evers, A. and J-L. Laville 2004 (eds.) The Third Sector in Europe, Cheltenham: Edward ElgarFraser, N. 1989 Unruly Practices: Power, Discourse and Gender in Contemporary Social Theory. Cambridge: Polity Press.Newman, J., Glendinning, C. and Hughes, M. 2008 “Beyond Modernisation? Social Care and the Transformation of Welfare Governance”, Journal of Social Policy, 37 (4): 531-57. BiographyJenny Harlock recently completed her PhD at the University of Bath entitled “The Politics of Governance: Understanding the state-voluntary sector relationship in public service delivery in the UK”. She has published in Policy and Politics and Voluntary Sector Review and is currently a programme manager for the Department of Health Voluntary Sector Strategic Partnership Programme.

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