The voice of the community: socio-economic inequalities and user involvement in public services

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Following Hirschman, two key methods can be identified for ensuring that users of public services shape the content and delivery of those services. The first consists of quasi-market mechanisms that enable users to choose which services they access ('exit'). The second comprises consultation mechanisms that enable users to state what services they would like ('voice'). The UK government has increasingly adopted the former strategy in developing policy on public services for England. However, the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales have been reluctant to introduce quasi-market mechanisms and instead have been inclined to rely on 'voice' for acquiring user input. They have argued that to choose effectively in a quasi-market users require access to resources (time, education, mobility) that are unequally distributed across the population. Consequently, the information about user preferences conveyed by the 'exit' mechanism is likely to be biased and unrepresentative. However, 'voice' might be thought vulnerable to the same criticism. This chapter uses survey data collected in the UK in 2007 to demonstrate that willingness to be involved in 'voice' does indeed vary across the population but that the views of those who are willing to get involved may still be representative.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCitizenship and Social Development
Subtitle of host publicationCitizen Participation and Community Involvement in Social Welfare and Social Policy
EditorsLitsa Nicolaou-Smokoviti, Heinz Sünker, Julia Rozanova
Place of PublicationFrankfurt am Main
PublisherPeter Lang AG
ISBN (Print)9783631640227
Publication statusPublished - 2013

Publication series

NameArbeit, Bildung & Gesellschaft / Labour, Education & Society


  • voice of the community
  • socio-economic
  • inequalities
  • user involvement
  • public services


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