• Louise Brydov
4. term, Social Work, Master (Master Programme)
A large group of young people in the Danish society is living an insecure life with complex social problems. At the same time the support that is targeted to integrate them in society is incoherent and indistinct, leaving both the young people and the social workers at a loss in their attempts to ensure appropriate support and a smooth transition to adulthood.

Existing knowledge points to continuity in support efforts as a factor that promotes the development of independence in young people with social problems, which has inspired this study to explore similarities and differences in the aid and support offered to 15-25 year old youths in a municipality in greater Copenhagen. The study aims to identify how the communication and actions of social workers differ in the adult system and the children’s system, in order to identify which conditions complicate respectively support the continuity ideal.

Comparison is central in the study, including analysis which identifices and unfolds differences in discourses in casework involving youth. Subsequently the study identifies how children’s and adult systems differ in their observation of themselves as functional systems designed to relieve individual and community social disorder. In the analysis of functional similarities and differences the study will identify specific points of comparison from the empirical communication that differentiate (the functionality of) the systems.

The study's primary empirical data consist of transcriptions of three focus group interviews with social workers from three separate Social Services departments, and secondarily it uses internal working papers from the case municipality which recounts the youth casework in the departments. The approach is social constructivism based on Norman Fairclough's three-dimensional model of critical discourse analysis, which is complemented by Niklas Luhmann's theory on systems functional differentiation. The analytical focus is on language and perceptions. The systems-theoretical social practice analysis expands the discursive practice analysis in relation to a functional context, and an integration perspective is applied to observe what kind of problems the various systems of society - for example family, labor, economy, etc. – produce that present a threat to young people's participation in society.

The analyses derive a number of radical differences in the discursive practices of the departments as well as in relation to problem identification and solutions to social problems, which is problematic in light of the continuity ideal. Subsequently a number of paradoxical aspects are identified concerning the exclusion of vulnerable young people from the very support systems that exist to relieve their disintegration. However, all of the three groups of social workers also articulate several similar discourses in their social work, and the analysis identifies several similarities in the groups’ perceptions of how social problems are identified and resolved, which can be highlighted as good preconditions for continuity in the transition between the departments.

The analyses indicate that the departments complement each other functionally in their current separate organizational structure, and if they should strive to implement more similar discourses the dilemma arises – will they make themselves redundant? If the youth efforts must be separated in departments, the efforts promoting continuity will have to consist of the harmonization of problem-solving methods, with a continued diversity in relation to which types of problems each department is responsible for.

The study does not present methods to promote continuity, it contributes with knowledge of the continuity challenges with a more practice-oriented perspective of casework than other studies of the differences between children's and adult systems offer. The study furthermore contributes with a literature study of trends within existing knowledge concerning organizational aspects of social work with young people with social problems.
Publication date25 Jun 2013
Number of pages147
Publishing institutionAalborg Universitet
External collaboratorRødovre Kommune
Joan Nielsen rk@rk.dk
Information group
ID: 77921670