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A commonsense conception of work in the human services that is sometimes held by students at the commencement of study is of doing good work and helping people. Laudable though these are, practitioners will be in a weak position to defend their decisions and actions unless they establish a deeper understanding than this of the complex and important factors, and the assumptions underlying them, that shape human services work. It is vital that human services practitioners recognise, reflect on and critique their own value base, as this base will influence their perceptions of social problems, their identification of what constitutes evidence to support their position and the decisions and actions they take in response to social problems. This chapter focuses on the extent to which values and beliefs have shaped the practice of assisting people experiencing disadvantage and the development of the human services professions, the extent to which values underpin everyday perceptions of the causes of disadvantage, the strengths and weaknesses of professional codes of ethics and the ways in which personal value bases impact the practitioner’s definition of and response to disadvantage.
Access to secure and appropriate housing is essential for individual health and wellbeing, and for community cohesion, strength and sustainability. It is a foundation for engagement with education, employment and social services. Housing must be affordable if people are to avoid homelessness or the inability to afford adequate food, clothing, medicines and essential services after paying their rent or mortgage costs, and is arguably a core human right, as outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948). Yet access to safe, secure and appropriate housing is not equal or equitable in contemporary Australia, where there are many examples of social and economic exclusion prevailing in locations where housing types and availability are both causes and outcomes of such exclusion. This chapter focuses on an understanding of the historical development of Australia’s housing policy, the centrality of housing availability and affordability in people’s lives, the current housing policy in terms of its implications for vulnerable groups, and the links between government responses to housing policy and the contested concepts of welfare.
Work is central to social and economic inclusion, and employment policy has long been a key focus for governments. But as with access to other resources in society, access to employment is not equitable, and differing levels of employment access often contribute to social ills. This chapter focuses on the ways in which work is central to welfare and social policy in Australia, the prevalence and implications of insecure work and under-employment and the groups most at risk of these patterns, the policy and funding decisions that have most impact on long-term unemployment in Australia, debates about workforce implications of recent immigration to Australia, and the importance of including people with disability in the workforce.
Social policy is both the academic study of the causes of social problems and social need, and the practicalities of policies and administrative arrangements undertaken by governments and other key players such as non-government organisations (NGOs) with the intention of improving citizen wellbeing, especially the wellbeing of members of a society who are experiencing disadvantage. It is much broader than the government provision of social security and personal support to protect people from life-course risks that may appear in childhood, sickness or old age. This chapter introduces ideological debates upon which contested concepts of welfare are based, key conceptual principles underpinning welfare state provision, the difference between equality and equity, and the role of that difference in relieving or exacerbating disadvantage, how government provision of resources and benefits is underpinned by political ideology and how such provision may be implemented, adjusted or indeed stopped as governments change, and the role of human services workers in implementing social policy and appreciating how this role has the potential to be either emancipatory or disempowering for the end users of services.
Citizenship confers an identity on an individual (such as being a member of a nation-state like Australia), but citizenship is also generally understood to confer rights and obligations. This chapter covers the extent to which non-citizenship and partial citizenship are associated with social exclusion, the relevance of citizenship concepts in promoting social cohesion, the similarities and differences between pre-1960s assimilation of immigrants and 2010s post-multicultural assimilation, and the relationship between globalisation and localism and what it can mean for social exclusion. It directs readers to locate their own values and practices within debates about diversity, rights and entitlements in contemporary Australian society.
Government policy made specifically for and about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, as distinct from other Australians, evolved from the time of white settlement in 1788. A range of social policy decisions arguably contributed to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experiencing multilevel disadvantage, including lower life expectancy and education levels, poorer physical and mental health and higher rates of infant mortality, unemployment, family violence, incarceration and homelessness than other Australians. This chapter focuses on the assumptions about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people that have underpinned past and present social policy, the impact of explicit and implicit racism in past and present policy focused on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, instances of Indigenous policy formulation flaws and delivery implementation gaps, and concepts of equity, citizenship and human rights to measures like compulsory income management. It encourages the reader to reflect on their own value base and practice in light of claims regarding white privilege and the control of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Social policy resists a neat, narrow definition, but broadly speaking it provides the framework for the welfare state – that is, the set of institutional arrangements established to achieve citizen wellbeing. The institutions most relevant to this discussion are generally categorised as the human services, and this draws a narrower focus than public policy, which is taken to refer to all elements of government intervention. The boundaries are blurred, however, because many aspects of public policy (such as taxation and – increasingly – climate change policies) involve distribution and redistribution of resources and generally aim for outcomes broadly compatible with those of social policy. This chapter introduces the concepts and debates circling social policy in Australia in the twenty-first century.
