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Title: Caught in the Middle: How employment advisers mediate between user needs and managerial demands in UK services
Author(s): Bertram, Christine
Supervisor(s): Birchall, Johnston
Wright, Sharon
Keywords: employment advice
Issue Date: 2010
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: Traditionally, employment advice and guidance services in the UK have occupied distinct realms despite government efforts to align and integrate the education and skills and welfare-to-work frameworks. Conceptually, studies of front-line service delivery have often adopted a street-level perspective. This study offers a governance approach that focuses on how adviser behaviour is steered through managerial methods and how advisers steer user behaviour through the use of discretion and trust. The study explored how advisers mediated the tensions between managerial concerns and user needs to achieve policy goals, among others to turn service users into more active citizens. Based on 38 semi-structured interviews with service managers and advisers in combination with service characteristics and policy aims, a service typology was developed which was then applied to eight case study services. The analysis showed that employment advisers in the different service types applied very diverse strategies to achieve an outcome for the service user, but that within service types the strategies were similar. Due to the different service structures and advisers’ varying ability to apply discretion, various kinds of trust could be established, which potentially allowed the advisers to influence a change of service user behaviour. This could range from highly coercive methods to empowering individuals. The findings showed that advisers were subject to similar pressures as they applied to service users when mediating managerial influences. There was evidence that ability to use discretion was a vital pivot point in how advisers mediated tension between the service demands and user needs. This in turn was related to the adviser’s ability to achieve sustainable outcomes for the service user.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation
Affiliation: School of Applied Social Science

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