Professor Catherine Needham

Professor Catherine Needham

Health Services Management Centre
Professor of Public Policy and Public Management

Contact details

School of Social Policy, HSMC
Park House
University of Birmingham
B15 2RT

Catherine Needham is Professor of Public Policy and Public Management. She is based at the Health Services Management Centre, developing research around social care and new approaches to public service workforce development.

Catherine’s areas of special interest include:

  • Personalisation and coproduction within public services
  • Social care reform
  • Workforce change in public services
  • Interpretive approaches to public policy


  • DPhil Politics, Nuffield College, Oxford (2004)
  • MSc Politics Research, Nuffield College, Oxford (1999)
  • BA (Hons) in Politics and Parliamentary Studies, University of Leeds (1996)


Catherine Needham graduated from the University of Leeds in 1996, and worked for political strategist Philip Gould prior to undertaking an MSc (1999) and DPhil (2004) at Nuffield College, Oxford. She worked in the School of Politics and International Relations at Queen Mary, University of London from 2003 to 2012. She joined the University of Birmingham in 2012 as a Senior Lecturer in Public Policy and Public Management.

Catherine’s research focuses on reform of public services, with particular emphasis on the introduction of consumerist models of service delivery. She is interested in the relative role of quasi-markets and consumer-centred models of decision-making compared to those based on notions of citizenship and publicness. Taking an interpretive approach to policy analysis, she has examined the different ‘narratives of consumerism' contained within recent welfare reforms in the UK , drawing on content analysis of government documents and interviews with policy makers, service users and staff.

Her most recent work has focused on the personalisation of public services, with a particular interest in social care services, examining the relationship between the meta-narrative of personalisation and the frontline practice of service redesign. She is also interested in individualised budgets within public services, and the dynamics through which they reshape service provision. She is also exploring how policy ideas and mechanisms spread across different service sectors, using theories of policy transfer and translation.

Catherine also has an interest in public service workforce change, exploring how the roles, skills and values of public service workers are changing. Her research on the 21st Century Public Servant has been widely used within training for the public service workforce. 

Postgraduate supervision

Catherine would welcome PhD students interested in aspects of the following: 

  • Social care systems
  • Personalisation and coproduction in social care
  • Public service reform, focused on the UK, or putting the UK in comparative perspective. 


Catherine is involved in the following research:

Previous projects (since joining University of Birmingham)

  • Does Smaller Mean Better? Evaluating micro-enterprises in adult social care (2013)
  • AHRC Connected Communities Policy Review – ‘Connecting research with communities: redefining service delivery’ (2012-13)
  • Social Care Institute for Excellence: commissioned to undertake an evidence review and prepare evidence tables for a Research Briefing on co-production in adult social care (2013)
  • Care Watch: Evaluating lay inspectors for home care (2012)


Recent publications


Needham, C, Allen, K, Burn, E, Hall, K, Mangan, C, Al-Janabi, H, Tahir, W, Carr, S, Glasby, J, Henwood, M & McKay, S 2022, 'How do you shape a market? Explaining local state practices in adult social care', Journal of Social Policy.

Mortensen, NM & Needham, C 2022, '‘I do not want to be one of her favourites.’ Emotional display and the co-production of frontline care services', Public Management Review.

Griffiths, M, Hummell, E, Fisher, K, Borg, S, Needham, C & Venning, A 2021, 'Organisations adapting to dual aspirations of individualisation and collaboration in the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) market', Australian Journal Of Public Administration.

Needham, C, Griffiths, E & Mangan, C 2021, '‘While you’re there, can you just…’ the emotional labour of role extending in public services', Public Money & Management.

Henwood, M, Glasby, J, Mckay, S & Needham, C 2020, 'Self-funders: Still By-Standers in the English Social Care Market?', Social Policy and Society, pp. 1-15.

Henwood, M, McKay, S, Glasby, J & Needham, C 2020, 'Self-funders: still by-standers in the English social care system?', Social Policy and Society.

Glasby, J & Needham, C 2020, 'The neglect of adult social care during covid-19', BMJ, vol. 370, pp. m3103.

Hall, K, Needham, C & Allen, K 2019, 'Micro entrepreneurship in the care sector: motives, values and practices', Voluntary Sector Review, vol. 10, no. 3, pp. 311–328.

Gofen, A, Blomqvist, P, Needham, C, Warren, K & Winblad, U 2019, 'Negotiated compliance at the street level: Personalizing immunization in England, Israel and Sweden', Public Administration, vol. 97, no. 1, pp. 195-209.

Allen, K, Needham, C, Hall, K & Tanner, D 2019, 'Participatory research meets validated outcome measures: tensions in the co-production of social care evaluation', Social Policy and Administration, vol. 53, no. 2, pp. 311-325.

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Needham, C 2019, Managerial Discretion. in T Evans & P Hupe (eds), Discretion and the Quest for Controlled Freedom. Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 295-312.


Needham, C, Mangan, C, Bottom, K & Parker, S 2020, Elected Officials in an Era of Austerity: Stewards, Mediators, and Catalysts. in H Sullivan, H Dickinson & H Henderson (eds), The Palgrave Handbook of the Public Servant.

Book/Film/Article review

Needham, C 2022, 'Clients, Consumers or Citizens? The Privatisation of Adult Social Care in England by Hudson, Bob Bristol: Policy Press, 2021. ISBN: 9781447355700; £24.99 (pbk)', Social Policy and Administration.

Commissioned report

Needham, C, Allen, K, Burn, E, Hall, K, Mangan, C, Al-Janabi, H, Tahir, W, Carr, S, Glasby, J, Henwood, M, McKay, S & Brant, I 2020, Shifting Shapes: how can local care markets support personalised outcomes?.


Bevir, M, Needham, C & Waring, J 2019, 'Inside co-production: ruling, resistance, and practice', Social Policy and Administration, vol. 53, no. 2, pp. 197-202.

View all publications in research portal


  • Social care reform
  • Personalisation/personal budgets
  • Coproduction and citizen involvement in public services Public service workforce

Media experience


Health and Social care

Social care in the UK for older people and people with disabilities