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Workfare: Why Good Social Policy Ideas Go Bad

Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 256
  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Quad delves into the definition and history of workfare, and then continues with a critical and comparative analysis of workfare programs in six jurisdictions: California, Wisconsin, New York, Alberta, Ontario, and New Brunswick.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8365-5
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-2)
  4. 1. Introduction
    (pp. 3-17)

    We have all had our share of good ideas – sometimes even great ideas. We have all worked for organizations that have introduced ′transforming ideas′ and ′groundbreaking innovations,′ but which have ultimately effected little change. In some cases, the ′good idea′ never finds its way out of policy reports, the document standing as the only vestige of an honourable intention. In other cases, the good idea goes ahead, full steam, spreading across jurisdictions far and wide – and then, slowly but surely, it turns from good to bad, not quite delivering what it promised, or collapsing into confusion as expectations...

  5. 2. What Is Workfare? Something, Nothing, or Anything and Everything?
    (pp. 18-29)

    As is so often the case with anything that at first glance seems to be dramatically innovative, that which claims to be ′new′ is rarely original. Workfare is no exception. Workfare has existed for many years and has appeared in many different guises. Yet to say that workfare offers nothing new is to underestimate it. While workfare has certainly been ′out there′ for a while, it is now here to be noticed. Part of its new appeal lies in the clever and simple name of ′workfare.′ It condenses, in one word, all of the hopes and dreams of politicians and...

  6. 3. Policy Chic: Putting the Poor to Work
    (pp. 30-50)

    It is the nature of a good idea that it emerges from whatever wider set of social beliefs happen to be in vogue at the time. In the case of workfare, it was the 1980s rhetoric of efficiency and accountability that proved to be a congenial ideological environment for the development of workfare policies. Thus, workfare did not develop in isolation of a social context, but it was consistent with values that commanded broad support within society. Indeed, workfare was itself borne of another good idea – that of ′public accountability.′

    Sometimes the same, or a very similar, good idea...

  7. 4. California′s GAIN Program – The Operation Was a Success but the Patient Died
    (pp. 51-71)

    California′s GAIN (Greater Avenues for Independence) program served as a model for the design of the federal U.S. JOBS program. GAIN was a mandatory workfare program that was based on the belief that long-term training and education were the appropriate vehicles to move welfare workers into the workplace – into not just jobs, but careers. GAIN began in 1985 and lasted thirteen years, to 1998, when it was replaced by the new workfare program that operates under the name of CalWORKS. Thanks to generous formal evaluations, GAIN was widely perceived to be a testament to the value of ′long-term investment...

  8. 5. Wisconsin – Tommy Thompson and His Welfare Miracle
    (pp. 72-97)

    Wisconsin believes that immediate attachment to the workforce is the best hope that welfare recipients have for self-sufficiency. Between 1987, the year that Governor Tommy Thompson began his welfare reforms, and 1999, the state′s welfare rolls dropped 91 per cent. With a population of about 5 million and a relatively low unemployment rate (averaging 4 per cent), Wisconsin went from one hundred thousand welfare cases in 1987 to nine thousand in 1999. Tommy Thompson faced two great dangers in keeping his ′good idea′ good. The first was the possibility that the policy-makers would design a blanket policy for a population...

  9. 6. New York City′s Work Experience Program – ′Same Shit, Different Day′
    (pp. 98-120)

    The centrepiece of New York City′s welfare reform is a massive program called the Work Experience Program (WEP). New York City′s ambitious workfare program, instituted in 1995, is unique in that it hinges on the substantial development of public sector jobs, most of which are manual or menial in nature. More than one hundred thousand welfare recipients have moved through the program, and, according to Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, the program has been an unmitigated success. While many welfare recipients have, indeed, been ushered through the WEP and welfare rolls have dropped dramatically, there are lingering questions about the efficacy of...

  10. 7. ′Learnfare′ in New Brunswick – Tune In, Turn On, Drop Out
    (pp. 121-146)

    NB Works was a voluntary ′learnfare′ program aimed at single parents (overwhelmingly female) on welfare. The program was based on the assumption that the main reason why single mothers remain on welfare is that they do not have the necessary education to obtain a successful career. Those single mothers on welfare who were selected to participate in NB Works would be financially supported while they completed high school equivalency and then acquired a marketable skill at a community college (this supported education could last up to three and a half years). This good idea was meant to allow the single...

  11. 8. Alberta′s Mandatory ′Voluntary Opportunities′
    (pp. 147-171)

    Alberta′s welfare caseload declined more than 60 per cent (from a monthly caseload of 94,087 in 1993 to 34,464 in 1998). This decline can be attributed to a number of reforms introduced by Progressive Conservative Premier Ralph Klein, including tighter eligibility criteria, technical adjustments to the system, and philosophical changes to the administrative culture of Alberta Family and Social Services (e.g., turning the welfare caseworker into an employment counsellor). Among these reforms were three supposedly ′Voluntary′ work experience programs. Able and employable welfare recipients (except parents of small children) must participate in either training or employment. The work experience programs...

  12. 9. The Ontario Works Program – Mutiny on the Bounty
    (pp. 172-193)

    The history of workfare in Ontario is the story of trade unions and special interest groups that were resolved to never permit the proposed ′community service′ aspect of workfare to be implemented, regardless of how well or badly workfare was designed (and it could have been better designed). Thanks to government bureaucrats who never bought into the idea of workfare in the first place, the ′work placement′ (as opposed to job search or training) dimension of workfare never really materialized. The social-worker culture in Ontario, supported heavily by activists and lobby groups, favour classroom training over work experience.

    The welfare...

  13. 10. Why Good Ideas Go Bad: A Six-Hazard Model
    (pp. 194-232)

    This chapter presents a summary sketch of what we have learned in previous chapters and assesses the implications that these lessons have for policy-makers. (Any conclusions about events in the ′real world′ have their inadequecies, and those offered here are no exception.) Based on a study of six welfare-to-work stories, I have developed a six-hazard model that can be used to trace how a ′good idea′ turns ′bad.′ The model shows the problems associated with the implementation and evaluation of major policy initiatives. It is intended to offer the reader a comprehensive overview of otherwise confusing terrain, although, as with...

  14. References
    (pp. 233-240)
  15. Index
    (pp. 241-244)