Street-level discretion, emotional labour and welfare frontline staff at the Australian employment service providers

Tran Nguyen, Selvaraj Velayutham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Despite the current controversial debates about discretion in public bureaucracies in general, and in welfare agencies in particular, the current literature on street-level bureaucracy mainly assumes that discretion is a distinctive feature of the daily work of public servants. Nonetheless, a pertinent question has not specifically been asked in this literature, that is, given the context of privatisation and increased welfare conditionality in the welfare sector that are seriously challenging welfare frontline staff's commitment to social justice and human rights-based practices, what are forms of street-level discretion likely to contribute to improving the quality of welfare services? In this study, we attempt to address this question by exploring discretion displayed by welfare frontline staff in four Australian employment service providers. We argue that emotional labour, especially when being informed by critical empathy, is an important and effective form of street-level discretion that welfare frontline workers can perform to better support welfare recipients and minimise the punitive aspects of welfare policy.

LanguageEnglish
Pages158-172
Number of pages15
JournalAustralian Journal of Social Issues
Volume53
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2018

Fingerprint

employment service
service provider
welfare
labor
staff
bureaucracy
welfare worker
welfare recipient
servants
empathy
social justice
privatization
social policy
human rights
commitment

Keywords

  • discretion
  • emotional labour
  • frontline staff
  • welfare policy
  • workplace relations

Cite this

@article{4e3a04dc0c634732aa72a9d9ac260b21,
title = "Street-level discretion, emotional labour and welfare frontline staff at the Australian employment service providers",
abstract = "Despite the current controversial debates about discretion in public bureaucracies in general, and in welfare agencies in particular, the current literature on street-level bureaucracy mainly assumes that discretion is a distinctive feature of the daily work of public servants. Nonetheless, a pertinent question has not specifically been asked in this literature, that is, given the context of privatisation and increased welfare conditionality in the welfare sector that are seriously challenging welfare frontline staff's commitment to social justice and human rights-based practices, what are forms of street-level discretion likely to contribute to improving the quality of welfare services? In this study, we attempt to address this question by exploring discretion displayed by welfare frontline staff in four Australian employment service providers. We argue that emotional labour, especially when being informed by critical empathy, is an important and effective form of street-level discretion that welfare frontline workers can perform to better support welfare recipients and minimise the punitive aspects of welfare policy.",
keywords = "discretion, emotional labour, frontline staff, welfare policy, workplace relations",
author = "Tran Nguyen and Selvaraj Velayutham",
year = "2018",
month = "6",
doi = "10.1002/ajs4.35",
language = "English",
volume = "53",
pages = "158--172",
journal = "Australian Journal of Social Issues",
issn = "1839-4655",
publisher = "Australian Council of Social Service",
number = "2",

}

Street-level discretion, emotional labour and welfare frontline staff at the Australian employment service providers. / Nguyen, Tran; Velayutham, Selvaraj.

In: Australian Journal of Social Issues, Vol. 53, No. 2, 06.2018, p. 158-172.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

TY - JOUR

T1 - Street-level discretion, emotional labour and welfare frontline staff at the Australian employment service providers

AU - Nguyen, Tran

AU - Velayutham, Selvaraj

PY - 2018/6

Y1 - 2018/6

N2 - Despite the current controversial debates about discretion in public bureaucracies in general, and in welfare agencies in particular, the current literature on street-level bureaucracy mainly assumes that discretion is a distinctive feature of the daily work of public servants. Nonetheless, a pertinent question has not specifically been asked in this literature, that is, given the context of privatisation and increased welfare conditionality in the welfare sector that are seriously challenging welfare frontline staff's commitment to social justice and human rights-based practices, what are forms of street-level discretion likely to contribute to improving the quality of welfare services? In this study, we attempt to address this question by exploring discretion displayed by welfare frontline staff in four Australian employment service providers. We argue that emotional labour, especially when being informed by critical empathy, is an important and effective form of street-level discretion that welfare frontline workers can perform to better support welfare recipients and minimise the punitive aspects of welfare policy.

AB - Despite the current controversial debates about discretion in public bureaucracies in general, and in welfare agencies in particular, the current literature on street-level bureaucracy mainly assumes that discretion is a distinctive feature of the daily work of public servants. Nonetheless, a pertinent question has not specifically been asked in this literature, that is, given the context of privatisation and increased welfare conditionality in the welfare sector that are seriously challenging welfare frontline staff's commitment to social justice and human rights-based practices, what are forms of street-level discretion likely to contribute to improving the quality of welfare services? In this study, we attempt to address this question by exploring discretion displayed by welfare frontline staff in four Australian employment service providers. We argue that emotional labour, especially when being informed by critical empathy, is an important and effective form of street-level discretion that welfare frontline workers can perform to better support welfare recipients and minimise the punitive aspects of welfare policy.

KW - discretion

KW - emotional labour

KW - frontline staff

KW - welfare policy

KW - workplace relations

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=85048350180&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1002/ajs4.35

DO - 10.1002/ajs4.35

M3 - Article

VL - 53

SP - 158

EP - 172

JO - Australian Journal of Social Issues

T2 - Australian Journal of Social Issues

JF - Australian Journal of Social Issues

SN - 1839-4655

IS - 2

ER -