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Rps 2 2017

È disponibile online il numero 2/2017 di Rps. Il fascicolo dedica la sezione monografica al welfare occupazionale. Nella sezione Attualità si discute di diseguaglianze di salute.

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Social work and welfare

1

2017

January - March

Description

The monographic section of no. 1/2017 concentrates on the Italian social work in the context of the present welfare system. The contributions deal with some general aspects that can be attributed to the ongoing changes in welfare, as well as the specific features of a series of sectors (labour, housing, migration, minors) in which the social work intervene. After a general account of the response of the various professional communities of social workers in Europe, Latin America, South Africa, Russia and China to the trends in their welfare systems, the article indicates specific aspects of the Italian social services, as well as the role played in them (actually or potentially) by social workers, in the search for a new «grammar» for dealing effectively with old and new social challenges. The section Attualità tackles the question of care-dependency, with special reference to policies for the elderly and those with dementia, while the Debate concentrates on models of capitalism in Europe. The issue ends with the section «Social Question and neo-populism», with an article that reflects on the challenge of the various neo-populist movements to the social action of the trade unions.

To buy this issue go to the italian version

THEME: Italian social work in the present welfare system

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What prospects for the profession? Possible opportunities and innovations in a situation of complex demands and weak institution
The article tries to focus some of the critical issues and paradoxes of current professional practice in Italy, pointing out the contradictions between social workers’ professional mandates and representation, and, in a fragmented welfare system, the risk of their gradually adapting to logical and bureaucratic attitudes. It identifies some opportunities and challenges in this complex situation of sudden social change: the professional community, with the institutions, can resume an effective role in the development of social rights and well-being for people and communities.
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Social workers: bargaining challenges
In recent years, the profession of the social worker has entered a state of deep crisis as a result of austerity measures and the development of new forms of poverty. In this context, its function needs rethinking, partly in relation to the organizational changes that the public services are undergoing. Given this situation, it has become central for union bargaining to reflect these changes and interpret them with a view to strengthening the protection of these professionals.
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Social workers faced with the changes in social policies: an international comparison
The sweeping changes in social policy have led to reactions and position-taking by social workers, among others, as they carry out their daily professional practice in the framework of such policies and see the limits and potential of the latter. This article presents some of the most significant results of an international research project by Irses - Marie Curie that sought answers to the question «what do social workers think of the social and political reforms?», analysing the situation in some European countries (Italy, Portugal, United Kingdom, Spain), Turkey and the so-called five «Brics» (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa). In these ten nations, social workers operate in a framework of shared procedures, values and principles, whatever the specifics of the local situation.
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Keywords: social work :: neoliberalism :: advocacy ::
The social work faced with managerialism and neo-liberal policies
Referring both to international and Italian studies, and to the results of qualitative research involving social assistance services in the region of Piedmont, this paper deals with the critical effects of changes in the welfare systems on the profession of social work. Among the risks of de-professionalization examined, the opacity of their political role emerges: the social worker seems to be limited to handling individual cases, without any voice in the planning process; the challenge for the community of social workers is to revitalize the emancipatory and promotional nature of their professional mandate.
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Social Work and Generativity
The generative approach to social work opposes the common consumerist manner of using services, which empowers neither the beneficiaries nor their community. Through personalized welfare projects, social work can promote interventions aimed at generating new capabilities for the assisted citizen, who can now contribute not only to his/her own well-being but also to that of others. In this way, generative social work makes both welfare users and operators co-creators of a supportive sociality, generating a new welfare. Hence, the focus moves from welfare seen as enjoyment of goods for the private satisfaction of individual needs, to welfare seen as joint social responsibility and participation in the production and enjoyment of a common well-being, shared and acknowledged by the network of open relationships.
