The contradictions of individualized activation policy: Explaining the rise and demise of One to One Service in Australia
Recent research has documented a trend towards the individualization of activation policies. This study reviews a radical Australian effort to personalize the delivery of activation policies called the One to One Service initiative, which was abandoned shortly after its introduction. The paper asks: what does the brief and tumultuous tenure of this initiative reveal about the role of the individual in contemporary welfare administration and activation policy? Based on a theoretical engagement with the works of Ulrich Beck, Elizabeth Beck-Gernsheim and Anthony Giddens, and an ethnographic study of frontline interactions in Centrelink, Australia's national benefits agency, the paper argues we should understand the rise and fall of One to One Service in terms of contradictions between two competing forms of contemporary welfare individualization, referred to as 'democratic relationships' and 'compulsory choice'. One to One Service represented a push for individualized, democratic relationships between staff and clients; yet it was undermined because policy makers chose to emphasize an alternative form of individualization premised on forcing recipients to take responsibility for their lives and move off welfare. The findings have implications for the individualization, street level bureaucracy, and activation policy literatures.
Critical Social Policy