Utrymme för variation : - om prövning av socialbidrag

Sammanfattning: The overarching aim of this dissertation is to study divergences in assessments of social assistance in Swedish social welfare offices. ‘Assessments’ here refers to whether applications for social assistance are granted or not, as well as the size of subsidies. Another aim with the dissertation is to explore whether differences in assessments have changed over time. A primary focus in this study is the importance of elements of changing character, e.g. varying organizational and individual conditions. Among these elements, the main focus is on the relation between organizational factors and professional discretion among social workers.Primary data used for the study has been assembled among social workers (n=121) in eleven municipalities in the northern Stockholm area. The main section of the questionnaire used for assembling data consists of six vignettes, each describing a different situation. Data is supplemented with secondary material that derives from a similar study conducted in 1994.Overall, findings show considerable divergences in the way social workers make their assessments. Some of the divergences are explained by different organizational conditions, e.g. varying levels of specialization and size of caseloads. Individual factors, such as sex, age and varying professional characteristics, e.g. work experience, influence the assessments only to a limited degree, while attitudes among social workers play a larger role. The study also indicates a substantial decrease in generosity over time. This might to some extent be explained by changed and elaborated set of regulations in the sphere of social assistance. Further, the individual divergences in assessments have increased over time. A plausible interpretation of the results is that an increasing number of regulations combined with professional discretion, entails a larger scope for social workers’ opinions and individual screening among rules.