Government Officers' Expectations of Non-Government Welfare Organisations: A Discussion Paper

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This study is an attempt to explore the uneasy relationship between government officers and non-government welfare organizations (NGWOs) in Australia. These officers have a profound influence on the determination of funding outcomes for the many thousands of NGWOs which receive government funding. Those with the best knowledge of the NGWOs are not those officers in the top echelons of government departments, but rather the overworked, perpetually harassed middle ranking officers who work face to face with the agencies - who visit, attend meetings, discuss problems, advise in preparing submissions etc. These officers have a great deal more discretion in their activities than do those involved in the payment of pensions or benefits to individuals. The uneasy relationship emerges from the fact that those at the workface carry a heavy burden in that they are the ones who encourage groups to make submissions for funds. They counsel the groups about the process, yet they cannot ensure any particular outcome. If they make a positive recommendation which is not acted upon, the agency in question may feel that the particular officer has let them down. If they make negative recommendations and their recommendations are acted upon, a powerful group will go over their heads, often to the Minister to have the decision reversed. When budgetary conditions are tight these officers are the front-line troops - those who are expected to be a buffer between agency and government. This study was undertaken to inform participants in the welfare industry of the range of expectations which are found among a sample of government officers. The interviews were carried out in October/November 1981, January 1982 and August/ September 1982. There have been methodological problems in gathering and reporting the evidence. The questionnaire was carefully devised, and piloted, and administered to a stratified sample. The results were not easily quantifiable and to present the flavour of the responses, extensive quotations have been used.
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Graycar, Adam
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