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‘At the Coalface’: The Role of the Street Level Bureaucrat in Provision of Statutory Services to Older People Affected by Homelessness

Alden, Sarah L (2015) ‘At the Coalface’: The Role of the Street Level Bureaucrat in Provision of Statutory Services to Older People Affected by Homelessness. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Research has revealed that households affected by homelessness in England have increased due to the combined effects of an economic downturn and political austerity. Yet due primarily to the latter statutory provision to meet these extra demands have, if anything, decreased. This thesis employs Lipsky’s street level bureaucrat conceptual framework to assess the effectiveness of Local Authority Housing Option Service (LAHOS) provision in respect of older people at threat of homelessness in England. More specifically it considers how frontline delivery at the individual level coalesces with organisational and central level determinants. Lipsky maintained that resource scarcity and higher level pressures underpinned an inability to undertake public sector roles effectively. Investigations which have shown that LAHOSs at times resort to illegitimate gatekeeping to meet politically motivated objectives or in order to protect limited local supplies lend additional support to this argument. Although households of all ages are potentially vulnerable to homelessness, it has been found that older people lose their home due to a unique combination of singular or aggregate causations. Further, in many respects the housing need of older people has been shown to be qualitatively distinct from other groups. Despite this, evidence suggests that policy is persistently failing to address these issues due to a tendency to homogenise older people, or focus on the ‘oldest old’ who require care or support services. Yet homelessness amongst ‘younger’ older people is likely to increase in parallel to the expected exponential rise in the percentage of people over 50 in the population. A multi faceted research design was adopted to explore the wider conditions of provision alongside the delivery mechanisms at the meso and micro levels. This incorporated a national baseline survey, 27 individual interviews in 12 LAHOSs and a group interview with third sector professionals. It was found that service outcomes were negatively affected by pressures due to resource shortages and role objectives set at a higher level. It was further identified that individual or peer level factors, such as categorising particular service users within narrow or stereotypical frames, could also impact upon decision making processes. Overall, the application of Lipsky’s framework to homelessness services proved an effective tool to assess the complex interplay between higher level and frontline role pressures, highlighting where policy makers should consider directing change. However, the model is best viewed as a conceptual guide to frontline statutory implementation, rather than as a prescriptive ‘one size fits all’ approach.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: homelessness, policy implementation, older people, street level bureaucrat
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Social Sciences (Sheffield) > Sociological Studies (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.640675
Depositing User: Ms Sarah L Alden
Date Deposited: 23 Mar 2015 10:13
Last Modified: 03 Oct 2016 12:09
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/8378

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