Socialt arbete som kommunikativ praktik : Samtal med och om klienter
Sammanfattning: Social work is a communicative enterprise. Thus, social welfare officers talk with clients, analyse their needs in dialogues, transform client accounts into institutional language, keep records and fill in forms, contact authorities and perform a number of similar activities by means of language. In a theoretical perspective, social welfare officers operate as some kind of street-level bureaucrats who act as intermediaries between a social institution and people in need of assistance.The main purpose of the present study is to describe and analyse the way in which social welfare officers assess financial assistance. Two work situations characterising the activities at a social welfare office, so-called client interviews and decision-making meetings, have been studied. The participants in the interviews are both male and female social welfare officers and clients. The majority of the social welfare officers are, however, female.The empirical material used in the three substudies in this thesis was collected ar two social welfare offices in two large towns in Central Sweden. The bulk of the empirical material consists of transcribed dialogues and audio tapes. The method used is based on qualitative analyses, although some quantitive assessments have been used when analysing the material.The analysis of the client interviews reveals the determining strategic initiative taken by the social welfare officers at different stages, or phases, of the client interviews. The most important part of the work on assessing the need for financial assistance concerns determining whether the client satisfies or does not satisfy the criteria for being considered entitled to financial assistance. The results also show that the social welfare officers place more responsibility on male clients than on female clients with respect to how soon they expect them to be able to contribute to supporting themselves. The way in which the social welfare officers treat their clients, and the 'idealised picture' the clients give of themselves, appear to follow the conceptions that form the basis of the gender system.In the decision-making meetings studied, it can be seen that the client category to which the social welfare applicant can be said to belong is important with respect to whether applicants arc described during the meetings as being victims of circumstances outside their control or responsible for their problems. The analysis also shows that the male clients are assigned more responsibility for their problems than are female clients. Finally, it is found that clients who are described as being responsible for their problems are granted financial assistance in substantially fewer cases than clients who arc described as being the victim of circumstances outside their control. The results can be compared with studies in the field or attribution research, which have shed light on how men and women are ascribed responsibility for different types of social problems. A comparison of this type reveals that the responsibility ascribed to men and women varies depending on the types or problems involved.The most important conclusion drawn from the study is that the interviews studies contribute to reproducing traditional conceptions of both sexes. This production is grounded in the social welfare officers' individualised treatment of clients and their individualised descriptions and explanations of the clicents problems.
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