Putting the public first? Restructuring the West Australian human services sector
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Focusing on the social, welfare, and community workers who are employed in public, not-for-profit (NFP), and commercial organisations within the human services sector, this article examines the implications of a recent Western Australian government report ‘Putting the Public First’, which advocates a further round of public management reform. It explores why the option of outsourcing the majority of state human services activities to NFP organisations, as advocated in the report, raises serious concerns about the quality of service delivery and the conditions of employment for workers in this sector. Drawing on experience from the United Kingdom and Australia, this article explains how this policy will reinforce a shift to a contract culture in the NFP sector that leads to mission drift and role distortion. A central outcome is the further deterioration in the employment conditions of NFP human service workers. This article concludes that, notwithstanding some rhetorical shifts, the present push to transform the human services sector is driven by an adherence to New Public Management principles that, some three decades after their initial ascendancy, remain central to public sector reform processes in Australia.
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