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A change of perspective? Social policies and community social work
The local community is often cited and celebrated as the solution to many problems in the Italian welfare system. Encouraging trust, solidarity and social cohesion involves appropriate interactions between a series of actors and innovative professional skills. After outlining the changing welfare scene, the article analyses the collective dimension of community social welfare, stressing the need to get beyond approaches to welfare and encourage «capacity building». The conclusion suggests some elements of a new paradigm.
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Activation policies and the role of the social professions in Italy
The article examines the relation between policies and practices in the light of the activation paradigm. Starting from the reasons for a dialogue between social policy and social work, the article emphasizes the important role of those working on the frontline of the (inter-)active welfare state. Considering recent legislative developments in the fields of labour-market and anti-poverty policies in Italy, the piece ends with a reflection on the challenges of a project of professionalization in the contexts of activation and the contribution a social-work approach can make to this.
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Public housing policy and local welfare: new challenges for the social services
Since responsibility for it was decentralized, the various regions of Italy have approached public housing in various ways. The current crisis is also creating an increase in situations of vulnerability in addition to problems of arrears and eviction. In order to address these critical issues some innovative projects are being tested, aimed at enabling and supporting collaborative processes between the various subjects at local level and at promoting integrated responses. Starting from a few experiences of social mediation in housing in the Marche Region, this paper describes the actions taken by social workers in the contexts of public housing – actions aimed at supporting families, preventing conflict and promoting interventions aimed at encouraging a culture of sustainable coexistence.
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Policies, services and migrants: open questions on integration
Integration is a key issue of migration policy, regarding decisions on the recognition of rights to foreigners in a territory; recognition that in practice, as well as by law, tracks the trajectories of migrants and how they enter into the host societies. The social policy decisions made in recent years seem to be going in the opposite direction to that of a universal welfare state that seeks to balance fairly the needs of all people, citizens or migrants. The limited resources available and the consequent preference mechanisms that have been introduced are reducing the possible beneficiaries (through the tightening of entry requirements), thus jeopardizing the recognition of foreigners as having equal dignity and the same fundamental rights. The reflection on the ethical and political dimension of recent welfare policies is offered as a cue to looking at the future of social intervention in the context of the integration of migrants, with the promotion of integration policies, the rethinking of the organization of local services, and the ultimate goal of social cohesion for any intervention three inseparable mainstays.
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Social services and child protection. Lines of change and open questions
Child protection is frequently seen as an essential part of the social worker’s duties, but studies exploring the characteristics and ambivalence of this role are rare. Child protection is linked to two major policy areas: social welfare and the regulations governing family relations. Both areas are affected by deep and radical changes, and the social services are placed right at their point of intersection. Social workers play an important role in structuring the relationship between families and the state, influencing the orientation of child protection services. The present debate tends to contrast child protection with a family-oriented approach: referring to national and international studies, the article offers a contribution to the debate in terms of the risks and potentialities of social work.
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Social work and overcoming child poverty
The increasing poverty of families also affects the poverty of many children. Given the dramatic nature of the statistics, the survey focuses on who they are, how they live, their main needs, why intervention is often so slow, and why the youngest are the most disadvantaged (0-3). Social workers who face these issues every day have explained to us how they can help children, what is helpful and what is not, what is provided and what is not provided, if and how to combine money transfers and services, how the lack of integration can create operational gaps, and if and how training can improve their service. The results are valuable because they come from direct knowledge of the problems, from their professional experience, and from the utility of their action despite limited resources and organizational dysfunctions.
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Keywords: social work :: poverty :: children ::
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TOPICAL QUESTION: Long-term care: uncertain policies and growing needs