Australia’s system of human services early in the twenty-first century has built on the long-standing combination of service delivery by government departments and NGOs, although over time it has become an increasingly complex and multi-layered system, as described in Chapter 3. This complexity is evident in the way funding and contractual relationships between the state and NGOs have changed, and continue to change, impacting human services professionals, the agencies in which they work and ultimately the end users of services. This chapter covers funding models underpinning social policy implementation and the implication of these for NGOs and their workers, the impermanence of many government priorities and consequent funding for policy delivery and the ways in which this impacts NGOs, the implications for NGOs of governments’ adoption of new public management principles, contractual relationships between the state and NGOs as a precursor to more effective negotiation of contracts when working as a practitioner, and the ways in which the client–worker connection is affected by the terms of the state–NGO contractual funding relationship.
Human services NGOs have long played a key role in Australian social welfare, although the ways in which they have been funded or subsidised by governments have changed over time, as has the extent to which they have had autonomy and control over their own decision-making. At the start of the twenty-first century, human services delivered by NGOs were a driver of the fastest growing sector of the Australian labour force. This chapter focuses on the size, scope and importance of the human services sector in Australia, the policy and funding decisions that impact conditions for workers in human services NGOs, the ways in which a focus on NGOs operating in similar ways to for-profit organisations may change the modus operandi of NGOs and the relationships between workers in and clients of the sector, and debates about the roles and responsibilities of volunteers within the broader context of the human services.
Human services practitioners who are entering the field in the early twenty-first century, or who have worked in the field for some time and have seen wide-ranging changes in the ways human services are conceived, funded and delivered, face the same task of making sense of complexity at the government, organisational and grassroots levels. In analysing current social policy, it is appropriate to ask not only what is expected to be the impact of any proposed policy change on affected individuals and groups but also how the particular issue being addressed has come to be nominated as a social problem and which ideological forces are proposing change or opposing it. Social policy in Australia since white settlement has been shaped by dominant white, Judaeo-Christian values. Beyond that, any classification of Australian political dynamics and debates concerning social policy in terms of competing ideologies risks over-simplification. A distinguishing feature of successive Australian governments in the twentieth century was their respective approaches to social change being shaped by fundamentally different commitments to and strategies of social welfare provision.
Social policy encompasses the study of social needs, policy development and administrative arrangements aimed at improving citizen wellbeing and redressing disadvantage. Australian Social Policy and the Human Services introduces readers to the mechanisms of policy development, implementation and evaluation. This third edition emphasises the complexity of practice, examining the links and gaps between policy development and implementation and encouraging readers to develop a critical approach to practice. The text now includes an overview of Australia's political system and has been expanded significantly to cover contemporary issues across several policy domains, including changes in labour market structure, homelessness, mental health and disability, child protection and family violence, education policy, Indigenous initiatives, conceptualisations of citizenship, and the rights of diverse groups and populations. Written in an engaging and accessible style, Australian Social Policy and the Human Services is an indispensable resource for students and practitioners alike.
As one of Australia’s most controversial political topics, health policy was a major issue in federal elections from the 1940s through the 2010s. Decisions on the contested concepts of social policy play out in this arena as explicitly as any other aspect of social policy. This chapter covers the relationship between health and inequality, the impacts of health policy on vulnerable groups, the suitability of a market model of funding and delivery for health services, contested concepts of welfare within current government health policy, and the impact of Australia’s current health policy on NGOs and their workers.