Speeding up or reaching out?
Efficiency and unmet need as policy priorities in Wales
The Welsh Assembly, a devolved legislature in the UK, and its executive the Welsh Government, have a distinctly intensive commitment to equality – emphasising universality with weighty obligations on public services. This article uses the ‘discourse-historical approach’ (DHA) to critically review an eleven-year social service reform strategy (produced in 2007), and to weigh up its emphasis on fiscal efficiency and universal equality. We refer to these competing priorities as ‘speeding up’ and ‘reaching out’, respectively. Our findings show an imbalance towards the former, largely sidelining the possible value of services to those currently under-served. The article discusses this mismatch in respect of the dominant policymaking framework of ‘New Public Management’ and its emphases on productivity, efficiency, and quantifiable accountability. We also show the value of DHA in analysing ‘fights for dominance’ – in this case between competing discourses within a flagship policy document.
Keywords: Discourse-historical approach, social exclusion, social policy, social services, Wales, Welsh Government
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