Journal Article

Direct Payments and Social Work Practice: The Significance of ‘Street-Level Bureaucracy’ in Determining Eligibility

Kathryn Ellis

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 37, issue 3, pages 405-422
Published in print April 2007 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online March 2007 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bcm013
Direct Payments and Social Work Practice: The Significance of ‘Street-Level Bureaucracy’ in Determining Eligibility

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Sponsored both by governments intent upon fiscal restraint and user movements keen to extend choice and control, ‘cash-for-care’ schemes are replacing direct services across mature welfare states. Recent legislation on direct payments, which has enacted the UK version of cash-for-care, has attracted considerable research interest in the UK. Previous studies point to a number of tensions for social workers in the implementation process which give rise, in turn, to considerable uncertainty, even hostility, on the part of front line staff. This article, which discusses the findings of a study of assessment and care management practice in one English council, seeks to make sense of social workers’ approach to the allocation of direct payments by reference to Lipsky’s (1980) theory of ‘street-level bureaucracy’. The author concludes that despite ten years of managerialism, in the course of which professional practice has been routinized and regulated, Lipsky’s work is still useful in analysing front line behaviour around direct payments.

Keywords: direct payments; professional values; ‘street-level bureaucracy’

Journal Article.  7667 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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