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Research project Privatising the central core of social work

"Privatising the central core of social work – staffing agencies and decision-making in the personal social services" is the full name of a research project led by Emelie Shanks.

Project description

The use of staffing agencies in the social services has been discussed both in media reports and by trade unions organising social workers. So far however, the phenomenon has not been given much attention from Swedish scholars. It is unknown to what extent the municipal social services use staffing agencies, although the overall picture indicates that it is far from a marginal trend. Various media reports have indicated that the majority of the Swedish social services use temporary personnel from staffing agencies. As for the municipal services in general, statistics from Statistics Sweden (SCB) indicates that the cost of temporary personnel has increased in most municipalities.


The possible consequences of the use personnel from staffing agencies in the Swedish social services is also under-researched. Internationally, researchers have discussed the phenomenon as a way to maintain service during periods of vacant positions and high workloads, but they have also identified risks related to economy and the quality of work. It is likely that the consequences in Sweden resemble those identified in other countries. In the international research however, there has not been any discussion regarding one perspective that is of great importance in the Swedish context, namely the legal. According to Swedish law, staff from private agencies have relatively limited possibilities to exercise public authority. Despite these legal constraints, the private companies still appear to have found a way into the central core of the social services. The present study intends to analyse the extent and consequences (positive as well as negative) of the use of staffing agencies in the personal social services.

Publications