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Stefania Sabatinelli and Michela Semprebon

Public responsibility for social policies in Europe has been extensively ‘re-scaled’ in the last decades, both upwards, from the national state towards the EU, and downwards, towards the local level. In this complex process, ambivalent traits and impacts are emerging: on the one side re-scaling may be associated with more participatory, place-specific and effective processes and programmes; on the other it may entail blame avoidance, opacity and reduction in accountability. Moreover, re-scaling processes are not uniform: they take different forms in different national contexts and – within each context – in different policy fields. This chapter tackles the ambivalences of the varying patterns of change in the vertical division of responsibility and their implications for the delivery of social services. It explores the room for manoeuvre available to local bodies for pursuing quality, efficiency and innovation; the emerging forms of local governance; and the spaces for citizens’ participation and empowerment. All these aspects ultimately affect territorial and social cohesion and equal opportunities for accessing welfare resources in each country. The analysis is based on case studies produced within the COST Action IS1102 SO.S. COHESION – Social services, welfare states and places, referring to three policy fields: early childhood education and care, long-term care, and the social inclusion of migrants and Roma. The chapter is organized in three sections: in the first, the theoretical debate on re-scaling processes is briefly recalled to frame the trajectories observed in European welfare systems; in the second, the possible repercussions of changes in the vertical division of responsibility are discussed, taking into consideration the case studies; in the third, some conclusions are drawn, highlighting critical policy issues.

Flavia Martinelli

The chapter provides an overview of the debates on social services, a key component of both the service sector and the welfare state, highlighting the different socioeconomic underpinnings of these activities and proposing a number of analytical tools. In the first section, social services are positioned within the contemporary discussion about the service economy, the welfare state, social and territorial cohesion, as well as the post-Keynesian restructuring process. The specificities and key social and economic implications of these activities are stressed. In the second section, the importance of a time- and space-sensitive approach to analysing changes and understanding the great variety of national and regional restructuring trajectories is emphasised, and the notions of welfare ‘regimes’ and ‘models’ are reviewed. In the third section, the main restructuring trends at work since the 1980s and the effects of the 2008 financial crisis are ‘unpacked’, highlighting their key features and socio-economic implications and identifying relevant analytical dimensions. The importance of the ‘vertical’ division of authority within the state and of the ‘horizontal’ division of responsibility among providers is discussed, stressing the need to distinguish among the main ‘functions’ involved in delivering public social services: regulation, funding, coordination, production.

Ingo Bode

The chapter provides a general reading of recent European developments in social service provision with a focus on cross-country commonalities. The analysis sets out the main thread of the story that can be written about the evolving social service sector for a period covering the last two or three decades, with particular attention to governance issues. It reveals that there are inconsistencies in this story: on the one hand, social services have (more or less) become an institutionalised feature of European welfare states over the last decades, with a robust extension of service supply in mere quantitative terms, at least until the outbreak of the financial crisis in 2008; Europe has thus witnessed a success story. On the other hand, as this institutionalisation proves selective in various respects, this success story has always been, and continues to be, incomplete. The social service sector exhibits loopholes and limitations; and there are tragic moments in its recent history as major promises have not been kept and ‘organised’ social service provision has often become subject to what can be labelled ‘disorganisation’. Hence, while the success story is not history, its happy end is yet to come.

Flavia Martinelli

Despite the great diversity observed in the restructuring of different social services, across countries and regions throughout the book, a number of common trends do emerge, which in turn point to a set of similar consequences, albeit with different intensities depending on context. Drawing on the wealth of empirical evidence and critical assessments presented in the preceding contributions, this last chapter summarises some key findings. First, the main changes experienced in the public provision of social services in Europe over the last thirty years are recapitulated, stressing continuities and discontinuities in national trajectories, as well as convergence and divergence among countries and regions. Subsequently, the main impacts of such changes and their ‘disruptive’ features are highlighted. Finally, different policy ‘options’ are examined, critically assessing their implications and challenges for the goal of a prosperous and socially inclusive Europe.

Social Services Disrupted

Changes, Challenges and Policy Implications for Europe in Times of Austerity

Edited by Flavia Martinelli, Anneli Anttonen and Margitta Mätzke

This book revives the discussion on public social services and their redesign, with a focus on services relating to care and the social inclusion of vulnerable groups, providing rich information on the changes that occurred in the organisation and supply of public social services over the last thirty years in different European places and service fields. Despite the persisting variety in social service models, three shared trends emerge: public sector disengagement, ‘vertical re-scaling’ of authority and ‘horizontal re-mix’ in the supply system. The consequences of such changes are evaluated from different perspectives – governance, social and territorial cohesion, labour market, gender – and are eventually deemed ‘disruptive’ in both economic and social terms. The policy implications of the restructuring are also explored. This title will be Open Access on

Carla Weinzierl, Andreas Novy, Anikó Bernát, Florian Wukovitsch and Zsuzsanna Vercseg

Roma communities are among the most vulnerable and socially excluded groups in Europe. This chapter highlights the historical and institutional mechanisms of their discrimination and explores the potential of social innovation to combat such discrimination and social exclusion. Two case studies of socially innovative initiatives for the inclusion of Roma in Austria and Hungary are described and their potential for contributing to social cohesion is critically analysed. The authors highlight that path-dependencies in two welfare models with assimilationist tendencies have resulted in difficulties in striking a balance between diversity and equality. They conclude that while European policies have raised awareness on cultural discrimination, socio-economic and political exclusion cannot be addressed solely by local initiatives.

