Stream 8

Relating Social Policy and Social Work


Stream convenors:  
Although the relationship between social policy and social work is contested, there is no doubt that they are closely interrelated. Some authors argue that only by combining both perspectives, processes of societal (des-)integration in modern welfare states can be fully captured. From this angle social policy and social work are complementary: While social policy is considered to aim at typical social risks through generalized support measures (above all social insurance), social work is related to specific risks to be reduced by individualized support. Thus, the more social insurance schemes are cut down, the more social work becomes important for the inclusion of vulnerable people. While some authors subordinate social work to social policy, others rather stress the independent (educational) tasks of social work going beyond the realm of social policy. In most of the literature, however, there is agreement, that both fields are mutually dependent. In particular the ongoing welfare state transformation towards, e.g. activation, marketization, (de-)familialisation, or social investment, clearly affects the way social work operates. On the other hand the professionals of social work themselves are to be considered relevant social policy actors, influencing policy change e.g. by empowering clients to political participation or protest, by interest representation, political consulting, or (the resistance of) implementation. Against this backdrop it comes as a surprise that at least in some countries, like e.g. Germany, scientific debates of social policy and social work as disciplines are hardly linked. Generally, international comparative perspectives on social work are rare, and even rarer are comparative perspectives on the relationship and mutual effects of social policy and social work across countries. This should make the topic a relevant issue for an ESPAnet stream.

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