Exploring implementation affordances and constraints in street-level managerial practice across two policy domains: Learning from the implementation of Scottish Government policy initiatives in School Education, and Health and Social Care Integration.

Tamara Mulherin, Iniobong Enang

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceedingpeer-review

Abstract

Despite unremitting policy initiatives and implementation efforts in Scotland aimed at tackling inequalities, there remain ‘thin’ insights into how they are enacted. Beyond broad descriptions of the contexts within which practitioners apply their judgements, and the processes and structures that seem to assist, granular insights into the daily work of implementing these kinds of policies can better illuminate the situated effects when policy meets practice.

Based on two studies undertaken in 2016-17, this paper explores the situated implementation of two policies, the Scottish Attainment Challenge (SAC) for school education and Health and Social Care Integration (HSCI). The first study, based on interviews and document analysis, considers how the implementation of the SAC, a policy underpinned by managerial reform, aimed to reduce the enduring poverty-related school education attainment gap (Audit Scotland 2021). Educationalists from two Scottish Councils, identified stakeholder engagement, leadership, and risk management as key to enabling and/or constraining street-level managerial reforms associated with the SAC. Overall, the findings indicated social risks may inadvertently be amplified due to exclusions, inequality, or poor learning outcomes or have no notable impact on attainment levels.

The second ethnographic study focuses on the efforts of NHS and Local Council managers as they implemented HSCI according to the precepts of the Public Bodies (Joint Working) (Scotland) Act 2014; working to reconfigure and hold things together in everyday arrangements in the spaces of governance and operations. It shows how policy implementation by managers was imbricated and enacted through everyday practices. It introduces the concept of repair - the repetitive actions and relational manoeuvring working to both generate change and stability. It highlights that despite legislation and manager’s efforts, there was resistance to limit the breadth and depth of HSCI, hindering the re-organising of organisational borders despite a care system under considerable stress.

Informed by street-level bureaucracy, as the effects of policy implementation found in how front-line practitioners in public services enact policy in their routine work (Hupe and Hill 2007), ‘shaped during … daily encounters’ (Lipsky 1983: XII), we contrast these two policy interventions to share how policies were enacted in particular places and times. We consider what it might tell us about how situated implementation is practiced, as historically contingent, mediated by discourse and material conditions. We show what it entailed, revealing what enables street-level managers to maintain what might be considered inconsistent modes of action as they manoeuvre daily, implementing Scottish Government legislative and policy direction. Lastly, we assess the implications this has for understanding the effects of public management on street-level managers in Scotland.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationStreet-level delivery of public services
Subtitle of host publication Where are we going from here?
Publication statusSubmitted - 27 Mar 2023

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