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This concluding chapter reviews the key analytical threads and arguments of the book, returning to the concept of ‘double activation’ and tracing the interconnections (conceptually and at the level of street-level practice) between the quasi-market governance of employment services and workfarist activation. It reviews the key dynamics by which quasi-marketisation intensifies a street-level orientation towards enacting a more demanding, workfare-oriented activation model: through how it reconfigures the profile of organisations and people working at the frontline of service delivery (politics of professionalism), and through applying more intensive performance management accountability regimes that discipline street-level workers’ exercises of administrative discretion. Finally, the book concludes by assessing the evidence-base for a demanding, workfarist model of activation and the reasons why governments continue to favour ‘work-first’ strategies despite limited evidence of their effectiveness.
Since 2010, Ireland has followed a well-trodden path of extending the project of welfare reform beyond the activation of claimants to the ‘double’ activation of the organisations and frontline workers responsible for implementing active labour market policies on the ground. This chapter takes a closer look at ‘double activation’ as an analytical lens, and why the concept holds significance beyond describing the conjunction between the two tracks of welfare reform. What is it about the parallel unfolding of governance reforms of delivery organisations that is of wider interest to the shape of activation reform? The chapter also introduces the Governing Activation in Ireland study underpinning this book: the research design and how the study differed from previous studies of the impacts of marketisation on the frontline delivery of employment services. The chapter concludes with a consideration of the underlying conceptual linkages between workfare and marketisation, drawing attention to the theories of motivation they share and the ways in which they each involve a normative commitment to the commodification of claimants.
This introductory chapter situates the case study of Ireland that follows in the context of wider international welfare reforms. These include the social policy turn away from human capital development approaches towards a more demanding, workfare-oriented activation model, and the creation of quasi-markets in employment services. The chapter reviews these developments internationality while offering an analysis of the distinction between workfare and human capital development approaches to activation, as well as the variety of quasi-market models.
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This book assesses how the practice of contracting-out public employment services via competitive tendering and Payment-by-Results is transforming welfare-to-work in Ireland.
It offers Ireland’s introduction of a welfare-to-work market as a case study that speaks to wider international debates in social and public policy about the role of market governance in intensifying the turn towards more regulatory and conditional welfare models on the ground.
It draws on unprecedented access to, and extensive survey and interview research with, frontline employment services staff, combined with in-depth interviews with policy officials, organisational managers and jobseekers participating in activation.
The experiences of service-users and approaches of frontline staff showed that the model of support delivered under quasi-market conditions was distinctly more workfarist in orientation than the type of support that was provided by not-for-profit organisations in other parts of Ireland’s mixed economy of activation. So why did quasi-marketisation produce these policy effects? How did JobPath’s procurement model – competitive tendering, price-bidding, and performance-based contracting – spill over into organisational practices to adjust the balance between the enabling and demanding elements of activation? This chapter zooms out from the micro-level of caseworker-client interactions to consider issues of organisational dynamics and contracts’ recruitment practices and performance measurement regimes. In so doing, the chapter draws on the Irish case to engage with wider debates about the disciplining effects of managerialism and performance measurement on frontline discretion. It also offers a commentary on the ambiguous ‘professional’ status of activation work and the role of marketisation in contributing to the de-skilling and de-unionisation of employment services staff. The chapter develops the argument that marketisation reshapes agency at the street-level through both a politics of professionalism and politics of discretion
This chapter outlines how Ireland’s welfare system evolved from an ostensibly passive model with minimal conditionality to a sanctions-oriented, work-first model. Under OECD pressure to adopt a more ‘coercive’ model, payment rates were cut, eligibility conditions tightened, and sanctions introduced for non-compliance with new mutual obligations. This was paralleled by major governance reforms of operational services. The state-run employment service was replaced with an integrated benefits and employment service; Local Employment Services delivered by not-for-profit organisations became subject to tighter performance measurement; and a Payment-by-Results quasi-market was introduced to bolster capacity. The design features of JobPath are reviewed, and how it embedded market governance by organising service delivery through competitive tendering and performance-based contracting. This was in sharp contrast to the pre-existing network of Local Employment Services. However, besides these differences, the two otherwise coalesced in policy time and space. Both were targeted towards the same claimant cohorts and operated under the same activation policy setting. Thus, Ireland’s mixed economy of activation was essentially a natural policy experiment in the use of different governance modes to steer frontline delivery that the remainder of the book harnesses to assess whether and how marketisation changes the substance of policy delivery.
The Irish case offers a rare natural policy experiment for exploring the intersection between workfarist activation and welfare-to-work markets. This is due to the co-existence of two similarly targeted employment services programmes commissioned through distinct governance modes. Drawing on survey and interview research with frontline staff delivering JobPath and Local Employment Services, and with service-users participating in the programmes, this chapter explores how the two employment services differed in practice at the coalface of delivery. Formally, both services operated under the same activation policy setting. Yet, as detailed in this chapter, the two services differed in significant ways as to how they implemented this activation case management model. This was especially in relation to how they adjusted the balance between the demanding and enabling elements of activation: whether they prioritised a regulatory approach anchored in job-search conditionality and the enforcement of conduct conditions or focused predominantly on ‘employability building’ through education, training, and work experience. The interview and survey data provide robust evidence that a distinctly more workfarist approach was being enacted by the frontline workers delivering JobPath compared with how activation was being enacted by those delivering Local Employment Services.
Addressing needs and safeguard rights, public services are a crucial part of modern states and everyday lives. This book presents an in-depth introduction to public services as a field of study and provides a holistic guide to both the discipline of public services and core elements of working in public services. Aiming to provide a comprehensive account of core public service topics, this book explores the context in which public services operate, the delivery of public services between the state, the market and civil society as well as strategy, leadership and management of public services and emerging key themes of public service delivery. The introduction provides an outline of the aims and nature of public services. The first part of this book introduces the reader to the relationship between public services and public policies, explores organisations and the mixed economy of public service provision, and outlines the legal framework that shapes public services. Focusing on the internal dimension of public services, the second part then explores strategy, management and leadership of and in public services. Contributions on current and emerging issues and themes, from sustainability and the environment to equality, and their relationship to public services form the third part of the book.
Climate change has emerged as the most important environmental problem of our era that also affects the function of public services. This chapter introduces the reader to climate change as a challenge for public services and outlines potential contributions of public services to tackling climate change. Based on the central importance of energy for climate change, the chapter focuses on how public services adapt in the era of an unprecedented in scale and timeframe energy transition. More specifically, this chapter examines energy-related functions of public services actors and outlines how these can contribute to facilitating an energy transition as part of a response to climate change. Overall, this chapter raises questions in regard to the ways and the extent to which public services adapt their functions and strategies in a climate-burdened world and to the appropriate balance between the marketisation and public provision of public services. Finally, it assesses the degree to which public services provision adjusts to climate change concerns.
Drawing on the previous chapters, the conclusion brings together main insights developed throughout the book. It highlights that, like many welfare state institutions, public services are exposed and adapting to a changing social, economic and political environment. This chapter outlines the challenges of ever more complex issues reshaping the way public service organisations interact with the state and the other sectors and the influences these developments have on the internal operations of public services. Many of the attempts to adapt to broader changes draw on best practice from a range of industries but they also show the barriers to applying management concepts in different settings. As a result, public services have to find new techniques to meet the challenges of shifting demographics, financial restrictions and ecological change in a sustainable way.