Agents of the Welfare State: How Caseworkers Respond to Need by Christopher J. Jewell (auth.)

By Christopher J. Jewell (auth.)

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There is both the opportunity and necessity to interact with and assess clients in an in-depth manner in order to provide the most appropriate forms of assistance. Where offerings are limited, the caseworker’s role is more routinized and bureaucratic, as evaluations require less information or involvement. Opportunity for client contact affects caseworkers’ ability to develop rapport with participants and become familiar with their particular situations. 1 Comparing responsiveness among activation caseworkers Program offerings: range of options available to caseworker Nature of client contact: opportunity to develop rapport and provide direct services Processing (short-term contact) Ϫ Engaging (longer-term contact) ϩ ϩ “Resource Broker” (medium) “Counselor” (high) Ϫ “Monitor” (low) “Facilitator” (medium) Extensive Limited individual.

The resulting high caseloads severely limit caseworkers’ contact with clients, reducing their work primarily to rapid brokering of contracts for the few participants they can help. With the implementation of the so-called Hartz IV reform in 2003, however, all work-capable social assistance recipients have been incorporated into a new national unemployment benefit program. It remains to be seen how the new job centers, jointly managed by federal and local governments, will compare with the municipal activation programs like Werkstatt Bremen they have come to supersede.

In recognizing that it is often at the point of delivery where we see how welfare states actually work and how they work differently, it utilizes street-level observations and interviews in 36 AGENTS OF THE WELFARE STATE addition to policy-level data. It also looks at social assistance as a whole, examining how program officials contend with complicated issues raised both by needs assessment and the promotion of recipient self-sufficiency. Most importantly, the choice of three countries from distinct political traditions provides a manageable sample with sufficient variation to enable the articulation of how broader state policy relates to day-to-day office practices in regime-specific ways.

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