Journal Article

Care for Sale: The Influence of New Public Management in Child Protection in Sweden

Staffan Höjer and Torbjörn Forkby

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 41, issue 1, pages 93-110
Published in print January 2011 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online April 2010 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI:
Care for Sale: The Influence of New Public Management in Child Protection in Sweden

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Market-oriented strategies have been introduced in child welfare in recent years. The aim of the study described in this article was to analyse the significance of two formal instruments that now regulate practice in child protection cases: the system of procurement in which general agreements about placement provision are reached and individual child protection investigations. The research questions were (i) How do procurement processes and general agreements affect the choice of institutions in child welfare cases and (ii) what characterises individual placement processes in relation to decision making and the articulation of needs and treatment goals? The study comprised telephone interviews with social service managers in all of Sweden's 290 municipalities, a content analysis of fifty-one individual formal investigations leading to placements and semi-structured interviews with ten0 senior managers. Overall, the results showed that practice deviated significantly from how these systems were supposed to work. General agreements could be sidestepped and their influence on quality seemed marginal. In addition, the function of the child protection investigations did not follow the described rational model. Thus, although bureaucratic and market logics dominated the line of thought for the overall systems, in practice, the picture was more complicated.

Keywords: New Public Management; general agreements; child protection; procurement; investigations

Journal Article.  7155 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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