Thematic Panel 7- Whole system reform in social care

Convenors- Emily Burn and Catherine Needham, University of Birmingham

Many countries have undertaken wide-ranging reforms of social care for older and disabled people in recent years. Examples include the National Disability Insurance Scheme in Australia, long-term care reform in South Korea, and the proposed National Care Service in Scotland. Such reforms require attention to multiple elements, including funding, assessment and eligibility, workforce, boundaries with other formal systems (e.g. health) and with informal support networks. Studying large-scale reforms therefore requires attention to the ‘policy mix’ (Carey et al, 2019; Needham and Hall, forthcoming), and to how policies intersect in complex and emergent ways. Rather than assuming that reform strands are complementary, we need to recognise and study their interdependence. For example, funding reforms may reshape provision in ways that undermine other policy objectives (e.g. better pay and conditions for workers).  

Such analyses also have to recognise wider sources of system flux, which shape policy choices and interdependencies. These can be rapid (e.g. Covid-19) or slower (population ageing). Analyses of whole system change also require an awareness of transitions in the experiences and expectations of the people who give and receive care, which shapes understanding of whether or not care policies are ‘working’. National policy systems are also influenced by, and will influence, system change in other national contexts through the complex ‘bordering’ work that goes on in relation to care (Yuval-Davies et al, 2008). 

We invite papers which consider the interrelationship between aspects of care system reforms. Abstracts should indicate the country context/s being studied, which reforms are covered in the paper, and what can be learned from taking a whole system perspective to policy reform. Whilst we expect that the panel papers will be mainly empirical, we will also consider papers which explore what policy theory or methods can offer to studies of the interaction between concurrent care reforms.