Journal Article

Applying for money The encounter between social workers and clients—A question of morality


in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 26, issue 6, pages 843-860
Published in print December 1996 | ISSN: 0045-3102
e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI:
Applying for money The encounter between social workers and clients—A question of morality

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The facts of household finances generally obtain their meaning from the moral standards of everyday life: it is in relation to these standards that we evaluate our personal finances. Persons who lack money and apply for social welfare compensation generally have to turn to a public social welfare bureau where their eligibility is assessed by a professional social worker. The central question for the present study is how social workers and clients deal with the morally delicate question of personal financial deficits and how this question should be processed in a formal and institutional setting by formal means. This problem is discussed through an analysis of conversations between social workers and clients at social welfare bureaux in the municipality of Stockholm, Sweden. In pursuing a formal inquiry the social worker is conducting a moral search: the social worker has to determine the moral character of the client and the circumstances around his/her handling of his/her own financial situation. The ‘relevant characteristics of the citizen’ that the social worker tries to match with the beneficiary rules are of a moral nature. In this respect, the social worker is not only a social worker but also a moral worker. In order to define and defend his or her moral character the client has to pursue the financial issue as a moral issue. In the encounter, the client alludes to everyday circumstances to account for his/her financial situation and to justify it by applying everyday moral standards.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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