Israel (Issi) Doron and Nena Georgantzi
Edited by Israel Doron and Nena Georgantzi
Edited by Israel Doron and Nena Georgantzi
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.
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.
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.
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.