Through case-study research, Majka Ryan offers a systematic microanalysis of discretion in a specific context of residence-based welfare conditionality derived from the labour movement directive 2004/38/EC. The latter is utilised in the coordination of social security benefits for mobile EU citizens across Europe. Ryan reveals that in Ireland and other jurisdictions, official rights, be they supranational or local, when translated into practice are shaped by different political, organisational and decision-making actors, consequently leading to an uneven distribution of substantive rights and unequal outcomes for different groups of people, disproportionately affecting those who must prove their deservingness. This book evidences how residence-based welfare conditions create a context where power is exercised freely by street-level decision-makers and illustrates how that power affects different groups in society, and consequently, how through those practices, the hegemonic discourses around legitimacy of access to public resources are reproduced.
Dr. Majka Ryan is an assistant professor in the Department of Work and Employment Studies at the Kemmy Business School, University of Limerick, Ireland. Majka has led a variety of research projects in the areas of policy implementation, organisational change, access to education and poverty and migration. Her teaching and research interests are in the areas of public institutions, ethical decision-making, discretion as an organisational policy and practice, organisational culture, equality and diversity, employment and unemployment and the welfare state.
The Context of Residence-Based Conditionality
Conceptualising Discretionary Decision-Making in Welfare Institutions
Outline of Chapters
Chapter 1: Discourses of Discretion in Welfare Bureaucracies
Exploring the Meaning of Discretion in Welfare Bureaucracy
The Role of Discretion in Public Service
The role of discretion in a context of legislative and policy ambiguity
Street-Level Bureaucrats and Discretion
Decision-makers and citizens
Exceptional moments and favouratism
Organisational Culture and Discretionary Practice
Public expectations towards decision-makers
Legitimacy of discretionary practice and decision-maker accountability
Chapter 2: Theorising Discretionary Power on Access to Social Assistance
Ethical Determinants of Decision-Making
Morality of deservingness
Dilemmas in Decision-Making
Occupational Discretion and Organisational Socialisation
Organisational imprinting and workers socialization
Variations in decision-making
Double agents: Contrasting identities of social policy implementers
Understanding Decision-Makers’ Perspectives of Rules and Discretion in the Provision of Social Assistance
Nomocracy and telocracy
Exploring Determinants of Discretionary Practice through Street-Level Bureaucracy Theories
The Lipsky approach: self-interested determinants of discretion
Critical overview of the dominant narrative
Client-centred decision-making: Citizen Agent Narrative
Chapter 3: Residence-Based Conditionality and Mobile EU Citizens’ Social Rights
What Is Residence-Based Conditionality and Why Does It Matter
‘Safeguarding’ Welfare Systems against Mobile EU Citizens at Supra- and National-Levels
Legal and Habitual Residence and Their Applicability across Different Welfare Regimes
Chapter 4: Social Security, Discretion and Residence-Based Conditionality in Ireland
Social Security in Ireland: Past and Present
From the Poor Law to National Insurance
Free State and modern social security
Social-security reform in the last two decades
The Habitual Residence Condition
What is the Irish HRC?
The legal framework of the HRC
The effect of the HRC on citizens
HRC decision-making organisations
Department of Social Protection
The decision-making process
Chapter 5: Operationalising Discretion
Organisational Background of HRC Decision-Makers
How are the decision-makers equipped to make HRC decisions?
Understanding of the legislation in practical terms
Organisational culture and discretion
The HRC Decisions
Determinants of Decisions
Right to reside
The five factors
Centre of interest
A holistic approach
When clients do not provide information
Interactions with applicants
Chapter 6: The Dynamics of Discretionary Decision-Making
Moral Economies of Decision-Making: It’s The Right Thing to Do
Nomocratic Approach to Discretion
Protecting the public purse: deserving vs. undeserving applicant
The aim is consistency
Subjectivity of decisions
Telocratic Approach to Discretion
Discretion for the benefit of clients
The Impact of External-Organisational Forces on Decision-Making Processes
Should There Be Discretion in Decision-Making on The HRC?
What Is Discretion?
Decision-Makers’ Approaches Towards Discretion
Factors Determining Approaches to Discretion
Moral economies: motivations
Discretionary Practice and Residence-Based Welfare Conditionality
About the Author
Majka Ryan’s informative book introduces readers to an increasingly central issue in modern welfare states—the use of residency rules to control access to benefits. She explores how these rules are interpreted and applied on the ground through a rich and engaging case study. Drawing on street-level theory, she sets out the cloud of ambiguous policies and the organizational tensions within which decisions must be made and explores the central role of discretion in decision-making. This is an engaging and well-written study that also explores how moral commitments and organizational socialization contribute to the uses of discretion. The question of democratic accountability is central to the argument of this book, and Ryan uses the evidence to argue that rather than seeking accountability in rule specification and compliance, accountability entails recognizing and managing discretion to ensure flexible and sensitive decision-making.
Discretion is both important at a conceptual level and varied at the level of practice in the context of welfare bureaucracies. An underexamined area and seemingly innocuous, how discretion works is, in reality, vastly complex. In this work of impressive scholarship, Ryan skillfully brings together the conceptual and the practical to offer compelling insights into how welfare bureaucracies in Ireland function from day to day. Essential reading.
'Discretion, like the hole in a doughnut, does not exist except as an area left open by surrounding belt of restrictions,' Roland Dworkin famously said in 1978. In a systematic approach, the book elaborates on the space created by 'surrounding restrictions', and shows how it is in a constant flux, as those who apply to rules and those who make the rules, form, test, and re-form the interpretation of the restrictions. The reader is then immersed in the processes through which the street-level bureaucrats make use of the discretion they have in the interstitial space between law, organizational guidelines, and their own ethics and sense of duty. The analysis draws on the well-chosen case of habitual residence, a criterion set in place to help evaluate demands for social assistance and distinguish those legitimate from the abusive ones.
With a readable style and full of rich information, this book is a must for scholars steeped in the debates related to the role, scope, and impact of street-level bureaucrats’ discretion, and for anyone interested in the intricacies of bureaucratic decision making. The multitude of revealing quotes show professional bureaucrats grappling with ethical questions, while at the same time balancing the expectations set by their organizations and the application of the legal framework, rules, and procedures. The author’s main argument is that professional morality is both rational and pragmatic, and it is guided by experience embedded in social structure and organizational socialization.
Majka Ryan’s book makes an excellent contribution to the literature on street level bureaucracy in welfare states. By tackling the ambiguity involved in interpreting and implementing residence-based welfare conditionality through an Irish case study, Ryan offers original and compelling insights into the workings of moral economy at ground level and how this affects migrant entitlement to social security in particular.