VOLUNTARY SOCIAL WORK IN DENMARK AND PUBLIC POLICY TOWARDS THE VOLUNTARY SOCIAL SECTOR
Ministry of Social Affairs Denmark
Ministry of Social Affairs in cooperation with The Volunteer Centre in Denmark ISBN: 87/7546/026/02 Printed in The Ministry of Social Affairs. 2001 Translation: ADHOC TranslatĂ¸rservice Further information : The Volunteer Centre in Denmark +45 66 14 60 61, fax +45 66 14 20 17. www.frivillighed.dk or the homepage of the Ministry of Social Affairs www.sm.dk
List of contents 1. Voluntary social work â€“ an essential part of social welfare 5 2. 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8
The voluntary sector in Denmark Definitions An historical outline The voluntary sector today Volunteers Voluntary organisations Activities Volunteers and employees Sources of revenu
5 5 7 10 10 11 12 13 14
3 Denmarkâ€™s volunteering policy 3.1 Relations central government and voluntary org. 3.2 Relations local authorities and local organisations
14 14 17
Perspectives and challenges
Appendix 1. The general framework of Danish social policy
Voluntary social work in Denmark and public policy towards the voluntary social sector. 1.
Voluntary social work – an essential part of social welfare
In Denmark the public sector is responsible for safeguarding social welfare. This is achieved through a comprehensive public system of social security benefits and services, encompassing both transfer payments and social services. The fundamental principle is universalism, which means that all citizens in need are entitled to receive benefits and services – regardless of factors such as their affiliation to the labour market. Although the primary responsibility lies with the public sector, many players in society contribute to safeguarding welfare. These include families, companies and people engaged in voluntary social work. For almost 150 years, voluntary social work has played a decisive role. The development of social policy towards the year 2000 has to a large extent centred on ways to present these other social players with favourable opportunities for contributing to the development of welfare. An important objective has been to develop a new policy in relation to voluntary social work. To enable the reader to understand the context in which voluntary social work functions, Appendix 1 offers a brief outline of the elements of public social welfare policy and its underlying principles.
The voluntary social sector in Denmark
2.1. Definitions A wide range of related concepts are linked to the word “voluntary”: voluntary sector, voluntary organisation, voluntary work, voluntary initiatives, volunteer, etc. A common feature of all these concepts is their description of the voluntary world - although on different levels. On the international scene, there is often disagreement about the definition of voluntariness. The following paragraphs therefore describe what we in Denmark understand by voluntary work, a volunteer and a voluntary organisation, respectively. Voluntary work is the activity or act carried out by a volunteer. By voluntary work are understood activities that 5
♦ are voluntary, i.e. undertaken freely without physical force, legal coercion or financial pressure ♦ are unpaid. However, this does not preclude payment of remuneration for expenses the volunteer has incurred while carrying out the activities, such as travelling and telephone expenses ♦ are carried out for persons other than the volunteer’s own family and relatives. This distinguishes voluntary work from ordinary domestic activities and the informal care of family members ♦ are for the benefit of other people than the volunteer and his or her family.
In Denmark we often use the word “voluntary” about the associations that organise voluntary social work. This is the best way to emphasise that these organisations differ from private companies as well as public organisations and institutions. Hence, a voluntary organisation: ♦ is established on a voluntary basis, which means that it is free to commence and discontinue its own operations. This distinguishes it from central government organisations, for example, whose responsibilities and objectives are usually prescribed by statutory law; ♦ operates on a non-profit basis. In this context it means that the
organisation does not operate with a view to securing investors or individuals a financial profit. If a profit is yielded, it is invested in the organisation and, therefore, used in compliance with the objectives of the organisation; ♦ is based on voluntary work - either on the supervisory board or in the organisation’s concrete activities. Voluntary organisations often have paid staff, however, and in a few cases the entire workforce is made up of paid staff; ♦ is characterised by voluntary membership and members’ participation in the organisation’s activities of their own free will.
2.2. An historical outline Voluntary organisations are by no means a new phenomenon. As early as the late 1700s, the first private, charitable associations were established, but it was not till the transition from the traditional to the modern society in the middle of the 19th century that a fully-fledged voluntary sector existed in Denmark. It was especially the adoption of the Danish Constitutional Act in 1849 - and, with that, the switchover from absolute monarchy to democracy - that served as a catalyst to the formation of many new associations. Before this year, all types of assembly were subject to approval by the monarch, but the enactment of the Constitution established that citizens were entitled, without prior approval, to join and form associations, provided they undertook activities for lawful purposes. Freedom of association and assembly thus consolidated the modern organisation society, which became a central feature of Denmarkâ€™s social development. From the mid-1800s till today, we have seen a countless number of associations and organisations within practically all spheres of the community, many of which - directly or indirectly serve a social purpose. It is a common feature of voluntary organisations operating in the social and humanitarian area that their tasks and primary objectives reflect the problems that characterise the current needs of society and our time. To describe and understand the emergence and development of the organisations, it is therefore also essential to look at the social policy context. While it was typically the public sector that attended to the support and maintenance of the undeserving poor, the deserving poor were supported through voluntary contributions from well-to-do citizens. Some of the assistance was organised through so-called support associations, which were run on a Christian basis and, therefore, maintained close relations to churches. The voluntary social organisations established in the second half of the 19th century were also rooted in the revivalist movements, and their work was typically targeted at children and young people as well as the fight against poverty and alcohol misuse. The voluntary organisationsâ€™ work to address and draw attention to poor and sick peopleâ€™s needs has contributed extensively to changing the general attitude to people with social problems. From the beginning of the 20th century, both the conditions for qualifying for social security benefits and services and the amounts of benefits were laid down in legislation. 7
This meant that assistance became a civil right, and the sanctions that had earlier been a consequence of receiving assistance were gradually lifted. Moreover, another effect of the reform was that public-sector benefits became more comprehensive, which limited the activity area of voluntary support associations. At the same time, the period saw a new tendency for groups of disabled people to form their own associations to a wide extent. Now their interests were represented not only by charitable associations, but also by member-based interest groups, and this latter type of organisation gained ground in the first half of the 20th century. 1933 saw a large-scale social reform, which is regarded as the foundation stone of the Danish welfare state. The public sector was given a central role and responsibility in relation to safeguarding the welfare of all citizens. The fact that the public sector would be responsible for guaranteeing the citizensâ€™ welfare, however, did not imply a goodbye to voluntary social organisations or private charity as it was called. While the public sector assumed primary responsibility, the plans were to make private charity contribute the services that were difficult to provide through public measures. From the 1930s, and in particular during the 1960s and 1970s, the system of public social welfare services expanded gradually. The social field became increasingly regulated and professionalised to ensure that citizens throughout the country could obtain uniform public services. The treatment and result-oriented professional activities were thus preferred to the more individual and valueoriented lay activities that prevailed in the voluntary organisations and institutions. For the voluntary organisations, this meant they had to adjust to the new requirements if they wanted to play a role in the publicly controlled social system. This became particularly evident with the introduction of the Danish Social Assistance Act of 1976, which subjected voluntary social organisations and institutions to extensive government regulation while the public sector undertook to finance practically all operating expenditure. Such a demand from the public sector, however, did not in itself entail the suspension of private activities. This is because the expansion of the welfare stateâ€™s service tasks also implied an expansion of the voluntary organisationsâ€™ tasks, and the organisations were increasingly awarded the role of service providers. 8
Even so, from the mid-1970s and into the 1980s, the welfare state was struggling with severe problems. It was a period of general economic recession, high unemployment and rising public expenditure attributable to, among other factors, a growing demand for health care and social services. Furthermore, Denmark was undergoing a rapid transformation from an agricultural and industrial society to an information and service society, accompanied by differentiation in the population’s needs and requirements. There was broad political consensus that the welfare state was unable to solve all tasks. But critical voices were also heard from “below”. The newly established women’s and other grassroots movements, for example, revolted against the common welfare state structures and their conventional solutions. The movements demanded influence on their own lives and living conditions and therefore came up with their own alternative solutions. Thus, the post-1980 years were characterised by a desire to find alternative solutions to the social problems of society. At the same time, the period saw a need for decentralisation and a local community approach, and these conditions combined were clearly reflected in the establishment of organisations and associations at an unprecedented speed. Especially new organisations for sick and disabled people and self-help organisations saw the light of day. The reorientation of Danish social policy meant that the public sector should no longer be solely responsible for citizens’ welfare. Social problems should not exclusively be addressed at a social security office, and everyone - voluntary organisations, private companies, the family, the individual, etc. - was therefore encouraged to share in the social responsibility. The welfare state was transforming into the welfare society. The political approval of innovation in the solution of social tasks was observed, more specifically, in various pilot and development projects. Based on the intention to allow ideas to evolve from below, it was decided to launch a comprehensive social development programme. This programme was mainly designed to strengthen local initiatives, stimulate the readjustment of the social field and, in particular, improve people’s possibilities of participating in decisionmaking processes that have a bearing on their everyday lives. This “bottom-up” perspective, characteristic of Denmark’s social policy, threw new light on voluntary social organisations. The organisations assumed a more central and legitimate role, and as opposed to the 1970s, when politicians had frowned on the non9
professionalised voluntary initiatives, they again became aware of these organisationsâ€™ special value in social work. After having led a life in the wings, the organisations came into the spotlight anew, and today voluntary social organisations are an important player in the Danish welfare society.
