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)



Hall, K., Needham, C., Allen, K. (2020) ‘Micro entrepreneurship in the care sector: motives, values and practices’, Voluntary Sector Review, 10 (3), pp. 310-328. 

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

Needham, C. (2020) ‘The death of the professions’ in Pell, C., Lowe, T. and Wilson, R. (eds), Kittens are Evil, vol 2, Triarchy Press.


Gofen, A., Blomquist, P., Needham, C., Warren, K. and Winblad, U. (2019) ‘Negotiated compliance at the street level: Personalizing immunization in England, Israel and Sweden’, Public Administration, early view. 

Allen, K., Needham, C., Hall, K. and Tanner, D. (2019) ‘Participatory research meets validated outcome measures: Tensions in the co-production of social care evaluation', Social Policy and Administration, early view. 

Lawrence-Pietroni, C., and Needham, C. (2019). Narratives and Storytelling. In Reimagining the Future Public Service Workforce (pp. 55-66). Springer.

Needham, C. (2019) ‘Managerial Discretion’, in Evans, T. and Hupe, P. (eds). Palgrave Handbook on discretion: The quest for controlled freedom, Basingstoke: Palgrave. 

Bevir, M., Needham, C. and Waring, J. (2019) ‘Inside co-production: ruling, resistance, and practice’,Social Policy and Administration, early view. 

Heins, E., Rees, J. and Needham, C., (2019) Social Policy Review 31: Analysis and Debate in Social Policy, Bristol: Policy Press. 


Dickinson, H., Needham, C., Mangan, C. and Sullivan, H. (eds) (2018), Reimagining the Future Public Service Workforce, Springer. 

Glasby, J., Needham, C., Allen, K., Hall, K., and McKay, S. (2018) ‘The Goldilocks Question: What Size is 'Just Right' for Social Care Organisations?’, International Journal of Care and Caring, 2 (1), pp. 65-87(23). 

Needham, C. and Dickinson, H. (2018) ‘Any one of us could be among that number’: Comparing the Policy Narratives for Individualized Disability Funding in Australia and England. Social Policy & Administration, 52 (3), pp. 731-49. 

McMullin, C., and Needham, C. (2018). Co-production and healthcare. In T. Brandsen, T. Steen, & B. Verschuere (Eds.), Co-production and co-creation: Engaging citizens in public service delivery (pp. 151–160). New York: Routledge. 

Needham, C., Heins, E. and Rees, J. (2018) Social Policy Review 30: Analysis and Debate in Social Policy, Bristol: Policy Press. 


West, K. and Needham, C. (2017) ‘Making it real or sustaining a fantasy? Personal budgets for older people’, International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy37(11-12), pp.683-95. 

Needham, C., Mastracci, S. and Mangan, C. (2017) ‘The Emotional Labour of Boundary Spanning’, Journal of Integrated Care, 25(4), pp.288-300. 

Durose, C., Needham, C., Mangan, C. and Rees, J. (2017) ‘Generating ‘good enough’ evidence for co-production’, Evidence and Policy, 13 (1) pp 135-151. 

Needham, C., & McMullin, C. (2017). Coproduction. In A. Farazmand (Ed.), Global Encyclopedia of Public Administration, Public Policy, and Governance (pp. 1–6). Cham: Springer International. 

Hudson, J., Needham, C. and Heins, E. (2017) Social Policy Review 29: Analysis and Debate in Social Policy, Bristol: Policy Press. 

Needham, C., Allen, K. and Hall, K. (2017) Micro-Enterprise and Personalisation: What Size is Good Care? Bristol: Policy Press, 227 pp.

Needham, C., & Dickinson, H. (2017). ‘Any one of us could be among that number’: Comparing the Policy Narratives for Individualized Disability Funding in Australia and England, Social Policy & Administration, early view. 


Needham, C. and Mangan, C. (2016) ‘The Twenty-First Century Public Servant: working at three boundaries of public and private’, Public Money and Management, early view.

Needham, C. (2016) ‘Social Welfare Policy: fantasy and assemblage in a personalised welfare state’ in Bevir, M. (ed.) Governmentality after Neo-Liberalism, New York: Routledge.

Needham, C. (2016) ‘The Boundaries of Budgets: why should individuals make spending choices about their health and social care?’ in Butcher, J. and Gilchrist, D. (eds), Cross-Sector Working for Complex Problems, ANU: Australia and New Zealand School of Government.


Dickinson, H, Needham, C and Sullivan, H (2015) 'Individual funding for disability support: What are the implications for accountability?', Australian Journal of Public Administration, 73,4, pp 417-425.

