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Bringing the Family Back in: On Role Assignment and Clientification in the Swedish Social Services


  • Ahmet Gümüscü

    () (Department of Social Work, Umeå University, Umeå SE-90187, Sweden)

  • Lennart Nygren

    () (Department of Social Work, Umeå University, Umeå SE-90187, Sweden)

  • Evelyn Khoo

    () (Department of Social Work, Umeå University, Umeå SE-90187, Sweden)


In Sweden, municipal social services provide help and support for vulnerable people with a variety of needs. Although the family has long been understood to be a focus of social work interventions, it is unclear how it is brought into the casework process in the highly individualised and specialised municipal social services. Therefore, in this study we investigated processes of client-making and role assignment in five service sectors: social assistance, child welfare, substance abuse, disability, and elderly care. We carried out focus group interviews with social workers in each of these sectors in a mid-sized community in central Sweden. Findings showed that clienthood and the family are interpreted in different ways. The family is brought into or kept out of service provisions in ways that are connected to social workers’ construction of the family either as expert, client or non-client. However, the role of the family may also change during the casework process. Findings are examined in relation to theories of the welfare state and implications for family-focused practice are discussed.

Suggested Citation

  • Ahmet Gümüscü & Lennart Nygren & Evelyn Khoo, 2015. "Bringing the Family Back in: On Role Assignment and Clientification in the Swedish Social Services," Social Sciences, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 4(1), pages 1-17, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jscscx:v:4:y:2015:i:1:p:117-133:d:45584

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    Cited by:

    1. Nathan Hughes & Carolina Munoz-Guzman, 2015. "Understanding and Supporting “Families with Complex Needs”: An Editorial," Social Sciences, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 4(4), pages 1-5, December.

    More about this item


    clienthood; family; social services; focus groups; familialisation;

    JEL classification:

    • A - General Economics and Teaching
    • B - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology
    • N - Economic History
    • P - Economic Systems
    • Y80 - Miscellaneous Categories - - Related Disciplines - - - Related Disciplines
    • Z00 - Other Special Topics - - General - - - General


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