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New spaces for the local welfare state? The case of General Relief in Los Angeles County

Deverteuil, Geoffrey, Lee, Woobae and Wolch, Jennifer (2002) New spaces for the local welfare state? The case of General Relief in Los Angeles County Social & Cultural Geography, 3, (3), pp. 229-246. (doi:10.1080/1464936022000003514).

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The current 'hollowing out' and devolution of the national welfare state produces new spaces for the local welfare state, theoretically allowing more leeway to dismantle, privatize, further devolve, or even experiment with new local bureaucratic structures. At the same time, national devolution places greater burdens on local resources. Over the past twenty years, a series of theoretical frameworks have been proposed to understand local welfare strategies under these concomitant opportunities and pressures, including street-level bureaucracy, shadow and workfare states. Despite the usefulness of these frameworks, they have rarely been applied to the long-term evolution of specific local programmes. A particularly glaring omission is General Assistance (GA), which constitutes a major component of many local welfare states. To address this gap, we examine the past twenty years of General Relief (GR) policies in Los Angeles County. GR is a locally funded mandatory programme that provides aid of last resort for indigent individuals. In the face of exploding demand and rising expenditures, and unable to directly eliminate the programme, the County employed a variety of strategies designed to ration services and depress demand. In the 1980s, these strategies were articulated through low-level and indirect bureaucratic disentitlements, including quality control and spatial consolidation. By the 1990s, the County took a more direct route, cutting benefits in 1993 and imposing time-limits and workfare in 1997. Despite severe constraints, the evolution of GR strategies in Los Angeles County does suggest the emergence of genuinely new regulatory spaces, including a diminution of outlays, counter-balanced by the increasing micro-management of clients and the materialization of a workfare and even shadow state. At present, the local welfare state in Los Angeles County combines the convolution of Franz Kafka with the misery of Charles Dickens. While our review goes some way in redressing the critical lack of local case studies, there remains a need to investigate instances of new local regulatory spaces, to understand in depth the engagement of various strategies, mechanisms and even resistance. Le deacutemantegravelement courant de l'Etat-providence agrave l'eacutechelle nationale cegravede la place agrave de nouveaux services sociaux agrave l'eacutechelle locale, ouvrant en theacuteorie la voie agrave la privatisation, la reacuteorganisation et l'expeacutermentation de nouvelles structures bureaucratiques. Toutefois, le deacutemantegravelement du systegraveme national impute un plus grand fardeau aux ressources locales. Au cours des vingt derniegraveres anneacutees, plusieurs cadres theacuteoriques ont eacuteteacute proposeacutes afin de comprendre les strateacutegies locales de distribution de services sociaux face agrave ces pressions et opportuniteacutes, incluant les concepts de bureaucracie de rue et 'workfare state.' Malgreacute que ces cadres d'analyse soient utiles, ils ont rarement servi agrave eacutetudier l'eacutevolution agrave long terme de programmes locaux speacutecifiques. Ce manque est particuliegraverement flagrant en ce qui a trait agrave l'Assistance Geacuteneacuterale ('General Assistance', GA) qui constitue un eacuteleacutement majeur de beaucoup de services sociaux locaux. Afin de corriger cette lacune, nous analysons les vingt derniegraveres anneacutees de politiques eacuteconomiques et sociales relieacutees au Secours Geacuteneacuteral ('General Relief', GR) dans le comteacute de Los Angeles. GR est un programme obligatoire distribuant une aide de dernier recours aux personnes sans resource. Face agrave une demande et des coucircts grandissants et pourtant incapable d'eacuteliminer directement le programme, le comteacute mit en pratique une seacuterie de tactiques dans le but de rationner les services et faire baisser la demande. Dans les anneacutees 1980, ces tactiques furent deacuteployeacutees par le biais de droits bureaucratiques, incluant controcircle