• Mette Bonderup
4. term, Social Work, Master (Master Programme)
The aim of the thesis is to examine: What is the relative strength of the discourses as a social worker on rehabilitation refers to the professional discretion in decisions on financial support for parents of children with disabilities? And how affected discretion of the institutional framework as it is performed in?

The thesis is based on a discourse analytical approach and is inspired by Institutional Ethnography. The analysis uses tools from Fairclough's textual analysis as well as his analysis of discursive practices. Fairclough's critical discourse analysis is combined with Laclau and Mouffe's discourse theoretical concepts: hegemony and antagonism. Smith's "trans-local field" is used in the part of the analysis which focuses on the influence of the institutional context on the discretion.

The analysis of the discursive practice is based on the ICF model Multiple Disabilities Understanding as the ideal. It shows that social workers refer partly to the medical and partly to the social discourse represented in the ICF model. The analysis of the relative strength of the different discourses shows that the medical discourse is dominant.

The analysis of the dominant social relations in local government is based on The Service Act (Serviceloven). In The Service Act the concept of normality is used as a basis for the allocation of financial support, which, as this thesis suggests, has established a framework for involving norms in the social worker´s discretion. This reveals a paradox, because the social worker following The Service Act includes normality as a basis for decisions, but at the same time overrides the Multiple Disabilities Understanding of the same law. The thesis also shows that The Guide Lines for The Service Act (Vejledningen til Serviceloven) affect social practice through exemplification. This influence is seen when the given examples are used as a direct “viewfinding lens” for the social practice, and, more indirectly expressed through the favoring of the medical discourse. The social workers do not appear to relate reflexively to the consequences of the dominant medical discourse and its impact on the child's disability.
The analysis also suggests that the organizational context through specific tools e.g. forms and questionnaires is closely associated with The Service Act. Thus both the Multiple Disabilities Understanding of The Social Service Act as well as the dominant medical discourse is reflected in the forms.

The analysis of the relative strength of the social practices that relate to the social discourse shows that social workers are interpellated in different positions, partly as a representative of the Multiple Disability Awareness and partly as an employee of the institution in which she is employed. A dual positioning which makes the social worker redefine the child's need of support and transfer the responsibility for support to other professionals. At the same time, the analysis indicates that the social worker chooses her position as an employee of the organization.

The social workers´ inclusion of norms and their own experiences in the discretion indicates that in the social practice of rehabilitation the discretion is not based on scientific knowledge as ideally determined by Koch. This conclusions is supported by Egelund´s study Discretion the Field of Children and Youth, as well as by Caswells study Discretion the Employment Area.

The thesis suggests that a serious consequence of the social practice, as it looks today can be the exclusion of children with social disabilities or children with needs that relate to the social discourse. At the same time there is a risk that the organizational context may cause social workers to transfer focus from the child´s needs to the question whether other professionals might be able meet the demand. Or it might also be a point of focus whether the parents of children with disabilities already receive support in one form or another.

On the basis of the conclusion of the thesis it is recommended that The Service Act is revised so that it identifies and defines the concept of normality. At the same time this identification must necessarily involve the objectives of social work. It is also recommended that a similar discussion is implemented in local government across the organizational levels.
It is recommended that The Guide Lines for The Service Act (Vejledningen til Serviceloven) are revised as to a more equal distribution of the examples so that the Multiple Disabilities Understanding appear much clearer. It is recommended that the municipal government focuses on the dominance of the medical discourse. This can be done by increasing the use of the existing "The Child’s profile" (“Børneprofilen”).
Finally, it is recommended that more studies into the social practice of rehabilitation are carried out. This will increase the possibility for the social worker actually to be able to incorporate scientific knowledge in the discretion.
Publication date5 Aug 2013
Number of pages100
Publishing institutionAalborg Universitet
ID: 79054770