Governance Gap
Central-Local Steering & Mental Health Reform in Britain & Sweden

By: Wendy Maycraft Kall
December 2010
Uppsala University Press
Distributed by Coronet Books
ISBN: 9789155479640
400 pages
$99.50 Paper original

What influences governments to choose certain types of geovernment and steering strategies and not others? This is a problem facing many governments in the era of public management reforms, where policies are decided at national level while service responsibilities are decentralised and implemented by lower levels. Thus the main mechanism for governments to influence the implementation of these national reforms is through its choice of strategies and instruments to fill the governance gap between national policy-making and local governmant.

The steering strategy selection is analysed in a comparative case study of the mental health reforms in Britain and Sweden. The reforms had similar aims and content of municipalities playing an increased role in community care for the psychiatrically disablesd. However, despite the apparent similarities in the construction of the two reforms; Britain chose harder governance and steering strategies, while Sweden chose soft. To account for these differences a triad of influences is identified and investigated. The three dimensions of the triad are adminsitrative traditions, professions and policy framing.

The main findings of this study are that institutional approaches alone are insufficient to explain choices of hard and soft goevernance: the selection of steering strategy in not only path dependent, but is also part of a dynamic process where the framing of policy by politicians influences the governance strategies and steering instruments selected. The perspective of professions gave mixed results at municipal level and may require more theoretical development, or the mixed results may be linked to municipal social work's low status as a weak profession that resulted in limited influence.

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