Users as citizens: collective action and the local governance of welfare

  • Barnes M
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Self-organization amongst users of community care services preceded the consumerist developments of the 1980s and early 1990s, but can be considered to have been "legitimized" by top-down objectives relating to "user involvement". Nevertheless, the objectives and value bases of disabled people's organizations and organizations of users (or survivors) of mental health services have not always been consistent with those of consumerism, and user groups have experienced tensions in determining the extent to which they should respond to official agendas. Drawing on theories of new social movements and of citizenship, this paper considers the developing place of user organizations within systems of local governance. It looks at the way in which groups have sought to assert the legitimacy both of experiential knowledge and of their position as citizens in the face of official responses which have constructed them as self-interested pressure groups. It draws on empirical research investigating local groups of disabled people and of mental health service users conducted in the first part of the 1990s. It discusses the significance of shared identity as a basis for collective action alongside more pragmatic motivations to influence the nature of health and social care services. In the context of appeals to "community" and "partnership" which are starting to replace the discourse of markets and contracts as the key metaphor for both policy-making and service delivery, the article considers likely future roles for groups comprising people often excluded from community.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Citizenship
  • Disabled Persons
  • Health
  • Health Service
  • Legitimation
  • Mental Health Services
  • Metaphor
  • Policy making
  • System
  • UCP
  • UCP-Theorie
  • action
  • agenda
  • care
  • citizen
  • collective action
  • community
  • consumerism
  • context
  • contract
  • development
  • discourse
  • extent
  • future
  • governance
  • group
  • health services
  • identity
  • influence
  • knowledge
  • local
  • market
  • mental health
  • mental-health
  • motivation
  • new social movements
  • organization
  • position
  • pressure
  • pressure group
  • research
  • response
  • role
  • self-organisation
  • services
  • shared
  • social
  • social care
  • social movement
  • systems
  • theory
  • user
  • user group
  • user involvement
  • value
  • welfare

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  • Marian (University of Birmingham) Barnes

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