Privatization in the Human Services: Implications for Direct Practice
- First Online:
Human service agencies and front line practitioners are well known for the quality of services they provide to individuals, families, and communities. The last three decades of austerity-driven public policies—especially privatization—have restructured the human services in ways that have dramatically affected agencies, practitioners and clients. Yet we know very little about how this policy affects the practice experience of front line workers. Based on a literature review and preliminary qualitative results from a survey of human service workers in the public and non-profits sectors in New York City this paper (1) briefly reviews the functions of the welfare state; (2) depicts three overlapping historical stages of privatization in the human services; (3) describes the operationalization and implementation of privatization on the front lines; (4) explores the impact of privatization on service delivery and direct practice from the perspective of the practitioner; (5) summarizes the implications of this important policy trend for direct practice, the profession, and communities served by social workers; and (6) suggests steps social worker can take to address the sea change in the profession.
KeywordsPrivatization Direct practice New public management Managerialism Human services Social work Social welfare policy
- Abramovitz, M. (2004/2005). Saving capitalism from itself: Whither the welfare state? New England Journal of Public Policy, 20(1), 6.Google Scholar
- Abramovitz, M. (2014). Economic crises, neoliberalism, and the US welfare state: Trends outcomes and political struggle. In C. Noble, H. Strauss, & B. Littlechild (Eds.), Global social work: Crossing borders, blurring boundaries (pp. 225–2240). New South Wales: Sydney University Press.Google Scholar
- Abramovitz, M., & Zelnick, J. R. (2012). Privatization in the human services: Impact on front lines and the ground floor. Paper presented at privatization, globalization and personal responsibility conference (vulnerability and the human condition initiative), Lund University Faculty of Law, Lund Sweden June 14–15.Google Scholar
- Baines, D. (2006). Whose needs are being served?. Studies in Political Economy: Quantitative metrics and the reshaping of social services. 77.Google Scholar
- Baines, D. (2009). Resistance as emotional labour. The Australian and Canadian nonprofit social services. McMaster University, Canada. http://www.academia.edu/3770793/Resistance_as_Emotional_Labour_The_Australian_and_Canadian_Nonprofit_Social_Services.
- Besosa, M. (2007). New public management. Academe, 93(3), 44.Google Scholar
- Boris, E. T., de Leon, E., Roeger, K. L., & Nikolova, M. (2010). Contracts and grants between human service nonprofits and governments. Washington DC: Urban Institute Report. Retrieved from www.urban.org.
- Brodkin, E. Z. (2011). Policy work: Street-level organizations under new managerialism. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 21(suppl 2).Google Scholar
- Buffett, P. (2013). The charitable-industrial complex. New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/27/opinion/the-charitable-industrial-complex.html?module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3As%2C%7B%222%22%3A%22RI%3A12%22%7D&_r=0.
- Butler, I., & Pugh, R. (2004). The politics of social work research. In R. Lovelock, K. Lyons, & J. Powell (Eds.), Reflecting on social work discipline and profession (pp. 55–71). Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing.Google Scholar
- Callahan, D. (2012). Quantifying the damage of the rush to quantify. Thomson Reuters. www.reutersreprints.com.
- Chen, B., & Krauskopf, J. (2009). Accountability or discretion? Challenges for multi-service nonprofit agencies in performance-based contracting in New York City: A preliminary report. New York: Center for Nonprofit Strategy and Management, Baruch College.Google Scholar
- Cohen, R. (2014). Does “pay for success” actually pay off? The ROI of social impact bonds. Nonprofit Quarterly. https://nonprofitquarterly.org/policysocial-context/25003-does-pay-for-success-actually-pay-off-the-roi-of-social-impact-bonds.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Feed%253A+nonprofitquarterly%252Fhome+%2528The+Nonprofit+Quarterly%2529.
- Congressional Budget Office. (2014). Economic and Budget Outlook: 2014–2024. http://www.cbo.gov/publication/45010.
