Smithies, Rachel (2005) Public and private welfare activity in the United Kingdom, 1979 to 1999. CASEpaper, 93. Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK.
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This paper analyses the shifting balance between public sector and private sector welfare provision in the United Kingdom over the past two decades. Five sectors – education, health, personal social services, housing, and income maintenance and social security – are examined over three time points, 1979/80, 1995/96, and 1999/2000. Burchardt’s (1997) typology is used to classify welfare activities according to who funds them, who provides them, and who decides on the provider and/or amount of service. It is found that shifts in the composition of welfare activity have been relatively small and gradual: around half of all welfare activity, dropping from 52 percent to 49 percent, is entirely public; around a quarter, rising from 24 percent to 29 percent, is entirely private; and the remainder involves a mixture of both sectors. Within the latter group, there was a notable increase over time in the contracting-out of public services, which rose from 6 percent to 10 percent of all welfare activity.
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