Flernivåstyrning med olika medel : En studie om SKR och socialtjänsten

Sammanfattning: This thesis focuses on the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR) and the governance of Swedish social services. SALAR is an interest- and employer-organization for the Swedish regions and municipalities and it is an important actor in the Swedish multi-level system. Previous research on the governance of Swedish social services has focused on SALAR’s involvement in the policy process aimed at implementing Evidence-Based Practice (EBP). There are few studies in social policy with SALAR as the main object of inquiry, so little is known about its actions in social policy and its role in the governance of social services. The thesis aims to describe and analyze the roles SALAR plays in the Swedish multi-level system, focusing on social services. Drawing on insights from political science, public administration and social work, the theoretical chapter presents concepts such as multi-level governance, post-politics and human service organizations. A political sociological perspective on public policy instruments highlights the need to focus on the instruments used in policy processes. Texts from the websites of SALAR and governmental documents were analyzed. By describing how various tools were used by SALAR’s management, three multi-level roles the organization plays in the social services domain were distinguished: guardian, rule maker and policy instrument of the state. Whilst guarding its members’ (i.e. regions and municipalities) right to self-government is in line with SALAR’s statutes, the roles of rule maker and policy instrument vis-à-vis its members turns SALAR into a quasi-authority. One tool is agreements between SALAR and the state (Ministry of Health and Social Affairs). It is shown that this kind of agreement has become institutionalized as an instrument in governing the sub-national level. Agreements were initially used to govern health care and were later turned towards social services in the “governing through knowledge” of this domain. In an analysis of the “EBP-agreements” it is argued that they are to be understood primarily as instruments to manage the local dimension of social services. The frequent use of words such as “dialogue” and “collaboration” in the texts, together with the fact that “agreements” were the instruments used, underscores the post-political character of this governance process. Organizations at the regional (inter-municipal) level served as recipients of resources and discourses coming down from SALAR and the state. Interviews with staff of one of these regional organizations and with social service managers connected to that same organization revealed that SALAR was seen as an important actor bridging the national and regional level and supporting the regional organization. The thesis argues that the “agreement-institution” is important for explaining why SALAR functions as a quasi-authority in the social services domain. From a governance perspective, this institutionalized mode of cooperation is especially suitable for steering social services, considering both the local dimension of the social services and their human service character.