Chapter 3 Public policy conceptions: priorities of social service provision in Europe
Open access

There is great diversity in social service arrangements across countries. Some offer broadly accessible social services for their citizens, while in others social transfers and social services are fragmented and not available to everyone. Some care services are targeted or conditional, and therefore selective, while others are universally available. Institutional features such as these shape the extent and the ways in which citizens access care services and affect people’s well-being and way of life. They have a part in defining what role public policies play in societies and how states relate to their subjects. The design of social services is in that sense normatively consequential, and this chapter seeks to identify their overall character and conceptual underpinnings. It explores the core ambitions and policy goals underlying social service designs and identifies differences in normative commitments across policy fields and countries and over time. Ideal-typical policy conceptions are identified, which capture the goals and priorities informing the design of social service institutions. Two evaluative dimensions are then introduced, which map the diversity of public policy conceptions: priorities and core commitments and main orientation and targets. The framework is then put to use by analysing social service developments in three different policy fields and countries: care for older people in Finland, childcare in the UK, and housing services for asylum seekers in Sweden. These illustrations show that political rhetoric often strays far from institutional realities and underscore the need to investigate deeds, rather than words.

Monograph Book