Durose, C., Needham, C., Mangan, C. & Rees, J. (2015) Generating ‘good enough’ evidence for co-production. Evidence & Policy: A Journal of Research, Debate and Practice. DOI:

Hall, K, Needham, C and Allen, K (forthcoming), Micro-Enterprise: Can Social Innovation Transform Social Care? Salute e societa.

Needham, C (2015) 'The Spaces of Personalisation: Place and Distance in Caring Labour', Social Policy and Society 14(3).

Needham, C (2015) 'Personalisation, personal budgets and citizenship in English care services', Autonomie Locali e Servizi Sociali, 37,2 pp 203-220.

Needham, C. and Carr, S. (2015) ‘Micro-provision of social care support for marginalised communities: filling the gap or building bridges to the mainstream?’, Social Policy and Administration, doi: 10.1111/spol.12114.

Needham, C. & Glasby, J. (2015) Personalisation – love it or hate it? Journal of Integrated Care, 23 (5): 268 – 276.


Sawbridge, Y. and Needham, C. (2014) Emotionally qualified. Nursing Standard, 29 (13): 26 – 27.

Needham, C. and Glasby, J. (2014) Debates in Personalisation, Bristol: Policy Press.

Hall, K, Needham, C and Allen, K (2014), 'Grass Roots Entrepreneurship and Innovation: Micro-Enterprises in Social Care'. Paper for International Research Society for Public Management Annal Conference, Ottowa, Canada, April 2014.

Gofen, A. and Needham, C. (2014) Service Personalization as a Response to Noncompliance with Routine Childhood Vaccination. Governance, DOI: 10.1111/gove.12082.


Needham, C. (2013) 'The Boundaries of Budgets: why should individuals make spending choices about their health and social care?' London: Centre for Health and the Public Interest.

Needham, C. (2013) ‘Personalized Commissioning, Public Spaces: The Limits of the Market in English Social Care Services’, BioMedical Central: Health Services Research, 13, Suppl 1.

Needham, C., Sawbridge, Y. And Williams, I. (2013), Tesco and Starbucks have little to teach the NHS. Health Service Journal.

Needham, C. (in press) Personalisation: from day centres to community hubs? Critical Social Policy, doi:10.1177/0261018313481564


Needham, C, Glasby, J and Duffy, S (2012) ‘Commissioning in an era of personalisation’  in Glasby, J. (ed.) Commissioning for Health and Wellbeing: an introduction, Bristol, the Policy Press.

Needham, C (2012) ‘From policy transfer to policy translation: the role of evidence in policy borrowing’, in Glasby, J. (ed.) Evidence, policy and practice: critical perspectives in health and social care, Bristol: the Policy Press.


Needham, C (2011) Personalising Public Services: Understanding the Personalisation Narrative, Bristol: Policy Press.

Needham, C, Glasby, J and Duffy, S (2011) ‘Debate: A Beveridge report for the twenty-first century? The implications of self-directed support for future welfare reform’, Policy and Politics

Needham, C (2011) ‘Personalisation: from storyline to practice’, Journal of Social Policy and Administration, 45, 1.


Needham, C (2010) ‘Fighting the Last War: Applying the Policy Transfer Approach to Election Campaigns’, Party Politics, 16: 5, 2010, pp. 608-28.

Needham, C (2010) ‘Personalised Public Services: Empowering the Citizen or Liberating the Consumer’, Journal of Public Administration and Policy.

Needham, C (2010) ‘Personalised Public Services: a new state-citizen contract?’, Public Money and Management.


Needham, C (2009) ‘Interpreting Personalization in England’s National Health Service’, Critical Policy Studies, 3:2, 2009, pp. 204-220.

Needham, C (2009) ‘Policing with a Smile: Narratives of Consumerism in New Labour's Criminal Justice Policy', Public Administration Vol. 87, No. 1, Special issue: ‘Decentering Policy Networks', Bevir, M. and Richards, D. (eds), 2009, pp. 97-116.


Needham, C (2008) ‘Realising the Potential of Co-production: Negotiating Improvements in Public Services ', Journal of Social Policy and Society , themed section: ‘Choice or voice or something else? User participation in public services', Greener, I. and Talbot, C. (eds), 7:2, 2008, pp. 221-31.


Needham, C (2006) ‘Customer Care and the Public Service Ethos’, Public Administration, 84:4, December 2006, pp. 845-60.

View all publications in research portal


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


Health and Social care

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