- Duffy, M. (2011). Making care count: A century of gender, race, and paid care work. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
- Dustin, D. (2012). The McDonaldization of social work. Farham, U.K.: Ashgate Publishing Ltd.Google Scholar
- Fabricant, M. (1985). The industrialization of social work practice. Social Work, 30(5), 389–395.Google Scholar
- Fabricant, M. B., & Fisher, R. (Eds.). (2002). Chapter 6: Scarce resources: rationing, narrowing, and redefining the content in social services. Settlement houses under Siege: The struggle to sustain community organizations in New York City. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
- Gallina, N. (2010). Conflict between professional ethics and practice demands: Social worker’s perceptions. Journal of Social Work Values and Ethics, 7(2), 1.Google Scholar
- Harlow, E., Berg, J., & Chandler, E. E. (2013). Neoliberalism, managerialism and the reconfiguring of social work in Sweden and the United Kingdom. Organization, 20(4)L 534-550. http://org.sagepub.com/content/early/2012/06/21/1350508412448222.
- Harvey, D. (2005). A brief history of neoliberalism. Cambridge: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Hasenfeld, Y., & Garrow, E. (2007). The welfare state, the non-profit sector and the politics of care. (working paper). UCLA Department of Social Welfare, USA.Google Scholar
- Knowledge@Wharton. (2012). Social impact bonds: Can a market prescription cure social ills? http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article.cfm?articleid=3078.
- Krauskopf, J., Blum, M., Litwin, R., Hughes, J., & Browne, A. (2009). The helpers need help: New York City’s nonprofit human service organizations persevering in uncertain times. New York: Human Services Council of New York City Baruch College.Google Scholar
- Linden, M. (2013). Budget cuts set funding path to historic lows. Issues, budget. Center for American progress. http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/budget/report/2013/01/29/50945/budget-cuts-set-funding-path-to-historic-lows.
- Lipsky, M. (2010). Street-Level Bureaucracy: Dilemmas of the Individual in Public Service, 30th Anniversary (Expanded ed.). New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
- Lower-Basch, E. (2014). Social impact bonds: Overview and considerations. Clasp. http://www.clasp.org/resources-and-publications/publication-1/CLASP-Social-Impact-Bonds-SIBs-March-2014.pdf.
- Lubove, R. (1968). The struggle for Social Security, 1900-1935. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- McKeever, B. S., & Pettijohn, S. L. (2014). The non-profit sector in brief, 2014 public charities, giving and volunteering. Urban Institute. Retrieved from: http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/413277-Nonprofit-Sector-in-Brief-2014.pdf.
- O’Sullivan, S., Considine, M., & Lewis, J. (2009). John Howard and the neo-liberal agenda: The regulation and reform of Australia’s privatised employment services sector between 1996 and 2008. Australian Political Studies Association (APSA).Google Scholar
- Richmond, T., & Shields, J. (2004). Third sector restructuring and the new contracting regime: the case of immigrant serving agencies in Ontario. Joint Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Settlement.Google Scholar
- Rogowski, S. (2011). Managers, managerialism and social work with children and families: The deformation of a profession? Practice Social Work in Action, 23(3), 157–167.Google Scholar
- Rothman, D. (1971). The discovery of the asylum: Social order and disorder in the new republic. New York: Transaction Publishers.Google Scholar
- Salamon, L. M. (2012). The resilient sector: The future of nonprofit America. In L. M. Salamon (Ed.), The state of non-profit America. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.Google Scholar
- Schacter, R. (2012). Mental health clinics, facing financial pressure, change the way social workers are employed. National Association of Social Workers, New York City chapter. Currents, Nov/Dec. http://www.naswnyc.org/?377.
- Smith, S. R. (2012). Social Services, Chapter 4. In: L. M. Salamon (Ed), The state of nonprofit America. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press.Google Scholar
- Smith, S. R., & Lipsky, M. (1993). Non-profits for hire: The welfare state in the age of contracting. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Social Finance. (2011). A new tool for scaling impact: How social impact bonds can mobilize private capital to advance social good. http://www.socialfinanceus.org/pubs/new-tool-scaling-impact-how-social-impact-bonds-can-mobilize-private-capital-advance-social-goo.
- Stark, C. (2010). The neoliberal ideology and the challenges for social work ethics and practice. Revista de Asistenţă Socială, 1, 9–19.Google Scholar
- White House, Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation. (2014). Social innovation fund. http://www.whitehouse.gov/administration/eop/sicp/initiatives/social-innovation-fund.
- Zelnick, J. R. (2014). Part of the Job? Workplace violence and social services. In A. Armenia, M. Duffy, & C. Stacey (Eds.), Caring on the clock: The complexities and contradictions of paid care work. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar