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Welfare Reform on the Web (March 2012): Social security - overseas

Reinventing the employable citizen: a perspective for social work

G. Roets and others

British Journal of Social Work, vol.42, 2012, p.94-110

Through workfare programmes, welfare states attempt to increase the employability of economically inactive individuals, such as people with chronic mental health problems, through a wide range of activation strategies. Research in Belgium and the UK suggests that workfare programmes place the onus for becoming employable on people with mental health problems, and holds them culpable for being unemployable. In this way welfare reforms aimed at disabled people in Belgium and the UK risk legitimising an ideology that redefines citizenship by qualifying social entitlements with personal obligations, particularly the obligation to work. This analysis of a recent project in Belgium in which social workers were charged with managing labour market training programmes differentiates between normative and relational approaches to citizenship. It is argued that a relational approach to citizenship enabled social workers in Belgium to use discretion to (re)negotiate employment trajectories in a flexible way.

Staff narratives: promising to change 'welfare as we know it'

E. Thaden and J. Robinson

Qualitative Social Work, vol. 11, 2012, p. 23-41

The 1996 US welfare reform devolved greater responsibility and flexibility to state welfare organisations; however, most often these organisations have not transformed their cultures towards a vision of client well being. This study explored the dominant and alternative narratives espoused by staff in a Southeastern welfare organisation. The dominant narrative explained that the welfare reform was good because it provided clients with opportunities that should lead them to self-sufficiency. When clients failed to reach self-sufficiency, staff blamed the clients and called for stricter policies. However, most participants also produced an alternative narrative to describe the challenges clients faced in moving towards self-sufficiency. When this narrative was elicited, most informants seemed to interpret the welfare programme from the perspectives of clients. This narrative culminated in ideas for organisational change that were transformative, such as revamping the structure of the programme and building collaborations within and beyond the organisation. Fostering alternative narratives in welfare organisations may prompt organisational culture shifts that redefine the notion of client success.

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