Professional agency and identity of frontline social workers in times of austerity

den Braber, Collin Peter Ronald (2016). 'Professional agency and identity of frontline social workers in times of austerity' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Tokyo 2016.

abstract Following the European research into the effects of the economic crisis on the social work profession by the IFSW in 2015, this study shows that the impact of austerity measures on people and professionals is enormous. Building on this research, the Capability Approach is used to think about frontline social workers’ agency and legitimization in times of austerity by reflecting on three important questions: how to act in practice, how to justify these actions from a social worker’s point of view, and how to legitimize the social work profession in a society under pressure. First, the argument is made that the concepts of internal and external capabilities are useful tools for professionals in times of austerity, as they allow them to find opportunities to increase human and professional well-being. Second, social workers need a clear vision of society in order to legitimize their position and actions as welfare workers in a welfare state. In practical research into the actions of social workers in times of austerity, it is therefore recommended to make this vision explicit as part of examining the external capabilities or the social context of professional agency in times of austerity. Keyterms Capability approach, professional agency, social work, austerity,

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