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Perceptions of social assistance recipients and attitudes towards social assistance policy

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Helena Blomberg, Johanna Kallio, Olli Kangas, Christian Kroll and Mikko Niemelä: Perceptions of social assistance recipients and attitudes towards social assistance policy among the population, frontline workers, administrative managers and local politicians in Finland. Presentation at 2016 Annual ESPAnet Conference, Rotterdam 1-3.9.2016.

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Perceptions of social assistance recipients and attitudes towards social assistance policy

  1. 1. Perceptions of social assistance recipients and attitudes towards social assistance policy among the population, frontline workers, administrative managers and local politicians in Finland Helena Blomberg, Johanna Kallio, Olli Kangas, Christian Kroll and Mikko Niemelä Please, do not cite without the permission of authors 1–3 September 2016 Rotterdam Tackling Inequalities in Time of Austerity
  2. 2.  How do local politicians, managers, frontline workers and citizens perceive social assistance recipients’ deservingness?  What explains variation in deservingness perceptions between and within these groups?  What are the interrelations between deservingness perceptions and the attitudes towards policy alternatives for developing social assistance in the various groups investigated? Research questions
  3. 3.  Social assistance  last resort income transfer (selective)  Implementation by social workers at a local level  2017, to Social Insurance Institution (Kela)  Deservingness perceptions at different levels  From general public through street-level bureaucrats paying out benefits and to local politicians involved in local decision-making Deservingness of social assistance recipients
  4. 4. Control Attitude Reciprocity Identity Need CARIN-model (van Oorschot 2000) The less control over neediness… The more grateful, docile, and compliant… The higher previous or future payback… The higher degree of group belonging… The greater level of need… …the higher degree of deservingness
  5. 5. Deservingness perceptions  Control: Most of those who receive social assistance are lazy and they lack the willpower to solve their problems  Attitude: Recipients of social assistance should be grateful to society for the social benefits they receive  Reciprocity: Most of those who receive social assistance have participated in, or will participate in financing the welfare state  Identity: The recipients of social assistance can be anyone of us whose economic situation has unexpectedly weakened  Need: Most of those who receive social assistance are really in need of it CARIN  CRIN Variables
  6. 6.  Population  TNS Gallup’s telephone survey (N=1003)  Frontline workers  Social security officials, online survey, N=887  Social workers, online survey, N=530  Administrative managers  Heads of social services, postal survey, N=137  Heads of Kela’s local offices, postal survey, N=65  Local politicians  Chairs of the boards of municipal social welfare, postal survey, N=130 Data
  7. 7. Support for policy measures  Statement 1: Level of social assistance should be improved  Statement 2: Preventive and supplementary social assistance should be applied more widely than currently Variables
  8. 8. Deservingness perceptions % of those who agree or strongly agree with the statement Control Reciprocity Identity Need Mean value of deservingness index Citizens Politicians 26 20 62 50 93 87 77 87 15.53 (0.11) 15.47 (0.26) Social services Head of social services 13 58 88 92 16.17 (0.23) Social workers 7 62 94 96 16.96 (0.96) Social insurance Head of Kela’s offices 24 43 78 83 15.06 (0.36) Social security officials 29 46 89 86 15.03 (0.92)
  9. 9. Regression models applied among frontline workers and citizens  Gender  Poor predictor of deservingness perceptions  Male frontline workers endorse more likely control than females  Age  Frontline workers: the oldest age group (51 year +) perceive recipients of social assistance more deserving than younger professionals  Citizens: older citizens are more inclined to emphasise identity
  10. 10. Regression models applied among frontline workers and citizens  Education  Poor predictor of deservingness perceptions  Citizens: those with tertiary education are less inclined to emphasise control  Political ideology  Overall, both left-wing voters and voters of the Greens perceive social assistance recipients more deserving than voters of the right-wing parties
  11. 11. Support for policy measures % of those who agree or strongly agree with the statement Increase the level of social assistance Grant more preventive and supplementary social assistance Politicians 64 67 Social services Head of social services 66 64 Social workers 81 82 Social insurance Head of Kela’s offices 59 56 Social security officials 57 58
  12. 12. Regression models applied among frontline workers Increase level of social assistance Grant more preventive and supplementary social assistance Deservingness index Low . . Medium 1.944*** 1.936*** (0.320) (0.317) High 4.360*** 4.528*** (0.795) (0.829) chi2 200.3 197.8 Bic 1546.0 1527.4 N 1304 1304
  13. 13.  A clear majority of all groups studied perceive social assistance recipients as rather higly deserving group  However, recipients are not perceived as equally deserving on all dimensions measured  + Need and control  - Reciprocity  Perceptions are linked to:  Socio-economic characteristics  Political ideology Discussion I
  14. 14.  Those groups who are at present responsible for shaping, administrating and implementing social assistance (social workers and heads of social welfare offices) perceive social assistance recipients as deserving to the largest degree  Especially social workers:  Exposure  Highly professional education Discussion II
  15. 15.  It seems relevant to apply a deservingness perspective to the study of groups in the administration and implementation welfare services  Enhance our understanding about the formation of these groups’ perceptions of client groups  May contribute to the explanation of their attitudes towards different policy solutions  Since discretion, the knowledge of the factors affecting bureaucrats’ reasoning should be taken into consideration Discussion III
  16. 16. Tackling Inequalities in Time of Austerity

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