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VAM-Velferd, arbeid og migrasjon

Responding to welfare state services: An analysis of users, media, and public institutions

Awarded: NOK 10.0 mill.

The project focus on feedback from citizens and medias on welfare services. First we study citizens' satisfaction on a range of welfare services expressed through surveys and media. Then we focus on how institutions and politicians respond to feedback from users and media. Thus, we give a picture of the welfare state seen both from users and institutions. Turning to the users, we find that satisfaction with welfare services depends on both citizen characteristics, the service they receive and the municipality they live in. Users relations to the welfare state, measured by satisfaction and complaint behavior, is contingent on who the users? are and their attitudes. For users with a personal experience we find satisfaction to be service-specific. Users are less satisfied compared to non-users with primary care and emergency care, but more satisfied than non-users with GPs and care homes. It also turns out that satisfaction and complaint behavior has a clear political dimension. For example, citizens who voted for the governing parties in 2009 (the red-green parties) are consistently more satisfied with welfare state services compared with citizens who voted for other parties or did not participate in the elections. However, satisfaction and complaint frequency, is also conditional on service characteristics. Users are less satisfied and complain more on services where caseworkers exercise discretion, while they are more satisfied and complain less on services that are more universal and/or standardized. Example of services with high levels of discretion are social services and elderly care, while kindergartens and schools will be examples of benefits with less room to maneuver. It also appears that services with varying degrees of availability will have less satisfied users. Examples include emergency care. Finally, it also appears as if services with a certain element of choice has more satisfied users, such as the GP service. Users relation to the welfare state is to a limited degree dependent on the municipality in which welfare services are received. A relatively small proportion of the variation in service satisfaction can be attributed to the municipalities, but municipalities seems to play a somewhat greater role for services where the local room for maneuver is larger (such as care for the elderly). Our analysis also shows that service quality have a certain impact on citizens' service satisfaction at the municipal level. For example, the level of expertise of employees in the care sector leads to greater satisfaction. Municipal size is important for citizens' assessment of old age care in particular, but less so for kindergartens and primary schools. These findings provide a nuanced picture with regard to the discussion of municipal reform and the quality of public services in large and small municipalities. The project finds that the media play a role in how social services are perceived. Media coverage of individual meetings with the welfare state is perceived as less important by citizens, compared to coverage of issues related to the system and welfare institutions as a whole. Still, an interesting finding is that personal experience with the welfare state is more important than the media's dissemination of this kind of experiences. New social media plays a role for the users. Specific user experiences conveyed through such media have broadest impact when other and more traditional media pulls in the same direction. The interaction with other media is therefore essential. Disclosure of user experiences through social media is perceived as important by users. We also find that media users users supports the ideals which suggests that journalism should scrutinize those in power and social institutions, including welfare services and responsible politicians. In the traditional media such as newspapers, we find that journalism on welfare services varies. Our analysis shows that negative reports, for instance about NAV, is often based on user experiences. We also find that citizens confidence in the public sector and politicians varies according to the types of welfare services users have experience with. Citizens with experience with NAV and social services seems to have somewhat lower confidence in politicians and the public sector in general. A greater element of means testing in Norwegian welfare policy may weaken users' trust in politicians and welfare state institutions. Seen from the standpoint of welfare produces and politicians? we find that political parties rank various feedback channels differently. Right wing parties is more positive to complaints procedures and user input. Focusing on welfare producers, we find that institutions (such as Helse Vest) knows the media well, use new media to communicate with users and facilitates for the media. The institutions stress that it is professional arguments and reviews that govern their priorities, not the media. Proje

This project focuses on the input side of the Norwegian welfare system. The aim is to explain the demand and the support for welfare services. The first overall objective is to analyse how these services are received by users and the media and to explore the potential relationship between satisfaction and trust in government. The second objective is to understand how the input from users and the media are perceived by welfare institutions and politicians. The project builds on interdisciplinary cooperation, sophisticated methodological techniques, and a mix of quantitative and qualitative data.

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VAM-Velferd, arbeid og migrasjon