Personalisation, user choice and the voluntary sector workforce in an era of austerity

Cunningham, Ian (2013) Personalisation, user choice and the voluntary sector workforce in an era of austerity. In: Work, Employment and Society 2013, 2013-09-03 - 2013-09-05. (Unpublished)

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The personalisation of public services can potentially fundamentally transform providers of social care services and their employment relationships (Rubery, et al, 2011; Kessler and Bach, 2011). Much of these public services are now provided in a quasi-market by voluntary organisations due to outsourcing by successive governments of all persuasions (Cunningham, 2008). We know little about the impact on workers in these organisations from further market-based reforms such as personalisation that place a greater emphasis on users as 'customers' of public services with choices over when, how and by whom they receive services (Rosenthal and Peccei, 2007). Specifically, to what extent is the service user emerging as a new actor in industrial relations by shaping employment outcomes among social care workers through co-production, co-design and co-supervision (Bellemare, 2000). At the same time, there are concerns personalisation is merely a method to implement cuts in public services in an era of austerity (Cunningham and Nickson, 2010) and that the real driving force behind workforce change remains local authorities squeezing their suppliers. Through a qualitative study of five local authorities and five voluntary organisations (Interviews with contract managers, CEO‘s, front-line staff and service users), this paper seeks to answer the following questions: 1. How far is the personalisation agenda reshaping employment policies in voluntary organisations? 2. What is the relative influence of other parties outside the standard employment relationship (local authorities and service users) in shaping these outcomes? 3. What implications are there for service quality and worker morale?