9. The local welfare state

Per H. Jensen, Centre for Comparative Welfare Studies, Aalborg University, Denmark, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Evelyn Mahon, School of Social Work and Social Policy, Trinity College, Dublin, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Much welfare research is based on the assumption that welfare regimes are homogenous entities. This idea is supported by studies analysing cash benefits. In the area of welfare services, however, in most countries local governments have some autonomy regarding policy formation as well as the design and implementation of policies. In effect, huge local differences exist with regard to the provision of welfare services (e.g. child care, elder care), which in turn challenge our conception of nation-wide homogenous welfare state regimes. In the case of social services, it would probably be more appropriate to talk about a multitude of different ‘welfare municipalities’ as opposed to a single, uniform welfare state.

Local variations in welfare provisions are an under researched area. In a welfare state perspective very little is known about local priorities, political dynamics and social networks which may actually differ markedly from national politics. We don’t know, for instance, who are the main social actors relevant in the field of local welfare state policies towards welfare services; i.e. does politics and civic engagement matter? We don’t know much about how the local welfare state is funded or the extent to which funding affects policy formation. Further there is an increasing tendency towards the subcontracting of some services to private providers in neo-liberal states. This raises issues of local governance. And we don’t know much about how differences in local welfare policies (out-puts) affect differences in out-comes.

In this stream papers are welcome dealing with causes and effects of the provision of local welfare services. This includes local policy and decision making structures and governance; how services funded; how do private and public provision co-exist; what are the implications of the welfare municipality for policy out-comes and the developments of citizens rights. 

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