Public Services, Private Values
: The Society of the Merchant Venturers of Bristol and the Changing World of Welfare Service Provision in England, 1975-2017

  • Theresa A Mckeon

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Abstract


This dissertation analyses the historical intersection between welfare state retrenchment policies and philanthropy on a local scale between 1975 and 2017; an intersection that developed through successive cross-party government policies which curtailed the power and responsibilities of local authorities and sought to transfer the provision of state services to private-sector and philanthropic providers, themselves operating competitively to improve services and ‘client’ satisfaction. This dissertation uses a case study approach to examine this national trend on a local scale by tracing the transfer of private-sector values onto the provision of welfare services. It focuses on one philanthropic organisation, the elite Society of Merchant Venturers (SMV) and one local authority, Bristol. An organisation comprised of businesspeople, SMV was built on and operated with private-sector values, but it has also, through the determination of some of its members, become a significant philanthropic provider of welfare services in Bristol over the past forty years. It is this tension between private-sector practices, philanthropic purpose and the Society’s role as provider of public services that this thesis uncovers, placing particular emphasis on the effect non-statutory providers had on the quality and nature of local welfare services, as well as within SMV itself. Part one concerns education, where SMV attempted to bring about a cultural shift in its pupils at its academies through the implementation of private-school practices with mixed results. Part two considers how its care homes modernised and professionalised their services as SMV sought to fill a vacuum in provision for elderly people created by welfare state retrenchment policies. In doing so, SMV risked focusing its attention on private-sector values rather than the philanthropic aspect of its work. Overall, this thesis uses the case study of SMV to argue that welfare state retrenchment was a far more localised process than has hitherto been acknowledged, more influenced by local factors and actors with their own complex agenda, values and institutional histories. This research also has wider implications beyond Bristol and SMV. Welfare state retrenchment of the provision of services affected the nature of state-maintained services across England, as well as the philanthropic sector as a whole.
Date of Award23 Jan 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorGrace Huxford (Supervisor) & Hugh Pemberton (Supervisor)

Keywords

  • Philanthropy
  • welfare state
  • public-private partnerships

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