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Www.gu.se Lay person governance and decision-making in Swedish child protection Staffan Höjer, phd, professor in social work Torbjörn Forkby, phd, associate.

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Presentation on theme: "Www.gu.se Lay person governance and decision-making in Swedish child protection Staffan Höjer, phd, professor in social work Torbjörn Forkby, phd, associate."— Presentation transcript:

1 Lay person governance and decision-making in Swedish child protection Staffan Höjer, phd, professor in social work Torbjörn Forkby, phd, associate professor in social work Andreas Liljegren, (absent) phd in social work 13 th EUSARF conference, Copenhagen, September 2014

2 Today’s presentation Introduction about decision making in child welfare/protection Differences in structures of decision making The case of Swedish laypersons –Who are they? –How do they act? –Do they also govern – how?  What does a layperson system mean for vulnerable children and families as well as for the status of the profession of social work?

3 The importance of child protection decision making Core activity –Societal responsibility for the protection of children –Includes the most intervening activity into a family’s private life –Concerns social workers all over the world –Articulates societal values (e.g. how to react to the most vulnerable groups) –Deals with conflicts of values (e.g. children’s vs parents right) Highly complicated and complex –Different stake-holders –High stakes (e.g. removing children from parents) –Un-sufficient knowledge base –Limited possibility to foresee (control) possible consequences

4 Character of the decision-making Moral work Value based Negotiated processes Close to common sense? Interplays with economic factors Dependent of regulations and routines Uncertain, trial and error reasoning Intuitive - deviates from the rational idea Different and sometimes blurred boundaries between social workers professional discretion and others (legal, education, medicine) Legitimacy threats towards: –The profession –The child protection system

5 Case Sweden All decisions in child protection is a responsibility of the Social Welfare Board of the municipality Some decisions such as out-of-home placements can not be delegated and are taken by the board itself If decisions are without consent from the family (and child if 15) it has to be submitted to an administrative court. The board members are appointed from their political parties (but are not supposed to act as politicians when individual cases are decided)

6 Study of Swedish layperson system- aims To study layperson governance in Swedish child protection committees More specifically –study their representation and their thoughts about their tasks (who are they, what do they think) –analyse the decision making practice –take a closer look at when layperson decide against or oppose to proposals from professionals

7 Theorising governance Political governance (political decisions built on ideology and democracy) Bureaucratic governance (detailed regulations controlled by hierarchic organisations) Market governance – (social services regulated by the use of market mechanisms, NPM) Professional governance (expert group with special knowledge use their discretion) Network governance (different groups of experts and bureaucrats find ways to control the development in a field) Layperson governance?? – Not much theory about this –but several representations in practice

8 Layperson governance in Swedish child protection The lay person –”The good citizen” –Sound and judicious, good judgment –Some kind of public representation/resemblances –Not an expert within the specific area

9 Professional vs lay person and service user knowledge LaypersonProfessionalService user Interest groupNon-expertExpertNon-expert Knowledge orientation Life in generalClient groups, specified problems The self FormPracticalAbstractPractical TypeInformalFormalInformal Legitimacy groundCommon senseScience, researchPersonal experience

10 A comparison of coercive decisions in child protection and layperson – professional relations in three countries Initial (formal) decision More permanent decision Reviews the case Type of system Level of professionalisation SwedenLayperson (Pol) (Child protection council) Layperson (Pol) (Court) Layperson (Pol) LaypersonDeprofessionalized (laypersonalized?) EnglandLayperson (Civ & Law) (magistrates) Layperson (Civ & Law) Social workers Layperson and profession Semi- professionalised USSocial workers Law (judge) ProfessionProfessionalized

11 Study of Swedish layperson system - methods A survey to all layperson in 99 Swedish municipalities (n= 465) An study of three social work committees in three different municipalities (participant observation of more than 35 meetings + individual interviews). A study of cases where the layperson decided against or opposed to the proposals from the professionals (not reported today)

12 Representation? (who are the laypersons) Older than the public (mean 56 years) – few young persons More women than men (55 per cent) – more than in other municipality boards, but less than the professionals (where 85 per cent are women) More (much more) educated than the public. (71 per cent with higher than secondary education compared to 34 per cent among Swedes in general) However only 5 per cent with social work education and 12 per cent with any welfare profession background. Underrepresented when it comes to people born outside of Sweden (11 per cent compared to 17 per cent)

13 Laypersons in practice – how do they think Almost seven out of ten believe in keeping todays system (not letting professionals make decisions themselves) The laypersons claim it to be important for: -Rule of law -Control of the rights of citizens -Control over profession and social service organisation

