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The customer concept in welfare administration: front‐line views in Jobcentre Plus

Patrice Rosenthal (Department of Management, King's College, London, UK)
Riccardo Peccei (Department of Management, King's College, London, UK)

International Journal of Public Sector Management

ISSN: 0951-3558

Article publication date: 1 January 2006

Abstract

Purpose

Aims to analyse the reactions of front‐line staff to the use of the “customer” label in Jobcentre Plus, the new agency charged with structural and cultural reform of benefit administration in the UK and to highlight some key challenges and possibilities faced by “new public management” reformers in attempts to re‐present recipients of public services as customers.

Design/methodology/approach

Data are drawn from semi‐structured interviews with 39 front‐line workers in 14 public offices, conducted as part of the second phase of a study on staff perceptions of the Jobcentre Plus reform.

Findings

The majority of those interviewed reported awareness of and agreement with the customer label. More substantive views point to the ambiguous and shifting meanings applied by public sector workers to the customer role per se, and to its complex and multifaceted application to the Jobcentre Plus context.

Research limitations/implications

Provides a systematic account of front‐line workers' attitudinal reactions to the incursion of the customer concept. However, the impact on users of the system is a question for further research.

Practical implications

Identifies a set of possibilities and challenges inherent in attempts to manage relevant cultural change amongst the front‐line of public service provision.

Originality/value

Provides a systematic account of the views of front‐line workers to the customerisation of public service provision, an issue of interest both to researchers and to practitioners.

Keywords

Citation

Rosenthal, P. and Peccei, R. (2006), "The customer concept in welfare administration: front‐line views in Jobcentre Plus", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 19 No. 1, pp. 67-78. https://doi.org/10.1108/09513550610640401

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited