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By Christopher J. Jewell (auth.)

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Additional info for Agents of the Welfare State: How Caseworkers Respond to Need in the United States, Germany, and Sweden

Sample text

The nature of an organization’s central function, its “critical task” (Johnson 1998), affects the role of frontline staff by determining the information demands made on them, their discretion for making decisions, and the nature of the contact they have with their clients. Organizations vary, for example, in the authorized responses they have to a claimant’s situation. In the simplest case, the official makes a dichotomous (yes/no) decision, such as is approximated by eligibility decisions for the standardized cash grants of most public benefits programs.

Caseworker impact, though, differs between the two major program divisions (programs targeted to youths and programs targeted to adults) 18 AGENTS OF THE WELFARE STATE due to differences in resources and aims. Manageable caseloads (a result of a smaller recipient population and additional national funding for staffing) give caseworkers in the youth section (U27) the opportunity to develop familiarity and rapport with their clients. The program goals are also relatively modest—preparing clients to select and enroll in vocational programs that are readily available to this group due to national funding commitments and training entitlements for most youth.

There is obviously less assurance that claimants receive services that address their particular problems or that help them achieve long-term economic self-sufficiency. An alternative service model involves a broader programmatic focus on education and social integration, an acknowledgment that for some people a move directly into work is unrealistic, the so-called “human resource development” (HRD) approach (Trickey 2000). Both Bremen and Malmö provide a considerably wider range of program options, including training, education, and job placements, though also in both cases to a smaller percentage of the recipient population.

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