den Braber, Collin Peter Ronald (2014). 'The introduction of the capability approach in social work across a neoliberal Europe' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, 2-5 September 2014, Athens, Greece.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Amartya Sen developed the capability approach (CA) as an alternative to the dominant models for economic growth. The capability approach puts human well-being at the centre of thinking about human development. Sen's perspective on human development appears to be very similar to the way social workers define the goals of their profession. The CA has led to a tradition of highly qualified research that needs to be translated into the everyday practice of social workers by applied researchers. The capability approach provides social workers with an action model, a model with which to legitimize their actions and an evaluative model for social policy. In general, actions and policies should be evaluated on the basis of how capable people are of living lives that they (reasonably) value. At the European level, the dominant neoliberal market thinking threatens the position of social workers and the welfare state (social services), which undermines well-being. From a Senian perspective, it is important that European policymakers do not use economics but human well-being as a starting point for development, resulting in the expansion of the freedom that people have to enjoy valuable beings and doings. It is argued that the expertise of social workers is indispensable in achieving this. Consequently in times of economic crisis, there should be more investment in social work and social education rather than less.