Towards recognition in social security: Developing professional agency in adult social work in the Finnish Experiment of Inclusive Social Security (2018–)

Marja Hekkala, M.Soc.Sc.

“Social security fails to remove social inequality,” wrote Anna-Maria Isola, a research manager at the Finnish Institute of Health and Welfare, in the Turun Sanomat newspaper in July 2019. This problem presented by Isola is discussed in my thesis research, focused on the Finnish Experiment of Inclusive Social Security.

Inequality as a phenomenon has been taken seriously. As an example, reducing inequality is one of the most important goals set in the current Government Programme in Finland. The Social Welfare Act gives social work a special obligation to reduce inequality and promote inclusiveness. From this perspective, I believe it is necessary to study why social work is still often left unfinished.’

In the thesis I draw attention to social workers and their practices: what kind of professional agency was built, executed, and achieved in The Experiment of Inclusive Social Security? How does the change in professional agency support the work to reduce inequality and support inclusiveness?

In my research, I apply the methods of critical action research and ethnography. I worked as the coordinator of the experiment in the city of Tampere adult social work services. The data was gathered during the experiment in training sessions, planning, and the day-to-day work, as well as by publications made of the Experiment. The study will be published as a monograph in Finnish and in English.

The purpose of this study is to provide information that can be used as a tool in effective social work that reduces inequalities and supports inclusiveness. The results will help municipalities to plan and execute appropriate social security measures. The results can also be used to develop education and research in the field to better fit the two-directional function of social work between individuals and the society. In this way, this research brings together different focuses in different social care systems around the world.