2.3. The voluntary social sector today In Denmark, voluntary social work is underpinned by values. Among volunteers, a central value is solidarity with people in need of help. Values and attitudes reflecting the necessity of a larger social community are also observed among the voluntary organisations, which - in that respect - guard the significance of a public welfare system. Voluntary social work is instrumental in ensuring social integration and enhanced tolerance towards people who, for one reason or other, are exposed or live on the edge of the established system of society. But there are also many other fields where voluntary initiatives are crucial. Voluntary social organisations and associations thus play a democratic role, for instance by being a platform where all social groups can express their views and defend their interests, and by being a forum where communities emerge and develop. Values are in many ways the putty that ties together the individual elements in all voluntary social work. But, of course, many other factors are typical of the sector.
2.4. Volunteers In Denmark nearly every second Dane undertakes voluntary work regularly or occasionally. In the field of voluntary social work, surveys show that 7 per cent of the population engage in voluntary activities on a regular basis and 3 per cent undertake voluntary work occasionally. Combined, it is therefore 10 per cent of all Danes who, from time to time, work voluntarily for organisations serving a social purpose. Table 1 below shows the types of organisation where the volunteers carry out their work.
Table 1. The percentage of the adult population who carried out unpaid work in 1996 Regularly Occasionally Total Leisure organisations 14 7 21 Other associations 10 5 15 Cultural activities 7 6 13 Organisations serving a social purpose 7 3 10 Children’s schools 6 4 10 Day-care facilities for children 3 4 7 Institutions for adults/elderly 2 2 4 Total unpaid work 31 14 45 Note: As some people carry out voluntary work in more than one area, the total percentage of the population who carry out voluntary work is lower than the sum of percentages for the individual areas. Source: Danish National Institute of Social Research, Citizens on the welfare society 1996.
In all areas the typical volunteer is aged 30 to 59 (about 40 per cent), and the most active group is male public-sector employees (42 per cent). In general, there are slightly more men than women who undertake regular voluntary work. But when it comes to more direct, usertargeted initiatives in the social field – such as care for elderly and disabled people – various enquiries show that women are in the majority.
2.5. Voluntary social organisations A precise specification of the number of voluntary social organisations in Denmark is not available, but an estimate can be made by looking at the number of organisations that apply for government grant aid. Thus, 162 organisations engaged in health and social services across Denmark have qualified for support from the Danish Pools and Lotto Company’s funds (see page xx below). Besides, a look at local and county authorities’ distribution of the socalled section 115 funds (see page xx below) shows that more than 3500 local branches and local associations have received grants from this source. It appears that the voluntary social world is varied, encompassing everything from small local organisations run by a small number of volunteers to large, well-established, professional organisations with many employees and volunteers. Examples of the latter type are the Danish Red Cross, which has 15,000 volunteers, about 120 employees (excluding self-governing institutions and the asylum unit), 250 local 11
branches and 60,000 members; the Danish Church Army, which has 5000 volunteers and 350 full-time employees. Two large organisations provide services for elderly people: The Danish Age Concern, which has 60 employees, 5000 volunteers working on 214 local committees and 425,000 members, and the Danish Association of Senior Citizens, which has a staff of 26 employees, 2500 volunteers and 450,000 members. In addition, there are a vast number of self-governing institutions which, by agreement with the public sector, operate institutions in a broad spectrum of areas, for example day-care facilities for children and/or young people, where almost one fourth of all institutions are run as self-governing institutions. There are also many institutions for adults, residential homes and day centres for elderly people, crisis centres, shelters and institutions providing treatment and rehabilitation for alcohol and drug misusers. To a high degree, these self-governing institutions come within the activities of the large voluntary social organisations. It is a characteristic feature of this type of organisation, though, that they operate almost exclusively with professional, paid staff. In care and support for elderly people, however, there are many volunteers.
