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Session Overview
RN26_08a_P: Welfare Policies - Changes and Challenges
Thursday, 31/Aug/2017:
6:00pm - 7:30pm

Session Chair: Anneli Maria Irmeli Anttonen, University of Tampere
Location: PC.4.23
PANTEION University of Social & Political Sciences 136 Syggrou Avenue 17671 Athens, Greece Building: C, Level: 4.

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Disability and Independent Living in Portugal: policy changes and challenges

Fernando Fontes1, Bruno Martins1, Ema Loja2, Mónica Lopes1, Joana Pimentel1, Paula Pinto3, Silvia Portugal1

1Centre for Social Studies, University of Coimbra, Portugal; 2Institute of Social and Political Sciences, University of Lisbon, Portugal; 3Faculty of Psychology and Education Sciences, University of Porto, Portugal

The growing international recognition of disabled people’s rights is far from translating into a substantive change in their living conditions and participation horizons. Those identified as disabled have often been disregarded, marginalized, silenced, made dependent, and their lives have been disproportionately affected by poverty and social exclusion. Likewise, Portuguese disability policies have been unable to change this reality.

Paradigmatic change in disability policies in other geographical contexts materialized through the establishment of ‘Independent Living’ for disabled people as a social citizenship right. Understood as the idea of disabled people’s control over their lives, Independent Living encapsulates the right to live in contexts where they are not dependent on family care or on solutions offered in institutional contexts. This change has been implemented through ‘direct payments’, ‘independent living funds’, personal assistance and the formation of centers for independent living.

The Portuguese Welfare State, characterized by low levels of social protection, low benefits, different welfare-regimes and contrasting generosity levels is now introducing changes to implement ‘independent living’ for disabled people and to raise disability benefits above the poverty line.

Based on an ongoing research project “DECIDE - Disability and self-determination: the challenge of Independent living in Portugal” (reference no. PTDC/IVCSOC/6484/2014), and drawing on documentary analysis, semi-structured interviews and focus-groups with disabled people, NGO representatives and stakeholders, this paper examines, first, the changes currently taking place on Portuguese Disability Policies, second, the challenges and opportunities created for disabled people and, finally, the implication of these changes for the analysis of the Portuguese Welfare State.

Forgotten childhoods: Paradoxes and politics of De-Institutionalisation in Bulgaria

Barry Percy-Smith1, Galina Markova2

1University of Huddersfield, United Kingdom; 2Know How Centre, New Bulgarian University, Sofia, Bulgaria

A condition of Bulgaria joining the EU was to decrease the number of institutionalized children which in 2000 was 35 000. These children were effectively the forgotten minorities of childhood, handed over by parents without support and unable to cope, and left to eke out an institutionalised existence largely cut off from wider society and denied opportunities to participate as active citizens.

In 2010 Bulgaria embarked on a national programme of De-Institutionalisation (DI) funded by EU programs. In spite of a rhetorical commitment to DI at the level of national policy, there is no strategy for developing a robust child protection system as an alternative to institutionalised care. The major problem is the capacity of professionals and community leaders to ensure those children develop community and family relationships – the new experiences needed to change their identities from “institutionalized” and/or “deprived of parental care.”

This paper draws on evidence from an evaluation of the DI that adopted an action research approach to generate learning to inform its implementation. The evaluation has highlighted that the process has the potential to introduce child-rights practices but so far fallen short in ensuring the complex needs of the children. This paper discusses the extent to which their marginalisation is perpetuated in spite of the potential opportunities European integration brings and in turn highlights the role politics plays in shaping childhood and reinforcing inequalities of disadvantaged groups. Examples of children’s Identity shifts are presented to illustrate the role of communities, services and research in this change.

Beyond euro-centric relationship between State and society. Analysis of a citizenship concept from a postcolonial perspective, in a Chilean public policy.

Victoria Soledad Rivera Ugarte

University of Bristol, United Kingdom

Beyond euro-centric relationship between State and society. Analysis of a citizenship concept in a Chilean public policy from a postcolonial perspective.

At the light of the specific expressions of citizenship changes in Latin American countries and specifically Chile - manifested by the political disaffection, social inequalities and changes in the relationship between State and society- the objective of this paper is to explore the concept of citizenship from a postcolonial approach. Considering the contributions of De Sousa Santos, Quijano, Escobar, Dussel, Rivera Cusicanqui and others, this paper proposes that the current social policies' challenges in Chile are an expression of the colonial matrix of power (Quijano 1992, 2000). Consequently, to think in new horizons development involves the challenge of thinking beyond the Eurocentric perspectives and overcome that Dussel called the "developmental fallacy".

For this purpose, an analysis matrix will be built, which will comprise dimensions to explore a specific social policy, which is the Law 20,500 500 about Partnerships and Civic Participation in Public Administration, implemented in Chile from 2011. This policy represents the Chilean State efforts to increase legitimacy in the public policy processes, including the citizens' perspective as an essential element in public decisions. Therefore, that policy is a good focus to analyse how the Chilean State understands the citizenship concept and, from there, the limits and contributions of the postcolonial approach. For this work, the critical discourse analysis will be done, focusing on official documents from governmental institutions and scholars articles.

The role of discretion in the decision-making practices of welfare agents: A case study of the Habitual Residence Condition.

Majka Monika Ryan

University of Limerick, Ireland

In response to the expansion of the EU and the subsequent accession of 10 new member states on May 1st 2004 Ireland opened its borders and permitted citizens from the accession states to unconditionally contribute to their labour markets. However, citing the need to safeguard against ‘welfare tourism’, Ireland simultaneously introduced the Habitual Residence Condition (HRC) as an additional criterion for eligibility for social assistance payments. This added measure defines whether applicants, regardless of their nationality, are habitually resident in Ireland, which in turn is used to infer applicants’ centre of interest and so their relationship to the State.

The requirements for implementation of the HRC differ to the traditional ways in which decisions on access to social assistance in the Irish welfare system are determined. Habitual residence is operationalised through a set of ambiguous criteria requiring decision-makers to use their own initiative (deploy discretion) and to find the balance between the HRC guidelines and the facts as provided by their clients.

Based on empirical data from interviews conducted with social welfare and appeals office staff in Ireland as part of my PhD research, this presentation introduces an original conceptualisation of the role of discretion (in the context of the HRC legislation) in decision-making practices of civil servants. It presents a theorisation of how through the process of organisational socialisation welfare agents acquire, and later reproduce, certain values, norms and beliefs particular to their organisation’s ‘moral economy’ narratives (Evans 2010).

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