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The governance of professional knowledge:  Weak professions & the policy-process: social work & mental health reform in Britain & Sweden
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Government. (Demokrati & Deprofessionalisering)
2011 (English)In:  Workshop on Politics & Expertise, 2011Conference paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

In many European countries the development of post-war welfare programmes created a need for professional knowledge and expertise for the implementation of state policies and programmes. At this time the Bureau-Professional model created important state-sanctioned roles for professions in the policy process and conferred extensive trust and discretion to frontline professionals where many became state employees and obtained policy process powers resulting from their professional expertise. Thus the public management reforms represented a shift in the state’s attitude to controlling professional knowledge from freedoms that the state granted to professions to being regarded activities that the state needed to bring under democratic control. Existing research has often focussed on the ability of professions to subvert state reforms to follow their own professional agendas, often relating to high status and high power professions such as doctors. However much less is known about the state control of professional expertise when it comes to weaker professions. It is unclear whether weak professions can maintain control over expertise following the occupational model or whether governments seek to exert control over the exercise of professional expertise.

  This paper examines the implementation of the mental health reforms in Britain and Sweden between 1990 and 2005to study the approaches of the two governments to professional expertise. The reforms involved transferring the responsibility for social care services from healthcare providers to municipal social services providers where the main profession was social work. Thus the reform represented a professional opportunity for social workers to expand their occupational domain by claiming jurisdiction over mental health service users based on their social care expertise. Therefore, the aim if this paper is to analyse the relationships between state and professional expertise in community care. The findings were that while British social work had a stronger position in mental health, despite being overall a weaker profession, in Sweden social workers did not perceive mental health reform as an opportunity to establish a new professional domain and remained in administrative and benefit processing rolls. The reasons for this were found to be largely historical and the lack of mental health training for Swedish social workers. However, one issue of central importance was that notwithstanding the stated social reform aims in both countries, the social aims of the two reforms were never fully developed contributing to the weak roll of social work.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [vi]
governance, expert, profession, social work, mental health, Britain, Sweden
National Category
Public Administration Studies
Research subject
Political Science
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-163076OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-163076DiVA: diva2:462666
Nordic Political Science Association/NOPSA
Demokrati & Deprofessionalisering
Available from: 2011-12-07 Created: 2011-12-07

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Maycraft Kall, Wendy Katherine
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