2.6. Activities Voluntary social work involves a wide variety of activities. To present a general description of the outreach work, these activities can be divided into three main groups. Firstly, quite a few voluntary social organisations are engaged in person-oriented activities, primarily advisory and counselling services. Examples include various consultancy services such as telephone helplines, self-help groups, relief schemes and home visiting programmes. Home visiting programmes are particularly widespread, which can mainly be ascribed to a new demographic pattern with many elderly people, coupled with the societal development where networks are changing and, in consequence, give rise to more lonely people and people living alone. Secondly, frequent activities are information and awareness-raising activities combined with politics and the creation of public opinion. This should be seen in the light of the fact that many organisations are interest groups promoting the interests of various social groups â€“ for instance sick or disabled people or other particularly exposed groups. Other widespread activities in this category include teaching, education/training and courses.
Thirdly, the operation of various institutions is an activity undertaken extensively among voluntary social organisations. Examples include institutions, crisis centres, shelters and cafĂŠs for many different target groups: It is the organisations that run the institutions and the cafĂŠs, but it is often by agreement with the public sector, which provides funding for their operation. Local volunteer bureaux have become widespread in Denmark during the past decade. One of the aims of these bureaux is to establish contact between, on the one hand, people who want to work as volunteers and, on the other hand, organisations that need voluntary labour. Moreover, the volunteer bureaux offer support to small local associations, help volunteers start up new activities and assist initiators of self-help groups. At this point, there are about 50 volunteer bureaux across Denmark.
2.7. Volunteers and employees Volunteers often carry out the many tasks assumed by voluntary social organisations. But although volunteers perform most of their work, many of the organisations also employ paid staff. A survey from 1994 thus shows that slightly more than one third of the nationwide organisations have fewer than 20 volunteers, that one fifth have between 20 and 100 volunteers, that slightly more than ten per cent have between 100 and 500 volunteers and, finally, that close on ten percent have over 500 volunteers. It also shows that roughly one third of the nationwide organisations have between one and ten employees, just under one fifth have between eleven and fifty employees, and just under ten per cent have a paid staff of more than 50. The survey of the number of paid staff in the nationwide organisations, however, does not take into account the self-governing institutions under operating agreements. The following tables show the percentage distribution of volunteers and employees in nationwide organisations. Table 2. Distribution of volunteer organisations according to the number of volunteers. Number of volunteers Percent of organisations 0 9 1-20 37 21-100 21 101-499 12 5007 No information 14 Source: National Institute of Social Research, 1995 13
Table 3. Distribution of organisations according to the number of employees. Number of employees Percent of organisations 0 35 1-2 17 3-10 16 11-50 16 509 No information 6 Source: National Institute of Social Research, 1995
2.8. Sources of revenue The vast majority of voluntary nationwide organisations in the health and social services sector receive government aid – but how much this aid represents of the organisation’s total revenues differs strongly from one association to the next. The sources of the organisations’ revenue are not only government grants, though. Some of the funding basis is derived from own revenue, i.e. from membership fees, private donations, legacies, interest income or sales.
Denmark’s volunteering policy
The Danish volunteering policy has developed over a long time and today comprises several elements. To understand the current policy, however, it is essential to focus on two basic elements: Co-operation between the public sector and voluntary social organisations – centrally as well as locally – and government funding.
3.1. Relations between central voluntary social organisations
Co-operation In 1983 the Minister for Social Affairs set up the Danish Committee on Volunteer Effort. This is a political committee made up of representatives from public authorities and voluntary organisations. The aim of the Committee on Volunteer Effort is to bolster the possibility for individuals, groups of citizens and private associations and organisations to participate in the solution of tasks in the social field. In pursuit of this aim, one of the Committee’s duties is to 14
compile information about the field and to submit proposals to both the public sector and voluntary social organisations. Moreover, the Committee must point to barriers to adjustment in the social field and submit proposals for ways to abolish or reduce such barriers. The Committeeâ€™s principal function, though, is to advise the Minister for Social Affairs. To offer a broader range of services to the voluntary organisations, the Volunteer Centre in Denmark was established in 1992. The Centre was established as a self-governing institution, i.e. an independent unit with its own supervisory board under the Ministry of Social Affairs. The Committee on Volunteer Effort is the political body of elected members. Furthermore, the Volunteer Centre provides services to voluntary social organisations and associations in the form of, for example, advisory and counselling services, courses, consultancy and method development. The Centre also initiates information and documentation work. Besides rendering services to organisations, the Centre is under an obligation to disseminate knowledge and experience to the Ministry of Social Affairs and to other public authorities and co-operation partners. Finally, the Centre serves as secretariat to the Committee on Volunteer Effort.
