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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Public sector restraint and the social services : the case of the voluntary sector provision of personal social services in British Columbia Butcher, John


Restraint by government in the area of social service spending in the 1980's has become an issue of grave concern for social service practitioners, planners, and administrators . The emergence in North America of neo-conservative economic policies has engendered a body of critical and provocative literature which examines the effects of "restraint economics." The neo-conservative construction of a "post welfare State," propelled by economic crises, has involved a redefinition by the State of its mandate for the redistribution of the "public wage." The "privatisation" of services through reduction or cancellation of programs, the increasing use of contracted services, and through deinstitutionalisation and deregulation may obviate the redistributive aims of the welfare State and create instead a basis for more pervasive social and geographical inequity. The voluntary sector (non-government) human services have been challenged to "fill the gaps" left by government cutbacks, often in the face of declining levels of government support for that sector. It is the intent of this thesis to address the political economy of social services policy in British Columbia through an examination of the relationship between the Provincial government and the voluntary sector. This policy critique uses the voluntary sector as a window onto the political, economic and ideological agenda of the British Columbia government with special emphasis on social and economic legislation during the period 1983-1985. It will be argued that both the ideological bases and the social impacts of B.C.'s restraint legislation are reflections of neo-conservative challenges to the collecti-vistic principles of the welfare State observed in the United States and Great Britain. The thesis will proceed through two principal avenues: 1) a discussion of the teleology of neo-conservativism and its relationship to social and economic policy in B.C.. This section will provide the context against which the remainder of the thesis will be cast; and, 2) a detailed discussion of the nature of the voluntary sector and a comparison of the effects of public sector restraint upon voluntaristic social services in the United States and British Columbia. The latter will be accomplished through the juxtaposition of a sizeable literature on the effects of restraint in the U.S. with the findings of a province-wide questionnaire survey of voluntary agencies conducted by the author in January 1985. It is posited that social and economic policy in B.C. is a Canadian manifestation of the anti-welfare-statism implicit in Reaganomics of the U.S. and Thatchernomics of the U.K. On the basis of theoretical and empirical reflections on the effects of ideologically-informed restraint measures, the author will conclude by assessing the future prospects for Canadian social policy.

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