Welfare Relationships : Voluntary organisations and local authorities supporting relatives of older people in Sweden
Abstract: Sweden is often described as a country with a strong welfare state and little voluntary work. This is as would be expected according to substitution theory, in which extensive welfare systems are assumed to crowd out voluntary activity and thereby limit the potential for voluntary work – there is an inverse relationship between voluntary and statutory activity. A second perspective is welfare pluralism, which is siginified by a purposive duplication of activity by different actors resulting in increased choice for service users. A third perspective is offered by complementarity theory. In this theory, different actors are assumed to have different characteristics, strengths, and weaknesses, which make them suitable for performing different tasks.The purpose of the thesis is to examine the variation in welfare service provision by voluntary organisations and local authorities in Sweden. This includes determining whether there is a statistical association between voluntary and statutory service provision. The thesis also explores the interaction between voluntary organisations and local authorities, that is how they are related in terms of collaboration, competition, support, and influence, and the actors’ own views on roles, responsibilities, motives etc. The thesis is based on two national surveys and on in-depth interviews. Questionnaires were sent to 358 Swedish voluntary organisations in 1999, and 365 organisations in 2002. At the same time points, 80 local authorities were also surveyed. In 2001, 55 representatives of voluntary organisations and local authorities were interviewed.Analysis of the surveys showed no negative relationship between voluntary and statutory service provision cross-sectionally or over time. This was true for both the total amount of activity and when considering individual services. In other words, no evidence for substitution processes was found. Although there was an increase in support for relatives in the period studied and a positive relationship between voluntary and statutory activity in 2002, no positive correlation was found within individual support activities. This means that voluntary and statutory activities tended to be of different kinds at a local level. Only rarely could users choose between different service providers, and the situation could not be characterised as indicative of welfare pluralism. Voluntary organisations and local authorities were described in terms of different characteristics by interviewees, as would be expected by complementarity theory. Nevertheless, there were overlaps in service provision, questioning the validity of complementarity theory with its emphasis on matching of characteristics and tasks. However, at a local level voluntary organisations and local authorities rarely carried out similar tasks. There is thus extensive complementarity at a local level. It is argued that this complementarity is due to the strong ideology that voluntary organisations should complement local authorities, rather than due to the different characteristics of the actors.
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