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The consumer in public services

The consumer in public services
Choice, values and difference

Richard Simmons, Martin Powell, Ian Greener
Paperback, 304 pages, 234 x 156 mm
Other formats available
15 Apr 2009


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North America customers can order this book here from the University of Chicago Press.

"Drawing on cutting edge research, this book brings together an impressive list of contributors to unpack a deceptively simple idea. A must for anyone interested in the future of public services."
Marilyn Taylor, Professor of Urban Governance and Regeneration, University of the West of England

About This Book

This book challenges existing stereotypes about the 'consumer as chooser'. It shows how we must develop a more sophisticated understanding of consumers, examining their place and role as users of public services. The analysis shows that there are many different 'faces' of the consumer and that it is not easy to categorise users in particular environments. Drawing on empirical research, "The consumer in public services" critiques established assumptions surrounding citizenship and consumption. Choice may grab the policy headlines but other essential values are revealed as important throughout the book. One issue concerns the 'subjects' of consumerism, or who it is that presents themselves when they come to use public services. Another concerns consumer 'mechanisms', or the ways that public services try to relate to these people. Bringing these issues together for the first time, with cutting-edge contributions from a range of leading researchers, the message is that today's public services must learn to cope with a differentiated public. This book will be of interest to scholars and students in the fields of social policy and public administration. It will also appeal to policy-makers leading 'user-focused' public service reforms, as well as those responsible for implementing such reforms at the frontline of modern public services.

Author Biography

Richard Simmons is Lecturer in Social Policy at the University of Stirling, Scotland. His research focuses on the governance and delivery of public services, especially in the application of user perspectives. Martin Powell is Professor of Health and Social Policy at the Health Services Management Centre, University of Birmingham. His research interests include welfare theory, policy evaluation and health policy. Ian Greener is Reader in Social Policy at Durham University. He has written widely about health policy and organisation in the UK.


Introduction: Managing the 'unmanageable consumer' ~ Martin Powell, Shane Doheny, Ian Greener and Nick Mills
Part one: The 'new politics' of public service consumption: New Labour and public service consumers ~ Eric Shaw
Narratives of public service delivery in the UK: comparing central and local government ~ Catherine Needham
Part two: Defining the consumer in public services: Differentiating consumers in professionalised services ~ Angus Laing, Gill Hogg and Terry Newholm
The differentiated consumer in public services: user perspectives ~ Richard Simmons
Part three: The public service consumer in context: The consumer in health services ~ Martin Powell and Ian Greener
The consumer in education ~ Catherine Farrell
The consumer in housing ~ Nick Mills
Awkward customers? Policing in a consumer age ~ John Clarke, Janet Newman and Louise Westmarland
Part four: The future: visions of the consumer: Authoritative consumers or experts by experience? User groups in health and social care ~ Marian Barnes
Differentiated consumers? A differentiated view from a service user perspective ~ Peter Beresford
The public service consumer as 'member' ~ Johnston Birchall and Richard Simmons
Conclusions ~ Richard Simmons and Martin Powell


Customers in Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei must order from their local distributor

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