Conference Agenda

RN19_04: Professional Handling of Vulnerability
Wednesday, 21/Aug/2019:
6:00pm - 7:30pm

Session Chair: Taru Siekkinen, University of Jyväskylä
Location: BS.3.28
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Business School, Third Floor, North Atrium Oxford Road


Public Service Professionals' Attitudes towards Socially Vulnerable Groups

Valentina Yarskaya2, Elena Iarskaia-Smirnova1

1National Research University Higher School of Economics, Russian Federation; 2Saratov State Technical University, Russian Federation

Modern welfare state plays an important role in social cohesion of the society, forming mechanisms of social inclusion of socially vulnerable groups. Institutions of social support and cultural integration can promote the development of such forms of public solidarity where diversity is considered a value, and individual choice is guaranteed by the law. The survey and qualitative interviews were conducted in public services in spheres of social protection, education and culture in three Russian cities in 2018. Based on the concept of inclusion and analysis of empirical data, the authors reveal the attitudes of professionals towards migrants, persons with disabilities and LGBTQ people. The hypothesis of contact is verified: the presence of representatives of socially vulnerable groups among relatives or friends of the respondents contributes to the formation of tolerant attitudes. Some differences in the assessments of the friendliness of society and organizations towards socially vulnerable have been revealed among specialists working in social protection, education and culture. It is shown that the specialists of social protection assess their institutions as the most inclusive ones, while assessing the attitude of the society towards, for instance, migrants more critically than other professional groups. The organizations of the sphere of culture, education and social protection are more friendly towards migrants as clients than as staff. The data are contextualized within the frameworks of the contemporary welfare state reforms in Russia. The task to construct an inclusive professional culture within the contexts of public services is formulated.

Professional identities in inter-professional teams. The example of the Swiss Child and Adult Protection Authorities.

Julia Emprechtinger, Elisa Favre, Peter Voll

HES-SO Valais-Wallis, Switzerland

Within organizations, inter-professional collaboration challenges professionals both to identify with their respective professional background and to develop a common, inter-disciplinary understanding of the work to be done at the organizational level. As collaboration supposes an orientation towards the organizational mission and related tasks (Lindh Falk et al. 2017; D'amour und Oandasan 2005), it may lead to a blurring of professional boundaries in favour of a more general organizational identity At the same time, inter-professional collaboration is inherently collaboration within and across different frames of reference and may thus contribute to sharpen the professional profile and strengthen professional identity, as Abbott 1988 convincingly argued.

The Swiss Child and Adult Protection Authorities serve as an interesting example for such phenomena and the related ambiguities. Mainly legal professionals and social workers are engaged as (quasi-)judges to act as ‘child and adult protectors’, a trans-disciplinary concept with little common profile due to large organizational heterogeneity in the Swiss federalism.

Combining ethnographic observation with data from a national survey, we focus on professionals’ balancing between professional-disciplinary and organizational-transdisciplinary orientation and identity. Our data suggest three main conditional dimensions: (1) the legal conditions defining the roles and their action space; (2) the larger organizational environment specifying the overall task and thus the professional profile required, and (3) a profession’s collective identification offer as support for individual positioning. Whether intra-organizational inter-professional collaboration strengthens or weakens professional identity, depends on the interplay of these dimensions.

‘This Is What We’ve Ended Up In, So To Speak’: Administrators’ Perspectives On Their Professional Role After Changes In Child Maintenance Regulation In Sweden

Stina Fernqvist

Uppsala University, Sweden

This study explores the effects of the amendments in the Swedish legislation that governs maintenance support transactions between separated parents, which became effective in 2016, through the perspectives of administrators at the governmental authority Social Insurance Agency (SIA). These amendments imply that maintenance support should to a larger extent be transformed into maintenance allowance, whereby the handling of maintenance is transferred from the SIA to the parents who are expected to initiate a dialogue to secure the best interest of the children in financial terms. However, this may be problematic. Possible occurrence of violence or threats from one parent to the other may complicate these processes and if a parent claims that s/he has been exposed to such abuse, this can be viewed as grounds for continuing maintenance transactions via the SIA. This means that the administrators to a much larger extent have to incorporate the discourse of intimate partner violence in their work after the implementation of the amendments.

The study that this paper is a part of aims at exploring how experiences of violence and financial oppression has affected these processes and what implications this may have on the financial situation for parents and children. Drawing on interviews with ten SIA administrators across Sweden, this paper analyses and discusses how the administrators conceptualize the changes in their work and how the strategies they deploy in order to navigate in this in many respects new problem complex may be viewed as a form of boundary work since the administrators’ work moves closer to a social work paradigm as a result of the amendments.

The Professional Parent

Neeltje Spit

University of Humanistic Studies, Netherlands, The

In many professions, including social work, professionals are expected to keep their distance from clients. Acting professionally is associated with expertise and neutrality, as opposed to getting close and becoming familiar, let alone becoming friends.

We studied refugee social work in two sociologically different districts in the Netherlands. We interviewed refugees, volunteers and social workers. We found that refugees often feel quite alone, as they lost family through war or persecution, or left them behind in their native country.

Hence many of them (especially the younger ones) long for someone to take on a pseudo-parental role. They need someone who cares about them as a mother or father, who contributes to their sense of security and well-being, and who helps them face a plethora of practical issues.

Surprisingly, many refugee respondents found this pseudo-parent. Sometimes this was a volunteer, but in other cases professional social workers had apparently adopted a pseudo-parental role.

In our paper we will discuss what this entails for the ideal of professional distance in social work. We argue that this ideal needs revision since both refugees and social workers favour a warmer, family-like relationship.

In addition we will reflect on the conditions required for social workers to adopt such a parental role. Building a pseudo-parental relationship requires a supportive organisational, policy and political context. Mostly it seems to demand a small-scale organisation.