Funding Voluntary social work is voluntary, but not free. For the development of the area, it is therefore important to ensure that the funding system is organised in such a way that the voluntary social organisations are certain to operate under favourable conditions. A funding system that, among other criteria, secures the organisationsâ€™ independence and at the same time ensures that government grants are used in the optimum way. Central government aid is provided from different programmes, partly as basic grants, partly as project grants. Basic grants are grants awarded to the organisation without being earmarked for a specific activity or a specific project. Instead, they are awarded on the basis of objective criteria such as purpose, turnover and own collected funds. The intention is to stimulate the voluntary organisationâ€™s autonomy and freedom to determine its own activities and be capable of promoting the interests of others. Basic grants are awarded through the so-called Football Pools and Lotto Funds. In 1998 the Ministry of Social Affairs assumed 15
responsibility for the distribution of funds to voluntary organisations in the social field, and in that connection the field was guaranteed additional funding of DKK 30 million. This pushed up the Ministry’s total Football Pools and Lotto Funds to DKK 138.9 million, most of which is paid as basic grants. Project grants are grants awarded directly to specific projects or activities. A source of central government funds for this purpose is the Grant Programme for Development of Voluntary Social Work, which has existed for more than a decade. Grants from this programme, for which both nationwide and local organisations and projects may apply, are intended to support voluntary social work undertaken to prevent and address problems encountered by socially vulnerable people. Grants must first and foremost be directed to the efforts that are for the benefit of particularly exposed groups in society, such as mentally ill people, homeless people, alcohol and drug misusers, prostitutes, ethnic minorities and others. But priority is also given to initiatives that can address problems encountered by people in difficult conditions – such as counselling offers, telephone helplines and selfhelp groups. The Grant Programme for Development of Voluntary Social Work contains just over DKK 48 million in 2001. To qualify for support, it is a key criterion that the work involves a substantial element of voluntary unpaid labour. In other words, it is not sufficient that an organisation’s voluntary work is exclusively undertaken at the board level. Moreover, in the above-mentioned Football Pool and Lotto Funds, an amount of DKK 11.1 million has been set aside for the Grant Programme for Special Social Purposes. These funds are intended for, among others, organisations that are neither nationwide nor strictly local and, as a result, neither qualify for central government basic grants nor receive grants from local authorities and counties, see below. Grants from this programme are also awarded to projects that involve some innovative approach to voluntary social work.
Other funding In addition, voluntary social organisations receive a range of indirect grants via various forms of tax privileges. These include the right to receive tax-exempt gifts, which are deductible against the donor’s personal income, tax-exempt legacies as well as special rules on VAT exemption.
Besides the basic and project grants referred to above, a range of temporary programmes with specific objectives are available. One of the initiatives taken to strengthen course activities in voluntary social organisations is the establishment of a Training Grant Programme. An annual sum of DKK 10 million over a four-year term has thus been set aside to give volunteers an opportunity to attend knowledge-strengthening courses. Grants may be awarded in three different ways: • direct financial aid for the organisations’ own training activities, • courses for volunteers and, finally, • planning aid, mainly to new organisations, and advisory services in conjunction with the development of new ideas and initiatives in learning. Finally, on the occasion of the United Nations International Year of Volunteers 2001, a total amount of DKK 6 million has been set aside for social activities. Denmark will thus be seeing a wide array of activities which, in different ways, will contribute to highlighting, recognising and securing improved conditions for voluntary work.
3.2. Relations between local authorities and local organisations Co-operation Voluntary social organisations, in their efforts to promote the interests of certain people, often target their activities at the central government level. But when it comes to their actual work, i.e. work with various target groups and self-help groups, this is carried out in the individual local authority areas. It is in the local branches and locally oriented associations that the organisations are in contact with the citizens – and local voluntary social work provides a basis for a clear understanding of the social problems. This also explains why voluntary social associations are of special importance to local social policy. Since the 1970s, responsibility for the concrete provision of social services has rested with local authorities and counties. But in spite of this, voluntary social work has chiefly been supported financially from central government funds, and local authorities have not been under a statutory obligation to co-operate with the voluntary organisations. Thus, the framework of voluntary social work does not match developments in public policy in the social field, and it is therefore
crucial to develop improved terms of co-operation and a stronger financial commitment at the local and county authority level. To ensure optimum coherence and consistency in the public sectorâ€™s offers, which are the responsibility of counties and local authorities, and in the services offered by voluntary social organisations, the new Social Services Act of 1998 has introduced a section that obliges counties and local authorities to co-operate and support voluntary social organisations and associations at the local level. As a result, by the end of 1999 almost half of Denmarkâ€™s counties and local authorities had set up various forms of joint consultation committees.