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The Age of Uncertainty for Policies on Long-term Care for the Elderly
Policies on long-term care for the elderly in Italy are going through an extremely uncertain period, and it is by no means clear what the trajectory will be in the near future. If we want to pass from the present age of uncertainty to a period of fresh development in the sector we need, above all, to re-define the terms of the debate, starting by looking at the actual state of the country. We need, in other words, to pause and ask ourselves what the obstacles to be overcome are in building a support system for long-term care for the elderly and their families – one that is suitable for society now and in the future. That is what the article tries to do, dealing with some of the underlying problems: little attention given to policy; policies often announced but not carried out; the need to develop a larger network of responses at local level; the ever-closer tie between long-term care and poverty; the longstanding immobility of reforms of the helplessness allowance; and the need to find new ways of combining public and private financing, with the former remaining the main contributor.
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For a National Policy on Long-term Care
Long-term care for the elderly is still generally left to their families, who often deal with the situation with the help of family assistants. The fragmentation of responsibilities between state, regions and local bodies, and the difficulty in integrating the various sources of financing means that it is not enough to increase resources. The multiannual financing of the National Long-term Care Fund makes it structural, meaning that essential levels of welfare services can be defined. To be effective the Fund needs to concentrate the varied policies that the regions have set up, putting quality first in individual care plans and collaboration with the health and welfare services. Public funds in themselves are not enough to create a properly working system of home-based services. What is needed more urgently than ever is a national framework law to replace the fragmentation of responsibilities, ensure that the care allowance is appropriate to individual needs and the plan for individual assistance. Until there is such a law, the Italian Pensioners Union has decided to set up a National Observatory on care homes for the elderly.
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The Sound of Silence: Mechanisms and Risks of the Scarce Focus on Dementia in Public Discourse
The increase in chronic degenerative pathologies means that contemporary societies have to face the fact that the objectives achieved are not meeting all the expectations that have been aroused. In particular, the shift from a prevalence of acute diseases – which quickly led to either recovery or death – to an increased incidence of chronic and/or complex illnesses has made clear both the medical and social difficulties they present. Pathologies such as dementia and Alzheimer’s are little mentioned in public debate because of the difficulties in dealing with them, even though they are expected to increase significantly in the coming decades. Furthermore, at present, around one and a half million patients are diagnosed with dementia, half of them with Alzheimer’s. The article describes the fluctuating attention given to dementia and lack of autonomy in Italy, in order to consider the possible reasons for the current situation and the risks in terms of social management of this multi-faceted range of pathologies.
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DEBATE: Models of capitalism in Europe

Unsustainable capitalism: the transition of the various European models compared
The article is about the capacity of the various models of European capitalism to adapt and develop in the face of contemporary challenges. Starting from the recent book by Burroni (2016), the authors discuss the concept of «unsustainable development» as a key characteristic of capitalism. Capitalism in general, and European capitalism in particular, is less and less able to reconcile competing needs such as economic growth, social protection, and the democratic participation of citizens. Finally, the authors analyse the Italian case, showing how difficult it is for a country with structural weaknesses to find a new path of social and economic development.
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Differentiated Models and the Reform of Capitalism: A Reflection
Starting from Burron’s reconstruction (2016) of the historical and empirical plan of four models of capitalism, this article considers the dramatic need for a «reform of capitalism». By restoring legitimacy to the debate on the various «types of capitalism», we can draw attention to the characteristics of alternative economic structures and contest the idea of an ineluctable convergence towards a single economic model. The article dwells on the crucial question of the reformability of capitalism, whose fundamental axes are confirmed as being employment and investment. This means that the questions that should once again become central are the role of «labour» and the «ends» of a «new model of development» that might relaunch full, quality employment, satisfy needs that have been ignored, and produce public goods, common goods and social goods in the awareness that these goods are fragile and need institutions to foster them.
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Social Question and Neo-populism

Features

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Neo-populism: What is the Challenge to Trade Unions’ Social action?
In the extraordinary phase that began with the 2008 crisis, what should trade unions do to maintain their role as a major social and institutional player? For some time now, various neo-populist movements have used different means and arguments to contest the unions’ claim to monopolistically represent the general interests of the governed and the particular interests of the workers. To cope with this existential challenge, the trade unions should, first and foremost, understand the core truth inherent to the question of identity and security which neo-populist movements are expressing. The dangerous sovereign, nationalist, xenophobic tendencies of neo-populism can only be fought by radicalizing their content and bringing the conflict to a new constituent phase.
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