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Social Work, Welfare and Neoliberalism
A third factor infl change is the relationship between the values of social work and the welfare state. Leskošek (2009, 1) writes how the texts of the social work pioneers are 'closely connected with social movements that contributed to the development of the basic principles of welfare states: equality, social justice, well-being and solidarity'. Even though this connection was true, professional social work had to develop in close relation to the transformation of laymen's work with the poor and desolate. Social work overtook the tradition of service and bureaucracy related to work with children and families as well as with the adult poor. It seems obvious that early social work relates to the social sciences and the scientifi
of the solutions of poverty, illness and social problems, but also shares the values, ideas and politics of the social democrat dominated welfare state. Patriarchy, control and humiliation seem to have been practices just as emancipative and empowering practices and treatment were. In their classic study, Mayer and Timms (1970) showed how psychosocial approaches to the situation of unemployed workers failed to address problems of material poverty (in Ferguson 2009, 86).
During the last decade there has been an increasing discourse on the consequences of the effects of marketization and managerialism for social work, underpinned by theories of New Public Management (NPM) (Lorenz 2005; Macdonald 2006; Ferguson 2008; Garrett 2009; Rogowski 2010). They all seem to agree that social work is challenged on its core values, as stated by IFSW (20123):
3 Even though the IFSW statement has been revised since many of the references here mentioned were written, the core elements remain intact. The social work profession promotes social change, problem solving in human relationships and the empowerment and liberation of people to enhance wellbeing. (…) Principles of human rights and social justice are fundamental to social work. (…) Human rights and social justice serve as the motivation and justification for social work action. In solidarity with those who are disadvantaged, the profession strives to alleviate poverty and to liberate vulnerable and oppressed people in order to promote social inclusion. Social work values are embodied in the profession's national and international codes of ethics.
The perceived attacks on social work values include the focus on 'commodified individual consumers in a market of care, the progressive privatization of services and the de-professionalization of traditional social work tasks' (Leskošek 2009, 4). The clash seems to be mostly evident in relation to capitalism and the neoliberal view that in order to make an omelette you have to smash some eggs. To put it bluntly, social work is left to work with a mess on grand scale never seen before. As Lorenz4 has pointed out, the increase of social work in all parts of the world cannot be regarded as a positive development for the field. The motto of the new Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration is 'Giving people opportunities'. This motto may be in line with the idea of change in social work, but it is also followed by the prerogative that they should be assisted in finding work or other ways to mend their own problems in order to decrease public spending on income support. Since much of social workers' work also is monitored through strict bureaucratic procedures (NPM), they spend a lot of time with computers and paperwork, at the cost of reducing the amount of time with clients (Skjefstad 2013).
Ferguson (2009, 83) expressed his fears for the development of social work:
… the forms of social work practice that have developed over the last twenty years are often woefully inadequate in their ability to address people's needs, and will be of even less help in responding to the much greater levels of need that we are likely to see in the near future.
Lorenz (2005) regards social work as applied social policy. Developing alongside social democratic ideas and becoming an embedded part of the welfare state, social work is challenged by the same forces that threaten the effort for equality and justice. Neoliberalist ideas seemed to fill the vacuum left when welfare gave way to workfare and a strong belief in the market. As Schwartsmantel (2005) has argued, neoliberalism can be analyzed as a set of beliefs and ideas much the same as for social democracy and the ideas behind the welfare state. Schwartzmantel relies on Gramsci's neo-Marxist analyzes that 'ideology was the application of a broad philosophy to practical concrete problems'. Lorenz continues his argument with the changing motives behind individual casework: the evolution away from
4 Personal communication 2010. strengthening individual capacities to empower and, instead, applying work as a way to achieve inclusion and social coherence. The same is done with punitive measures in order to respond to claims of workfare.
There is a move from a Freudian psychological perspective towards a humiliating condemnation of scroungers. This move is an easily identifiable trend in neoliberal social policies, which reveal the ontology embedded in its ideology, an ontology that seems to challenge social work practices. Workfare underestimates the reasons for personal failure and the complexity related to different kinds of poverty and their solutions, pushing social work practices into directions that can be unethical rather than creating dignified, and respectful services (Järvinen and Mik-Meyer 2003; Høilund and Juul 2005; Marthinsen and Skjefstad 2010). Two ideas, market fundamentalism and the rational man, have strained social work, and marginalized people are challenging the complicated professional understanding of why there are haves and have-nots in a society.
The development of the welfare state is regarded as dependent on modern science. Social democratic policy has suffered a serious blow from the epistemological changes found within postmodernity, not least of which is the acknowledgement of different departures from birth as well as differences within social and cultural spheres of life. Neither resources nor capabilities are justly distributed. Ideas of equality may suffer under the recognition of differences but that does not mean giving up strategies of recognition and redistribution. However, many political parties, in their quest for votes, have surrendered to neoliberal ideologies that promote a different understanding and aim of human beings and society. Neoliberal ideologies are historically connected to Reagan and Thatcher. Great Britain and the US developed into a symbolic Mecca to which politicians around the world were looking for ways to cope with the expanding costs of the welfare state and its social policies as well as for models on cooperating with the trade unions.
About two decades ago, there was a shift in order to face some of the recognized challenges resulting from capitalist realism (Harvey 2005; Fisher 2009). The early development of the so-called third way, as formulated by Anthony Giddens and Tony Blair (the Clinton administration also turned a favourable eye on the ideas), soon surrendered to populist neoliberal positions and underpinned politics based on more utilitarian ideas. The price for success has to be paid by someone not working hard enough to secure their own access to and use of the possibilities within society (Harvey 2005; Vetlesen 2011).
This development may also be regarded as part of the evolving governing mentality that contributes to social workers becoming some sort of councillors5 to assist personal growth and self-development within a society of life politics. Social work has to assist in 'the emergence of these new forms of active citizenry,
5 Foucault (2002) used the notion of le pouvoir pastoral, the shepherd watching over the individual through care and conviction – the priest who earlier went home to moralize if people behaved badly later being replaced by the home visit of a social worker. empowerment, and self-help, all of which meet in the citizens' contract' (Andersen 2007, 120). Several authors have contributed to the identification of a change in attitude toward worthy clients versus unworthy clients and especially the unemployed and disabled seem to be regarded as a burden while solidarity may be suffering (Gilbert 2004; Hansen and Grønningsæter 2010; Kvist et al. 2012).
Europe and the whole Western world have moved from a state of production to consumerism, global trade and financial markets. The results for the welfare states have been growth in the number of people in dependent positions temporarily as well as permanently. From welfare to workfare is just one of the means to deal with this. The result for a country like Norway has been almost a 100 per cent increase in recipients of social subsistence from the early 1980s to a level of around 120,000 in 2013. The number of children served in child protection services have increased from 10,000 a year in the early 1980s to more than 50,000 in 2011. The amount of social workers is following although the population increases at far lower rate.
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