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Administrating poverty : Studies of intake organization and social assistance in Sweden

by Minas, Renate

Abstract (Summary)
The general purpose of this dissertation is to study the causes and the consequences of the formal structure of intake of potential social assistance clients at Swedish social welfare offices. The focus lies on the social welfare offices, their organizational framework and routines concerning intake. A focus on the formal structure of the intake may provide information about the importance of organization for people seeking help but also for the municipalities themselves. The data used in the analyses comes from two surveys of welfare offices augmented with register data.Study 1 examines the very first contact between social assistance inquirers and the social welfare offices. Telephone intake and first personal visits are documented and a considerable variation in the share of inquirers who received an appointment for further assessment was found. Considerable variation was also found in the share who were granted social assistance after the assessment during the personal visit. An examination of the offices’ intake routines and organization provided some indications that the unequal priority given to intake is an important explanation behind the variation.Study 2 analyzes the link between intake organization and the degree of selection taken place at telephone intakes by focusing on those inquirers not becoming clients. The relationship between intake organization and the social workers’ reasons for selection is examined and several selection strategies could be found. The results confirm the fact that Swedish municipalities have great autonomy in designing the social services and in addition show that offices within the same municipality may choose different organizational solutions.The aim of study 3 is to investigate how intake of social assistance inquirers is organized in Swedish municipalities and what factors determine intake organization. The results show that there are three different intake types. One of them, called special intake units, is distinct from the other two in that the intake staff has relatively high qualifications. Examining factors likely to affect the creation of special intake units, the results show that mainly professional and organizational factors related to the organization of work within the whole social assistance unit are important.The purpose of study 4 is to examine the connection between organizational factors and local social assistance expenditures in Swedish municipalities. The organization of the social assistance unit, in particular to the intake of social assistance inquirers, and its potential implication for local social assistance costs are emphasized. The results show a cost reducing effect of special intake units first when analyzed together with additional specialization and taking account for staff resources. Thus, specialized intake organization by itself does not play a cost reducing role, but in combination with certain other factors describing internal organization.In an introductory part the studies are located in a broader framework starting with a historical description of different strategies and classification systems traditionally used when distributing poor aid. The expansion of the welfare state changed the importance of a last safety net. Specific characteristics of public organizations administering social assistance are described and the legal framework is outlined focusing on the right to apply for social assistance is outlined. Different aspects of intake are then discussed: stages of the intake process, the organization of intake in Sweden and elsewhere, intake organization as a fashion, and possible functions of the intake. Finally, implications of the four studies with regard to access to benefit and the issue of specialization as well as further research are discussed.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:

School:Stockholms universitet

School Location:Sweden

Source Type:Doctoral Dissertation

Keywords:SOCIAL SCIENCES; Social sciences; Social work; organization; intake; social assistance

ISBN:91-7155-003-8

Date of Publication:01/01/2005

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