Complexities of discretion in social services in the third sector

Carson Ed, Chung Donna, Tony Evans

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Policy analysts have devoted considerable time to examining the problem of the policy implementation gap, with one important strand in the literature following Michael Lipsky’s work on street-level bureaucracy and discretion. In this paper, we aim to contribute to the literature concerning shifts in government/third sector organisation contractual arrangements and whether they constitute a significant (post-neoliberal) development in policy implementation. Using a case study of contracted government services in Australia, we revisit the conception of discretion to reflect on the impact of these changes and document their implications for the use of discretion in management and front-line worker practices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)167-184
Number of pages18
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Work
Issue number2
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Feb 2014


  • street-level bureaucracy; discretion; contractualism; social services

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