14 Laypersons in practice – how do they act? Almost always decide exactly according to the proposal of the professional social workers (more often than 9 out of 10 times). When they do not follow, most often it concerns minor changes in the proposals It is more likely to happen if families have asked to present their case in front of the board BUT – they still do influence social workers

15 What influences the laypersons’ decisions? Answers from CPC membersVery/quite high degree Assessments from social workers 95,6 Policy/guidance rules77,4 Common sense77,2 Own experience54,6 Ideology/values48,3 Resarch results45,3 Own expert knowledge36,5 BUT; Great difference when asked for what should be given more weight. CPC members’ own education a key: – Lower education => more common sense and own experience – Higher education => more research results Despite claim of non political influence: Right wing more inclined to – vote against proposals – economy should play a part Left wing more open for – letting ideology play a role – seems closer to the system

16 Localised decision making cultures and much room for individual preferences Vice chairperson: I use to scrutinize these cases of compulsory treatment because I think that compulsory treatment is a kind of coercive force that the society should be very restricted in using and reverse as soon as possible.

17 What the laypersons monitor Distribution of CPC members’ considerations by monitoring aspects (1,328) in relation to communication devices used

18 Questions as strategic communication (to govern) Case management –How does it come that we have this case today? Why is not the girls presented together? Therapeutic –I miss a little that you have not worked more with the school and her (…) What will happen to her if she is placed during three months at an institution, and then comes back again? Are they going to make her realized that she has bad friends, and that she got to change your life – or what will happen there? Ecological –I am wondering, it is obvious that he does not function at home, but there is nothing [in the investigation] about the school. So I wonder, does he function in other situations as in the school for example? Formal –I had a question there, in this case I miss the care plan and this I also did in X case, miss the care plan when it is compulsory treatment and so. Legalistic –But the girl is let out of compulsory treatment, should not that be the guiding principle even if it [the case management] is getting more difficult?

19 Arguments for layperson decision making in Sweden Historic reasons –Stemming from being a totally “laypersonalised” practice Great reliance and power to local “self governing” municipalities Pragmatic reasons (system seems to work) The profession is not (yet) ready to manage the responsibility (weak profession) Transparency of the decisions A division of power – (lay persons, social workers and lawyers) – legitimizing difficult decisions in relation to the public. Control of and helping professions and social services. HOWEVER – The system is now and then questioned from professional groups and some politicians.

20 Consequences for the social work profession The system affects the status of the profession negativly. The professionals do not take decisions by themselves A reason for not getting a licensing system (as in the US) The independence, autonomy and social sanction for the profession is questioned – ON THE OTHER HAND Helps to prioritize social issues higher in the municipalities? Legitimizes the decisions – perhaps prevents questions by media and by the public? So – perhaps the system is – a trade off between legitimacy and professionalization?

21 Consequences for children and families? A second chance to present the view of the family before reaching the judicial system. According to the lay persons, they advocate the rights of children and families. BUT We need to ask the children and families themselves (also need for cross national comparisons)

22 Final conclusions Lay persons play, especially in Sweden an important role in child protection They influence the practice in more ways than just being decision makers Much of their influence can be understood as a way to affect the mind set about how to act and value different things – “to govern mentality” Posing question has a profound role in the strategic communication used to influence Child protection can be viewed as a hybrid system where lay person, bureaucratic and professionalised governance interplay as different logics sometimes fighting and often balance each other.

23 Publications Forkby, T., Höjer, S., & Liljegren, A. (2013). Making Sense of Common Sense. Examining the decision-making of politically appointed representatives in Swedish child protection. Child & Family Social Work. doi: DOI: /cfs Forkby, T., Höjer, S., & Liljegren, A. (2014). Lekmannastyrning inom individ och familjeomsorgens sociala barnavård. In S. Johansson, P. Dellgran & S. Höjer (Eds.): Människobehandlande organisationer. Natur & Kultur. Höjer, S., Forkby, T., & Liljegren, A. (2014). Lekmän inom den sociala barnavården. En studie av förtroendevalda i sociala utskott i 99 kommuner. Socionomens forskningssupplement (2/2014), Liljegren, A., Höjer, S., & Forkby, T. (2014). Laypersons, professions and governance in the welfare state: The Swedish child protection system. Professions and organizations. Forkby, T., Höjer, S., & Liljegren, A. (Accepted). Questions of control in child protection decision making – Laypersons’ monitoring and governance in child protection committees in Sweden. Journal of social work.

24 Thank you for listening! Contact address: Staffan Höjer/Torbjörn Forkby Department of social work Box Gothenburg Sweden


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