Welfare and change – University of Copenhagen

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Welfare and change

This team will cover welfare research in a broad sense, with particular emphasis on the development of theory and methods.

In the first instance, the team will study the manifestations and distribution of welfare between different population groups and generations, in relation to health, work, housing, etc. Here, the focus will be on both the living conditions of the general population and the lifestyles of socially vulnerable groups, e.g. the poor, the long-term unemployed, drug and alcohol abusers, and the homeless. The analyses will focus on how individual circumstances and choices determine the situations faced by each person or group, and how the structural conditions at given points in individuals' or groups' lives help to determine welfare distribution. The team will work with theories at micro- and meso-level, alongside macro-oriented theories of trends in modern and post-modern society.

Secondly, the team will analyse the Danish welfare model and welfare policy in an international context, and in light of phenomena such as globalisation, individualisation and the increasing heterogenisation of the population. This will include studying the ways in which responsibility and tasks are divided up between the state (and local authorities), the market and civic society; looking at citizens' trust in the welfare state; and analysing the increasing emphasis on individual responsibility and freedom of choice that characterises modern society and pervades a range of key policies relevant to welfare distribution. Particular emphasis will be placed on analysing what effects these phenomena have on the position of disadvantaged and vulnerable groups in relation to current social and health policies. How are the goals of democracy, respect for the individual's right to dignity, autonomy and recognition, and the general protection of individuals' basic rights realised in different parts of the welfare system and in relation to different population groups?

Thirdly, the research will include analyses of welfare organisations/institutions tasked with helping, treating, servicing and monitoring individuals and families with social, health or other types of problems. In particular, it focuses on organisational and management issues, and on how meetings between the client/citizen and the welfare system are, at any given time, influenced by prevailing academic, medical and ideological conceptions of different areas of welfare. Central questions include: Has there been, as described in various declarations of intent, a move towards greater user involvement and self-management in public-sector welfare provision so people are no longer "clients" but "users"? Will these changes require new resources on the part of the citizens? Will the lack of resources among some individuals and population groups cause inequalities in the uptake of benefits and services? The research team also analyses the approaches to problems, professional ideals and forms of work that characterise various welfare organisations, e.g. institutions for vulnerable children, young offenders and addicts. In addition, it looks at the users' situations and daily lives, both in and outside of these institutions.

The fourth focus will be on a broad range of overarching theoretical issues related to inclusion and exclusion, health and risks, international welfare systems, trust, welfare and normativity. The team will analyse, for example, new forms of vulnerability and marginalisation; the distribution of economic, cultural and social capital in the population; various forms of risk behaviour and theoretical perspectives on risks; and the borders between "normality" and "deviation", and "use" and "abuse". The research also includes a series of comparative studies, conducted both inside and outside the EU, which will help to promote discussion of different welfare models and life situations. In doing so, it will lay the groundwork for the discussion of new strategies for the future of the welfare state and society.

In terms of methodology, the team will work with both qualitative and quantitative methods, as well as with "mixed methods". The Department's welfare research involves qualitative interviews, ethnographic fieldwork, focus-group interviews, surveys and register studies. One objective of the research is to increase the number of projects that combine quantitative and qualitative methods.

Research group coordinators: Margaretha Järvinen and Jørgen Elm Larsen.

Members of the research group Welfare and change
Peter Abrahamson
Stefan Bastholm Andrade
Tea Torbenfeld Bengtsson
Karen Margrethe Dahl
Christoph Houman Ellersgaard
Lars Fynbo
Therese Heltberg
Margaretha Järvinen
Cecilie Juul Jørgensen
Hans Kristensen
Søren la Cour
Anton Grau Larsen