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Session Overview
RN26_RN30_09a_P_JS: JOINT SESSION: Relationships Between Young Adults and Services
Friday, 01/Sep/2017:
11:00am - 12:30pm

Session Chair: Marti Taru, Tallinn University
Location: PC.2.10
PANTEION University of Social & Political Sciences 136 Syggrou Avenue 17671 Athens, Greece Building: C, Level: 2.
Joint session of RN26 Sociology of Social Policy and Social Welfare and RN30 Youth & Generation

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The more the merrier? Examining peer support in an online discussion group as a component of targeted youth work

Sanna Aaltonen, Antti Kivijärvi

Finnish Youth Research Society, Finland

In Finland where professional outreach youth work has reasserted itself as an integral part of prevention of marginalisation, the domains of targeted youth work and social work have come closer in their methods of doing . Both social work and targeted youth work rely on one-to-one “talk work” that aims at promoting well-being and providing resources that help young adults to advance in life. While young adults are encountered as individuals by these services they may share similar kinds of experiences regarding both problems and solutions. This begs a question on the potential of peer support and “making knowledge” as a collective activity.

In this paper our intention is to report preliminary findings of a research project where young clients of targeted youth services are invited to participate in group activities through anonymous online communities moderated by youth workers and youth researchers. The aim is to allow free discussion and to invite young adults with the help of structured discussion threats to share ideas on how to improve wellbeing and welfare services. These discussion groups are examined not only as communities that have the potential to allow new kinds of identities, belongings and relationships compared to face-to-face services but also as spaces entailing challenges like cyberbullying or contagion of harmful activities. The focus of the paper is on how online intervention is able to connect disconnected young adults with each other and the service, and how digital platform contributes to “making knowledge”. The paper draws on discussions held in the online groups as well as evaluation of the group activities done by both the young adults and the youth workers.

Microdynamics of moral work. Institutional interaction between young people and the state

Hannu Turba, Ralf Lüth

University of Kassel, Germany

Counseling interviews in institutional settings are usually the first place of face-to-face encounters between young people and the (welfare) state. Based on our research, we address these encounters by looking at two different fields: employment offices and specialized police agencies dealing with young people. As is true of any other human service activity, institutional interaction is characterized by "moral work" (Hasenfeld 1992): Decisions about services, benefits or sanctions highly depend on the moral categorization of clients, e.g. their "deservingness".

However, in the fields observed, particular tensions are likely to occur: On the one hand, young people are typically regarded as "innocent" and unconditionally deserving; on the other, the state agencies in question are concerned with the maintenance of order (especially in the face of growing claims of activation and responsibilization) and their relation to clients entails strong power asymmetries. Consequently, the measures taken do not necessarily meet young people’s needs.

Looking at street-level interactions between frontline workers and young people, we focus on the microdynamics of moral work. Research shows that the outcome of institutional interactions depends on several factors, e.g. the (alleged) compliance of clients, certain presumptions and stereotypes of the professionals (subject to age groups or social backgrounds) and – last but not least – the very dynamics of the interaction itself. In order to shed light on this black box, the paper underlines the relevance of ethnographic fieldwork. It draws on results from existing research on the police and an ongoing project on labour administration.

Do Social Policies Appropriately Tackle Youth Disadvantage?

Jean-Michel Bonvin

University of Geneva, Switzerland

This paper aims at assessing the appropriateness of social policies in favour of disadvantaged youth in the aftermath of the economic crisis. Two main issues are tackled: first, to what extent do public policies pay due attention to the multiple dimensions and causes of youth disadvantage? Second, to what extent are disadvantaged young people’s concerns listened to and taken seriously when designing and implementing social policies?

With regard to the first question, research shows that the social disadvantages experienced by young people in Europe since the economic crisis go far beyond labour market and income situations. They include a plurality of dimensions related to social integration, recognition, participation in society and politics, ability to project their futures, etc. Individual deficits or lifestyle choices are not enough to account for such disadvantage, wider socio-economic conditions related to economic opportunities, social norms, etc. are also at work. To what extent is this plurality of dimensions and causes reflected in existing public policies? Which relevant dimensions and explanatory factors are left out and which ones are given strong emphasis?

With regard to the second issue, emphasis is placed on whether and how young people are given voice in policy making processes and implementation. What are their aspirations, and to what extent are they allowed to voice these aspirations and make them count when decisions are made about their lives? Are some young people marginalized to the point that their voices are not given due attention?

This paper draws upon extensive research conducted in the SocIEtY project, funded by the EC, where 13 partners from 11 European countries were involved.

Welfare Policy and the Everyday Life of Youth in the Nordic countries

Ragnhild Holmen Waldahl, Cecilie Høj Anvik

Nordland Research Institute, Norway

In the Nordic countries, there is an increasing concern about the growing number of young people who are struggling to complete upper secondary education and who are unemployed because of mental health issues. The challenges associated with this group cut across different welfare policy areas. In the paper, we discuss how public authorities and services can become better suited to meet young people’s needs for multifarious and coordinated assistance, and how this could narrow the gap between experiences of everyday life and welfare policy.

The paper is based on interview studies conducted among young people and representatives from public authorities and services in Norway, Iceland and the Faroe Islands in 2014 and 2015. The authorities and service areas represented are public employment services, education, social services and health.

In the paper, we highlight the challenges resulting from a lack of interaction between the various services tasked with aiding this group of youth. We discuss how the welfare services’ silo organizations limit their ability to attend to the complexity of problems characterizing this group. Those who are capable of attending to the complex needs of the youth are individual, local actors, so-called enthusiasts, working closely around the youth and in extensive cooperation with other services.

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