Welfare Dependency, Accumulation of Social Problems and Marginalization

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 4:45 PM
Room: F204
Distributed Paper
Maria VAALAVUO , Centre for Health and Social Economics, National Institute Health & Welfare, Helsinki, Finland
9.2 per cent of the population in Helsinki claimed social assistance in 2011. Media often portrays these people as a homogeneous group while the evidence tells otherwise. This presentation contributes to the development of a typology of social assistance recipients and focuses on those worst-off. Is there a new group with multiple needs that should be targeted with specific policy measures? But also, are there new claimants recruited from middle classes?

40 per cent of recipients claim social assistance for less than 3 months. These short-term recipients can hardly be called the core of destitution – especially if we consider long-term deprivation as a characteristic of destitution.

An entirely different type of subgroup includes those who receive the benefit long-time or recurrently. Indeed, long-term social assistance receipt has increased and a growing share of claimants faces many problems simultaneously. Health problems, substance abuse, long-term unemployment and housing problems often accumulate and make these people more vulnerable to marginalization.

In order to develop better policies and actions by social workers, information on the heterogeneity of clients and the depth of the various problems they face is of profound importance. Should we improve the accessibility and content of health services, to whom should the rehabilitative work be targeted and who still have the potential to re-enter the labour markets?

The presentation analyses social assistance clients in Helsinki with register data from 2006−2011. The data is complemented with information on the use of health and social services and pharmaceuticals. Using factor, latent class and descriptive analyses, the objective is to locate the core of destitution and classify clients on the basis of their background, benefit dependency and welfare problems. This categorization can facilitate the design of actions, setting of realistic objectives of policies for different subgroups, and analysing social assistance data in general.