Nørup, I., Jacobsen, B.
Not seeing the elephant in the room: How policy discourses shape frontline work with child poverty
(2021) Social Policy and Administration
Based on strong discourses of individualization, active welfare reforms in Denmark have changed the financial security of vulnerable families and increased numbers of children are growing up in poverty. This study investigates how poverty is reflected in frontline workers’ categorizations of children considered vulnerable. Empirically, the study draws on qualitative group interviews with 56 informants and descriptive results from two surveys with almost 2000 respondents each. Findings are analysed using Foucault’s theory of disciplinary power. The findings give an important insight as to how policy discourse influences and steers the moral and professional judgement in the frontline and why social work with vulnerable clients takes on particular forms. The results show that frontline workers implement and reproduce an individualised discourse found in recent social policy reforms while overlooking societal structures defining the individual’s possibilities. In particular, poverty is left unrecognised, as categorizations of ‘normal’ versus ‘vulnerable’ revolve around family relations and perception of personal shortcomings of the parents. © 2021 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
children’s services; implementation; public policy making; regulation and accountability; social work and workers