Implementing National Disability Service Standards: What Street Level Bureaucrats Exercise Discretion for in the Provision of Employment Services
James Constantine Hondros, University, My, Elizabeth Van Acker
The purpose of this thesis is to interpret the use of discretion to deliver public service in public interest. The research question to guide this purpose is, what do street-level bureaucrats use discretion for to implement disability service standards in Australia? Lipsky (1976) proposed that given their discretionary power, people on the front-line representing government (termed 'street-level bureaucrats') through daily people processing action on the front-line significantly affect policy outcomes. To implement social policy, a qualitative based method has been used to emphasize both intended and unintended consequences to front-line discretion. As a case, the street-level bureaucrats in disability employment services participated in semi-structured interviews and assisted this thesis design and provide the grounds to interpreting what it means to implement social policy in public interest today. By asking the question what is discretion used for, it is with the intention to uncover the meaning of public benefit, deep-rooted in service delivery. It is argued a street-level bureaucrat determines the meaning for citizen-consumer experience from standards in the legislation, and in so doing this, will highlight the ambiguity experienced in service delivery between state-agent or citizen-agent understanding surrounding 'public interest' and 'public service'. The foundation on which the nature, amount and quality of benefits and sanctions, to assist people with a disability into sustainable employment, still rests with new street-level bureaucrats rather than the state initiative. Outcomes of service delivery rest on, in part, the use of discretion by street-level bureaucrats. This thesis disagrees with the state-agent ideal whereby particular outcomes that are unintended or unanticipated by those responsible for setting policy objectives (government) can be explained by the discretion of street-level bureaucrats.
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