Changing Patterns of Work, Care and Public Policy in Europe and North America
Globalization and Welfare series
Edited by Diane Perrons, Colette Fagan, Linda McDowell, Kath Ray and Kevin Ward
Chapter 11: E-enabled Active Welfare: Creating the Context for Work–Life Balance
Sarah Walsh, Susan Baines and James Cornford INTRODUCTION Much research has been devoted to providing a better understanding of the strategies and stratagems of individuals, households and employers as they seek to negotiate the issue of balancing the demands of work against those of other aspects of life. This chapter, in contrast, touches upon the wider context within which such work–life calculations and decisions can be made. Our particular concern here is with the specific configurations of public services, including health, education and social care, which form an important part of the wider environment within which such decisions are made. We explore some of the ways in which this public service environment – the publicly funded and coordinated part of what we might term the ‘servicescape’ – is being reconfigured under the UK government’s current programme for implementing electronic government. The present period provides a particularly rich moment for exploration of the changing servicescape in the UK. The prime minister’s announcement in March 2000 that all public services would be ‘e-enabled’ by 2005 has led to a major programme of change across the public sector. E-enabling services, we are told, is not just about automating existing processes; it is about ‘transformation’ (ODPM, 2002). Services will be transformed to become more accessible, cost-effective, convenient, responsive and joined-up. The redesign of services has led to the adoption of not just new technologies but also new rhetoric, processes and practices, even a new culture of public service (Hudson, 2003). Public services, it is argued,...
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