Funding As mentioned, Denmark has traditionally supported voluntary social work through central government grants, but the Social Services Act imposes an obligation on counties and local authorities to provide financial support for local voluntary work, as well. To solve this task, local and county authorities receive an annual financial compensation of DKK 100 million from central government, paid via block grants. As many local authorities and counties are already engaged in co-operation with voluntary organisations that, for example, run institutions under operating agreements, it is significant that the new statute ensures that activities based primarily or exclusively on voluntary labour are also involved in the co-operation and supported financially. Funds must therefore be directed at that part of voluntary social work where the quality of the voluntary initiatives is decisive, i.e. where the offer either is unavailable or would lose its quality if the voluntary work did not exist. However, decisions about which areas and activities qualify for support rest with the local politicians â€“ and the individual organisation has no claim to local government support.
Perspectives and challenges
Although Denmark, from an international point of view, is a welldeveloped welfare society, as is also evident from Appendix 1, Denmark has also unresolved social problems. As wealth increases, coupled with emerging demographic trends such as an ageing population, a steadily growing percentage of Danes live alone. Today, almost 40 per cent of all households are one-person households, with the increased social vulnerability that may follow. Besides, we have problems associated with alcohol and drug misuse and inadequate 18
integration of people with different ethnic backgrounds. Added to this, there is the problem of socially excluded people. These are all problems that are difficult for the public sector to tackle alone, regardless of professional expertise and resources. Experience shows that the force of voluntary work lies precisely in these fields. The point is that an important part of voluntary work is carried out in the initial stages, before the problems have become serious and really complicated to tackle. Therefore, plain and simple initiatives with a compassionate approach often take precedence over highly specialised, professional remedies. Or voluntary work can be the support that stabilises an otherwise difficult situation for socially excluded groups and prevents a further worsening of conditions. Voluntary work can strengthen people who encounter social problems, giving them â€“ through a combination of own force and voluntary activities â€“ the courage and ability to tackle their problems. That is why voluntary work is capable of improving social welfare and, often, of preventing a need for public services to arise in the first place.
In Denmark the International Year of Volunteers will present an excellent opportunity to raise the general publicâ€™s awareness of voluntary social work and make it fully recognised. It will therefore be a key challenge to secure a solid platform for voluntary work and remove possible barriers that could prevent citizens and associations from making an effort. As a result, the Danish Government has set up an inter-ministerial working committee of representatives from the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Inland Revenue, the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Education and representatives from counties and local authorities and voluntary social organisations. The committee is commissioned to pinpoint possible barriers in Danish legislation, assess the effect of the new initiatives in the field and submit proposals for solutions. This work involves both the activities of voluntary social institutions that are carried out as voluntary work and the institutions that are run by voluntary social organisations. Another great challenge is to strengthen co-operation between the broad range of social players in society. One of the first steps has been to strengthen co-operation between local public authorities and voluntary social organisations to ensure that various offers of social assistance complement each other more effectively, no matter whether they are provided by the public sector or voluntary organisations. But further improvements are called for to lay the foundations for cooperation across the public sector, companies and voluntary social organisations. The International Year of Volunteers also highlights another major challenge for voluntary social work, viz. the recruitment of new volunteers. This involves two important groups: young people and refugees/immigrants. The recruitment of young people is extensively a question of the organisationsâ€™ ability to target and organise their activities in such a manner that they capture the spirit of the youth culture and the sub-cultural interests found in this group. Integration and dialogue cutting across sub-cultural interests are likewise crucial when it comes to refugees and immigrants. Here the challenge is to render voluntary social work visible, both as a forum for social and cultural integration and as an integral part of everyday democracy. Here everyone can learn about democracy in associations and the interplay between citizens, local government politicians, MPs and the media. During 2000, the Danish Government organised various community hearings to learn where the population saw a need for strengthened social welfare. But that is just the beginning. It is not only necessary to hear the populationâ€™s views, attitudes and ideas. It is also necessary 20
to ensure that the population and voluntary social organisations are consulted and involved as active players in relation to concrete initiatives. Elderly people, families with children, parents of disabled children and former misusers have to take part in the planning and formulation of offers and, with their own creativity and energy, contribute to creating new activities are pointing to new solution models. Here the voluntary social organisations hold centre stage by providing the framework where this work can be undertaken. Hence, voluntary social organisations are an essential element of Denmarkâ€™s social capital. They both contribute to social coherence and â€“ by capturing and covering new social needs â€“ make society more open and prepared to meet new challenges.
