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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.

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Flavia Martinelli, Anneli Anttonen and Margitta Mätzke

Publicly provided in-kind social services are a key component of the welfare state in most of Europe, albeit their development trajectories, coverage and legal status still vary considerably among countries. The way such services are provided and made available to people bears significantly on social and territorial cohesion, on the gender balance and, ultimately, on the wealth of any society. On the other hand, while much is discussed and written about social policy and welfare systems, social services are somewhat neglected. Although they have progressively gained a stronger foothold in national legislations and social policy agendas, their status remains weaker compared to health or education services. Moreover, because of the austerity measures brought about by the 2008 financial crisis, they have been the primary object of cuts and reorganisation. And yet, from a social capital and social investment perspective social services should earn much more attention. Cuts in the social service systems have, in fact, very severe consequences on older people and people with disabilities, as well as on households – women – with small children or living in poverty, i.e. on people whose labour market position is weak. The public provision of in-kind services, more than monetary transfers and benefits, represents a social investment that not only generates welfare, social inclusion and jobs, but also reduces future social risks. The theoretical debate on social policy and welfare states needs thus to be enriched by comparatively informed research on the restructuring of social services. This is also a field where national, regional and local variations are large and greater empirical evidence is needed.

Open access

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
Open access

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.