Rosa Mas Giralt and Antonella Sarlo

Existing research from migration studies and comparative social policy has highlighted the need to develop better understandings of immigrants’ social rights and their inclusion/exclusion from welfare systems. This chapter contributes to this literature by exploring to what extent the UK and Italy, two countries very different in terms of immigration histories, management of integration and structure of their welfare states, have come to converge in the last 15 years in relation to the social inclusion of (documented) immigrants. To fully understand the social rights of immigrants we need to consider the intersection of the policies which regulate immigrants’ social rights (welfare, immigration and immigrant policies) with the systems of governance (national, regional and local actors, both statutory and non-statutory) that implement these policies and mediate access to social services. The chapter analyses the trajectories of immigrant and immigration policy in the UK and Italy while paying attention to the ‘vertical’ and ‘horizontal’ divisions of labour within the two states and the role of non-governmental organisations in complementing or substituting for retrenching public provision in this area. We argue that there are important similarities between the two countries: (1) national governments concern themselves largely with immigration policies (quotas and restrictions on newcomers’ social rights) while transferring responsibility (but not resources) for immigrant integration to local governments; (2) actors from the third sector ‘compensate’ for insufficient public provision at the local level while facing a lack of funding and institutional support. In both countries these features lead to a growing territorial differentiation in services for the social inclusion of immigrants.

Margitta Mätzke

This chapter reflects on major trends in social service design, as identified and described in the previous chapters. All these chapters underscore significant changes in the role of the public sector in social service provision, and they are all keenly attentive to the potential drawbacks and problematic aspects of the changing outlook of public policy engagement. This concluding chapter seeks to understand the reasons why the contributors to this volume lean towards critical conclusions about the developments they have observed and have a hard time conceiving of potentially positive aspects and opportunities that come with ongoing social service developments. The chapter argues that trajectories of social service innovation are often measured against the yardstick of an ideal-typical model of citizenship-based rights and privileges, which has left its mark on the assessment of the trends identified. In this social citizenship-based perspective on social services, public involvement plays a major role in securing inclusive access to social services, a more or less even distribution in terms of their qualitative aspects and the scope of services available, and an orientation of social services as tools for supporting self-determination and empowerment of citizens making use of social services. When appraising the role of the state in social services, it is then important to consider the details of implementation, the specific institutional settings and the contextual factors of social service design.

Margitta Mätzke, Anneli Anttonen, Peter Brokking and Jana Javornik

There is great diversity in social service arrangements across countries. Some offer broadly accessible social services for their citizens, while in others social transfers and social services are fragmented and not available to everyone. Some care services are targeted or conditional, and therefore selective, while others are universally available. Institutional features such as these shape the extent and the ways in which citizens access care services and affect people’s well-being and way of life. They have a part in defining what role public policies play in societies and how states relate to their subjects. The design of social services is in that sense normatively consequential, and this chapter seeks to identify their overall character and conceptual underpinnings. It explores the core ambitions and policy goals underlying social service designs and identifies differences in normative commitments across policy fields and countries and over time. Ideal-typical policy conceptions are identified, which capture the goals and priorities informing the design of social service institutions. Two evaluative dimensions are then introduced, which map the diversity of public policy conceptions: priorities and core commitments and main orientation and targets. The framework is then put to use by analysing social service developments in three different policy fields and countries: care for older people in Finland, childcare in the UK, and housing services for asylum seekers in Sweden. These illustrations show that political rhetoric often strays far from institutional realities and underscore the need to investigate deeds, rather than words.

Liisa Häikiö, Laurent Fraisse, Sofia Adam, Outi Jolanki and Marcus Knutagård

Social innovation in the context of social services is generally portrayed as a way of doing things better by directly involving individuals and communities in the design and co-production of such services. In this chapter, we argue that social innovation has an ambivalent character. We identify mainstream and radical policy discourses on social innovation that share the view that social innovation is a positive social phenomenon but differently outline the meaning of social innovation. Four case studies on local welfare initiatives for the provision of social and health services in Finland, France, Greece and Sweden highlight how the values and aims of social innovation that have been mobilized are flexible and vary according to the context in a pragmatic manner. In addition, the four cases show how institutionalization and up-scaling are a major challenge, with sustained societal change remaining partial and somewhat unreachable for local welfare initiatives. We conclude that social innovation can be differentiated on the basis of who the key actors are and what the role (and power) of citizens is in relation to institutional actors and the dominant social order.