The general framework of Danish social policy The Danish welfare model is based on the principle that all citizens should be guaranteed certain fundamental rights in case they encounter social problems such as unemployment, sickness or old age. The social system is characterised by the following elements: • Universalism. All citizens in need are entitled to receive social security benefits and social services – regardless of factors such as their affiliation to the labour market. • Tax financing. Social security benefits and services are chiefly financed from general taxation. • Public responsibility. The public sector is responsible for the provision of social security benefits and services. • Possibilities of labour market affiliation. Improved service offers for children, elderly people and disabled people contribute to interconnecting family life with working life. • Active social measures. Social security measures must be active – rather than merely passive support and maintenance. • Local community approach. The social sector is organised with a high degree of decentralisation of social responsibilities to local government. • Local scope of action. Local and county authorities have wide possibilities of adjusting their social offers themselves. • User influence. Citizens and claimants must be involved in the organisation of the social security programme. • Comprehensive view. The citizen’s social problems and his situation in general must be seen in a broader context. • Co-operation with other social players. The public sector co-operates with companies and voluntary social organisations to promote social welfare.
1.1. Division of responsibilities Danish social policy involves: • Extended care and service functions. Old-age care, family policy, activation, rehabilitation and preventive measures. • Initiatives targeted at particular groups. Persons with physical and mental disabilities, socially excluded groups and groups at risk of social exclusion as well as some of the initiatives targeted at mentally ill people and alcohol and drug misusers.
• The greater part of transfer payments. State retirement pension, anticipatory pension, sickness benefits, cash assistance and a variety of special benefits. The principal statutes governing the social field are the Act on an Active Social Policy, the Social Services Act, the Social Pensions Act and the Act on the Rule of Law and Administration in the Social Field. The statutes can be accessed on the Ministry of Social Affairs’ website at www.sm.dk. The Ministry of Social Affairs has overall responsibility for the largest portion of social welfare tasks in Denmark, whereas overall responsibility for various other welfare tasks lies with other government departments. The social sector in Denmark does not encompass the following areas, which are often considered elements of social policy in an international context: • Hospitals and the health sector, which fall within the main responsibilities of the Ministry of Health. The provision of hospital services is the counties’ principal responsibility. • Benefits to insured unemployed people (unemployment benefits, earlyretirement benefits, etc.), for which the Ministry of Labour has overall responsibility. Most of these benefits are administered by the Ministry of Labour via unemployment insurance funds and the employment services system, which are independent of counties and local authorities. • Housing policy and housing benefits, for which the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has overall responsibility. Other government departments are also involved in welfare tasks: The Ministry of Education (schools, educational institutions, student grants, etc.) and the Ministry of the Interior (initiatives related to refugees and immigrants). Local government responsibilities Denmark is divided into 14 counties and 275 local authority areas. Counties and local authorities are independent, politically controlled organisational units empowered to levy taxes individually. The bodies charged with local political management – county councils and local councils – are elected every four years in ordinary elections. Local authorities are responsible for planning and providing a broad spectrum of the social services, including old-age care, day-care facilities, rehabilitation and activation of unemployed people not covered by insurance schemes as well as decisions awarding anticipatory pension. Local authorities also administer transfer payments such as pensions, sickness benefits, child allowance and cash assistance, but the size of these cash benefits is determined by statute. Counties are responsible for the tasks and services requiring a larger population base and more specialised knowledge. Their primary social responsibility, in terms of expenditure, is the provision of suitable housing for persons with severe physical or mental disabilities. 23
Counties advise local authorities on the support and treatment of the most vulnerable groups. They also advise citizens, for instance parents of disabled children. Differences in local service level The background to the system of extensive local self-government is a desire to develop the social service offers as close to the citizen as possible. The citizen is therefore also relatively close to the responsible politicians elected in local elections. As counties and local authorities fix and levy local taxes themselves, they have wide possibilities of adjusting their social services to local conditions. At the same time, at the local level they determine the order of political priorities by choosing between tax and service and between various target areas. This explains the differences in the service level from one local authority to the other and the varying tax incidence - the highest local tax rate being about 23 per cent and the lowest in the order of 16 per cent in 2000.
