COST Action IS1102 SO.S. COHESION - Social services, welfare state and places


Main Objective

The main objective of the Action was to share and compare knowledge about the features and effects of the recent restructuring of social services in different national/regional contexts from five perspectives:

  1. efficiency
  2. democratic governance
  3. social and territorial cohesion
  4. labour market
  5. gender

with a view to identifying regulatory conditions, organisational configurations, and actual practices that maximise benefits from some or all the above points of view, thereby contributing recommendations to establish basic common European social policy guidelines. Among social services, the Action especially focussed on care services.

This general objective was pursued through the construction of a flexible and open network for the structured exchange of comparative knowledge, analytical methodologies and research findings.


Main Objective


Operational Objectives

The above main objective was articulated in four operational objectives. The first three operational objectives were sequential; the fourth was transversal.

  1. A comparison of the regulatory frameworks, institutional geometriesand organisational configurations in the funding, planning, production and delivery of social services, as they have resulted from the restructuring of welfare systems in different nations/regions across the 5 ‘Welfare traditions’ over the last twenty years. Particular attention was given to differences in trajectories and path-dependency in explaining ‘place’ specificities.
  2. A comparison of concrete experiences and practices (case studies) in the area of care services, in order to assess the specific features and effects of the restructuring, from five perspectives:
    • Cost efficiency in relation to quality: did the restructuring bring the expected reduction in public expenditures, increase in users’ choice and satisfaction, as well as improved quality of services? Why? Why not?
    • Democratic governance: did the re-scaling of authority and externalisation/privatisation of supply bring about greater citizen participation, greater democracy in decision-making processes, improved subsidiarity and optimised co-operation among actors? Why? Why not?
    • Social and territorial cohesion: did the restructuring maintain universal access, i.e. access to social services for all, regardless of origin, income, and place, while ensuring diversification and customisation of services? Why? Why not?
    • Labour market: what were the consequences of the restructuring of social services on the skills and contractual conditions of social service workers? Was there an increase in the casualisation and deskilling of work? Why? Why not?
    • Gender: how did the restructuring of social services affect/intensify gender differences and inequalities, i.e. access to the labour market, quality of employment, gender divisions of labour in the household and among state, market and family? Was it increasing differentiation in care deficits among social groups and places (e.g. migrant households, young families)? Why? Why not?
  3. The identification of both positive and negative experiences, with a view to singling out the most enabling institutional frameworks and production arrangements and their potential for transferability. In particular the network attempted to test the hypothesis that multi-scalar and multi- actor governance in social services works best in contexts with robust regulatory frameworks, that ensure well-defined rules and boundaries, guaranteed ‘minimum welfare standards’ for all, and safeguarded labour conditions.
  4. Knowledge dissemination and capacity building, via the socialisation of knowledge, in all three of the above tasks, i.e. in the gathering, comparison and evaluation of evidence, among other researchers, policy makers, service providers and service users, at the local, national and international levels (see section H for further details).
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