Getting Sick and Disabled People off Temporary Benefit Receipt: Strategies and Dilemmas in the Welfare State s Frontline
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionGjersøe, H. M. (2016). Getting Sick and Disabled People off Temporary Benefit Receipt: Strategies and Dilemmas in the Welfare State’s Frontline. Nordic Journal of Working Life Studies, 6(1), 129-145. http://dx.doi.org/10.19154/njwls.v6i1.4889
This article explores responses by frontline workers in the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Service(NAV) to activation policy measures. Frontline workers in NAV are required to write work capabilityassessments for long-term sick and disabled benefit recipients within a reformed organizationalstructure with holistic agencies (‘one-stop shops’). These policy mechanisms are intended to empowerthe frontline workers and make them emphasize work and activation in their evaluationof the employability of the beneficiaries. However, a large number of long-term sick and disabledpeople remain in receipt of temporary benefits. Key findings emerging from this study’s fieldworksuggest that frontline workers often perceive the task of clarifying the employability status of longtermsick and disabled people to be demanding. Their assessments hinge on criteria set by actorsoutside the frontline office—and these criteria are hard to obtain. Consequently, the limited rangeof exit options restricts the discretion of the frontline workers, which results in locking claimants withcomplex problems into temporary benefit. Their attention tends to be drawn to concerns that arelikely to be unintended, which are to keep claimants’ income safe and to secure a smooth workflowwithin the office as well as to smooth benefit transactions. The context of a generous welfare statewith a strongly rights-based benefit scheme is regarded as a likely contributor to these concerns.