Sessione 22

Social workers affecting social policies in times of permanent austerity. Challenges for theory, practice, and education

Coordinatore/i di sessione: Riccardo Guidi (University of Pisa) e Annamaria Campanini (University of Milan-Bicocca & IASSW)


Testo della Call

According to their history, codes and discourse, social professions are charged by a political responsibility. Nevertheless the “policy practice” of social workers in contemporary societies is all but obvious. Beyond classical questions about political and professional mobilizations, literature has showed the “policy practice” of social workers has been marginal in many European countries in 1990s and first 2000s (Gal, Weiss-Gal, 2013). The managerialization of social services can work as powerful disincentive for the pratice of radical/critical social work (Rogowski, 2011). The growing community involvement into social services under the neo-liberal frame can further depoliticize social work (Jordan, 2012). Beyond continuity, the economic crisis and austerity politics (2008-2015) – which have significantly affected social rights, policies and services in (Southern) Europe – have been a new and dramatic test bed for the political acting of social workers.

The Session focuses on the individual and collective policy practice of European social workers in times of permanent austerity and explores current challenges of the intertwine between “the political” and “the professional” in social work theory, practice and education.

Contributions are particularly encouraged to address questions about:


 – The traits of the policy practice of European social workers in times of permanent austerity. Potentially inspiring questions are: Have European social workers acted as social and political innovators in the age of austerity? Which kind of action repertoire they have followed and who have been the major “political enterpreneurs”? Has their mobilization been more oriented to protect their own profession or to advocate for social justice? Which are the real impacts of mobilizations on social policies?

 – Current policy practices and development of professional social work. Potentially inspiring questions are: Do current policy practices represent a new stage in the development of professional social work? Do they contribute to strengthen and qualify this allegedly weak profession in front of public opinion? Are we assisting to a renaissance and a reappraisal of the radical approaches in social work?

 – Obstacles and incentives to social workers’ policy practice. Potentially inspiring questions are: does current educational supply provide European social workers enough instruments to policy practice? Are the institutional regulations of social professions appropriate and are collective actors of social work in Europe (professional bodies, trade unions…) prepared enough to facilitate policy practice? Do the governance structure of European countries give the social workers’ voice an actual chance to impact?

Both comparative and single case study, theoretical and empirical, academic and professional contributions are welcomed. Proposals in English, Spanish and Italian are considered. Please feel free to contact the coordinators for any further information about the Session.

Referente per la corrispondenza


Papers accettati

Sotto-sessione 1

Framing the policy practice. A Critical policy approach. (R. Guidi)

The political acting of Jane Addams’ Social Settlement (I. Psaroudakis)

Are social workers in Italy political actors? A study of advocacy, claims-making and day-to-day practice with immigrant clients (E. Barberis e P. Boccagni)

Il processo di riordino dei Servizi Sociali territoriali bolognese: il ruolo dell’assistente sociale come policy maker (C. Buda)

Sotto-sessione 2

Caseworkers’ ideas of justice in social welfare practices: Two case studies in Denmark and Italy (R. Paraciani e T. Saruis)

Situated agency under managerial and professional drives: evidences on discretion of public social services operators (L. Cataldi e V. Cappellato)

Le emergenze “ordinarie” e l’organizzazione “straordinaria” del servizio sociale in un comune meridionale (G. Moro, D. Petrosino, E. Carletti e M.F. Grassi)


Download papers