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Bettina Leibetseder, Anneli Anttonen, Einar Øverbye, Charles Pace and Signy Irene Vabo

Welfare pluralism, in its initial conceptualisation, sought to bring together the best welfare providers, including families and the community, while lowering expenditures. Ideally, a plurality of providers would ensure better quality, consumer choice, and universal but at the same time more individualized services. In this chapter, we raise questions about recent transformations in the welfare mix, which we call the ‘re-mix’ of social care, based on the empirical material shared within the COST Action IS1102, which points to a high degree of disarray. Compared to earlier decades that had witnessed a stable or growing level of state intervention, the current re-mixing among service providers is characterized by fragmentation and differentiation, while there is no attempt to address the question of how best to provide social care. In the end, we argue that: (1) the current organisation of care services is reinforcing inequalities between less and more affluent users; (2) the current division of responsibility in the provision, regulation and financing of care services is favouring for-profit and self-employed caregivers, without enabling collaboration and synergies among providers; (3) the current re-mixes are hindering both equality among service providers and universal provision.

Open access

Peter Raeymaeckers, Bettina Leibetseder, Robert Fluder, Erika Gubrium and Danielle Dierckx

In this chapter we focus on social assistance services, such as housing, childcare, counselling and other types of benefits, that are provided to people receiving a guaranteed subsistence income from the state, defined here as social assistance beneficiaries. These services are delivered by social workers in public agencies, often collaborating with other public and non-profit service providers at the local level. We specifically address how these social assistance services have been affected by the so-called ‘activation turn’ in social assistance. We present evidence on the horizontal division of labour between local government actors and a variety of service organisations (public, non-profit and private) and how this division of labour is affected by activation policies in four European cities: Graz in Austria, Antwerp in Belgium, Berne in Switzerland and Oslo in Norway. At the end of the chapter we reflect on the consequences of the activation turn in terms of increasing pressure on local actors. We hypothesise that the latter are increasingly ‘creaming the crop’ by creating a selection mechanism that favours the ‘best’ clients, those who are able to make the transition towards the labour market, over the ‘worst’ clients, those who are not able to find a job.