de la qualiteacute et consolidation spatiale. Degraves les anneacutees 1990 le comteacute adopta des moyens plus directs, coupant les allocations en 1993 et imposant des eacutecheacuteances et programmes de support agrave l'emploi (workfare) en 1997. Malgreacute ces seacutevegraveres contraintes, l'eacutevolution des strateacutegies de secours geacuteneacuteral dans le comteacute de Los Angeles indique l'eacutemergence de nouveaux espaces reacutegulatoires - incluant la diminution des deacutepenses - dont le contrepoids est la preacutesence grandissante de 'micro-geacuterance' des clients et la mateacuterialisation de l'aide agrave l'emploi et de l'ombre eacutetatique. Au moment preacutesent, l'Etat-providence local dans le comteacute de Los Angeles est agrave mi-chemin entre les circonvolutions de Franz Kafka et la misegravere de Charles Dickens. Si notre survol cherche agrave corriger le manque critique d'eacutetudes locales, le besoin demeure preacutesent d'investiguer les exemples de nouveaux espaces reacutegulatoires afin de comprendre agrave fond le chevauchement des diffeacuterentes strateacutegies, meacutecanismes et reacutesistances. La 'excavacioacuten' y la delegacioacuten actuales del estado de bienestar nacional producen nuevos espacios para el estado de bienestar local, lo cual, en teoriacutea, permite el desmontaje, la privatizacioacuten y maacutes delegacioacuten de la burocracia local o hasta la oportunidad de experimentar con nuevas estructuras de burocracia local. Al mismo tiempo, delegacioacuten nacional consume limitados recursos existentes en el aacutembito local. En los uacuteltimos veinte antildeos han sido propuestos una serie de marcos teoreacuteticos para mejor entender las estrateacutegicas de bienestar local implementadas bajo estas oportunidades y presiones concomitantes, incluso la burocracia al nivel de la calle, y los 'workfare states'. A pesar de la utilidad de estos marcos, raras veces han sido aplicados a la evolucioacuten a largo plazo de especiacuteficas programas locales. Una omisioacuten destacable es General Assistance (Asistencia General), lo cual constituye un componente importante de muchos estados de bienestar locales. Con el fin de cerrar esta brecha, examinamos las poliacuteticas de General Relief (GR) (Ayuda General) de los uacuteltimos veinte antildeos en Los Angeles County. GR es un programa mandatario, elaborado con fondos locales y que proporciona ayuda en uacuteltimo caso a individuos indigentes. En vista de la aumentando demanda y los gastos incrementados, y sin la autoridad de eliminar el programa de forma directa, el County empleoacute varias estrateacutegicas con el fin de racionar sus servicios y hacer bajar la demanda. En los antildeos 80, estas estrateacutegicas fueron articuladas por desautorizaciones burocraacuteticas, a bajo nivel e indirectas, y que incluiacutean control de calidad y consolidacioacuten espacial. En los antildeos 90, el County tomoacute una ruta maacutes directa; redujo subsidios en 1993 e impuso liacutemites-temporales y 'workfare' en 1997. A pesar de las severas restricciones, la evolucioacuten de las estrateacutegicas de GR en Los Angeles County sugiere la aparicioacuten de espacios reguladores verdaderamente nuevos, incluso una disminucioacuten de desembolsos, contrapesada con un aumento en el micro-manejo de clientes y la materializacioacuten de un 'workfare' o hasta 'shadow state'. Actualmente, el estado de bienestar en Los Angeles County combina la circunvolucioacuten de Franz Kafka con la miseria de Charles Dickens. Mientras que nuestra criacutetica compensa, hasta cierto punto, la carencia tan grave de estudios de casos locales, todaviacutea hace falta una investigacioacuten de ejemplos de nuevos espacios reguladores locales, para profundizar nuestro conocimiento del empleo de varias estrateacutegicas, mecanismos y hasta resistencia.

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Published date: September 2002
Keywords: Los Angeles County, general relief, local welfare state
Organisations: Economy Culture & Space


Local EPrints ID: 46650
ISSN: 1464-9365
PURE UUID: 6f646a02-80b6-473e-ab0c-232c19944104

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Date deposited: 11 Jul 2007
Last modified: 17 Jul 2017 15:06

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Author: Geoffrey Deverteuil
Author: Woobae Lee
Author: Jennifer Wolch

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