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Justification by the Use of Artefacts Matilde Høybye-Mortensen, researcher, Ph.d.

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Presentation on theme: "Justification by the Use of Artefacts Matilde Høybye-Mortensen, researcher, Ph.d."— Presentation transcript:

1 Justification by the Use of Artefacts Matilde Høybye-Mortensen, researcher, Ph.d.

2 Puzzle ‘It’s not something I made up myself, because it’s a model I follow, and it’s laminated!’ (Danish caseworker, child protection) Why is it important that the model is laminated? Or: how and why do caseworkers justify their actions by the use of artefacts? International Conference on Sociology and Social Work 2

3 The street-level bureaucrat and professionalism Social casework is a street-level phenomenon: face to face interactions with clients, several decisions, exercise discretion. The legitimacy to hold this discretionary power is dependent on the professional status, the organisation or the interpersonal relation. 3

4 Important concepts ARTEFACTS – LEGITIMACY -PROFESSIONALISM: Artefacts can give confidence and psychological comfort in carrying out professional roles, especially for young professionals. Artefacts have the following dimensions: instrumentality, aesthetics and symbolism (Vilnai- Yavetz and Rafaeli 2006) 4

5 The three dimensions Instrumentality: ‘the impact of an artifact on the tasks or goals of people, groups, or organizations. Instrumentality can be high, or positive, if the probability of attaining a goal or accomplishing a task is increased by the presence of an artefact. Instrumentality is low, or negative, if the presence or the qualities of an artefact dampen or decrease the same probability’ Aesthetic: ‘Aesthetics is the sensory experience an artefact elicits’. Symbolism: ‘regards the meanings or associations an artefact elicits’ (Vilnai-Yavetz and Rafaeli 2006: 14).Vilnai-Yavetz and Rafaeli 2006: 14 5

6 My argument and findings Artefacts are used by caseworkers to enhance professional legitimacy and/or to compensate for lack of it 6

7 Standards as justification of questions  The Dialogue Guide is by some caseworkers used to justify sensitive questions, for instance questions concerning substance abuse. The caseworker quoted below describes such a situation.   Job counsellor: ’There might be citizens who don’t like such questions. And so we point to the Dialogue Guide and say that we ask everybody these questions. Then we avoid citizens getting offended’. 7

8 It’s a model I follow The Welfare Triangle, which is the model used to assess a child’s needs, is particularly popular amongst the caseworkers. In the quote below a family counsellor describes how the model helps her in the interaction with the family under investigation.  A family counsellor says: ‘It feels good to bring along a visual instrument for home visits, then you can show them on the Welfare Triangle, why you are asking these questions. Otherwise they might think that I’m only asking this because I don’t like them, when in fact it isn’t. It’s not something I made up myself, because it’s a model I follow, and it’s laminated!’ 8

9 Quality standards Homecare counsellor: ‘When I turn down a request because the person is not eligible, in my experience, then the citizen might say: “Oh, you’re in a bad mood today. Do you need a pay rise?” Then you need to tell them that’s not the way it works. It’s not me who decide. And then it’s good to have the quality standard with you and tell them they need to accept these rules, which apply to everybody’. 9

10 Conclusion Artefacts contribute to the caseworker-client relation by referring to something outside of the particular situation: The artefacts represent a rule, a principle or something objective, which gives the situation more legitimacy, since subjective and personal consideration is not perceived as legitimate foundations in this situation by the caseworkers. Artefacts are used when caseworkers feel that their actions are being questioned by clients. This could be interpreted as an expression of strong clients or as lack of arguments building on professional assessments. 10

11 Methodology The article’s empirical data come from a larger study of decision- making tools in welfare service conducted as a PhD research project (Høybye-Mortensen 2011; see also Høybye-Mortensen 2012, 2013). The project analysed the impact from decision-making tools on caseworkers’ room of discretion in decision-making. During the analysis of the interviews examples of caseworkers using artefacts (such as computers, laminated models, documents etc.) when in need of legitimising their doings and decision to clients were found. This paper presents these findings. 11

12 Empirical data  The empirical data consist of 30 qualitative interviews with caseworkers coming from a study of their experience with three decision-making tools used in Danish municipalities. One, Common Language, is used in the processing of cases concerning homecare services to the elderly. The other, The Dialogue Guide, is used in job centres when processing cases on unemployment benefits and services. The third, ICS Integrated Children’s System, is used when processing cases on children at risk. 12

13 Referencer  Høybye-Mortensen, Matilde Gatekeepers of the Welfare State. Administrative procedures in social work decision-making, Department of Political Science, Copenhagen University, Copenhagen.  Høybye-Mortensen, Matilde ”Sagsbehandling i en digital virkelighed: Digitalisering, standardisering og individuelle hensyn”, Politik (3).  Høybye-Mortensen, Matilde I velfærdsstatens frontlinje. Administration, styring og beslutningstagning: Hans Reitzels Forlag  Høybye-Mortensen, Matilde (forthcomming). ”Decision-Making Tools and their Impact on Caseworkers’ Room for Discretion”, British Journal of Social Work. 13


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