Box 1. Supervision and complaints procedure in the social field The citizen can file a complaint against local and county authorities’ decisions with central government complaints bodies - the social tribunals - which have been set up in every county. Appeals from the decisions of the social tribunals lie to the National Social Appeals Board, which is a central government complaints body. The Appeals Board is only allowed to consider an appeal, however, if the appeal is on a point of law or a matter of general public importance. Ordinary local government supervisors “Ordinary local government supervisors” are affiliated to every local and county authority to undertake legal supervision, i.e. assess whether a local or county authority has acted in violation of the law. The supervisors cannot revoke a decision by a local or county authority but are empowered, through sanctions, to order the councillors to make a new decision. The Parliamentary Ombudsman The Parliamentary Ombudsman can assess whether the social services authorities act in violation of the current law or, in any other way, are guilty of errors, maladministration or negligence. The Ombudsman is not authorised to revoke a decision but may voice criticism and submit information about severe errors, maladministration and acts of negligence to the Danish Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee, the Minister for Social Affairs, the local council or the county council.
1.2. Economic framework The public sector is responsible for the provision of social security benefits and services. Most benefits and services are delivered directly by public sector employees, and practically all social security benefits and services are financed from public taxation. Social transfer payments are generally not, or only to a limited extent, dependent on previously earned income or labour market affiliation. The degree of compensation for loss of income is therefore higher for persons on relatively low incomes than for persons on higher incomes. Coupled with a progressive tax scale, the social system entails a considerable degree of income redistribution. However, Denmark also has one of the highest tax burdens in the world. Total public expenditure represents about 60 per cent of GDP. About half of this expenditure relates to public welfare schemes (health and social services sector and labour market), and the social sector alone accounts for about 15 per cent of GDP. About 30 per cent of the workforce are public-sector employees. Of these, about 75 per cent are in the employment of counties or local authorities. Total social expenditure breaks down as follows: about 35 per cent for services (payments in kind) and about 65 per cent for transfer payments. As it appears from figure 1, the heavy expenditure items in the service field are: • Day-care facilities for children • Care for elderly and disabled people The primary transfer payments in the area of the Ministry of Social Affairs are: • State retirement pension, which is paid to everyone aged 65 and over • Cash assistance, which guarantees an income for persons who cannot support themselves • Rehabilitation benefits, which are payable in conjunction with rehabilitation or education and training. • Anticipatory pension, which is available to those aged 18 to 65 whose earning capacity is materially reduced on physical, mental or social grounds • Child allowance, which is available to lone parents State retirement pension and anticipatory pension account for the highest social expenditure on transfer payments, see chart.
Day-care facilities for children (34%)
Special measures for children and young people (10%) 15%
2% 34% Home-help service and nursing home care for elderly and disabled people (39%)
10% Residential accomodation and services for disabled and mentally ill people (15%) Social offers for homeless people and alcohol and drug misusers (2 %)
Social transfer payments
State retirement pension, part pension and anticipatory pension (72%) Cash assistance, activation benefits and benefits for medical treatment etc. (11%)
6% 1% 5% 6%
Rehabilitation benefits, flextime jobs and sheltered jobs (5%)
Maternity and child allowance (6%)
Sickness benefits (6%)
Benefits to cover loss of income and additional expenses for attending to a disabled child in the home (1%)
Counties and local authorities cannot finance all their expenditure through local tax revenues. Local self-government is therefore supported by a system of central government grants, reimbursements and equalisation schemes. Central government covers a certain percentage of the expenditure on particular activities via reimbursement schemes. The expenditure on cash assistance and rehabilitation, for instance, is shared between central government and local authorities, whereas the expenditure on state retirement pension and child allowance is fully refunded by central government. The funding is designed as an additional incentive for local authorities to take active social security measures. Added to this, there are the block grants, which are general grants from central government to counties and local authorities. Contrary to reimbursements, block grants are not earmarked for special purposes, but may be used to match local wishes and needs. Block grants are divided among local authorities in proportion to their tax base. Central government reimbursement and block grants account for almost one third of local government revenues. There are also local government equalisation schemes, comprising transfers from rich to poor local authorities. These schemes equalise differences between local authoritiesâ€™ revenues, taking into consideration factors such as local authoritiesâ€™ particularly low tax base or particularly heavy expenditures. The various economic schemes are of vital importance to the central governmentâ€™s possibilities of economic control and are of considerable importance to the political scope of action at the local community level. Therefore, central government, counties and local authorities assemble for annual negotiations on their economic framework. User payment and self-financing generally play a smaller role in the social services field. In certain areas, such as day-care facilities, residential accommodation and temporary home-help service, the user pays some of the expenditure, though.
1.3. Social policy is an investment A comprehensive social system costs money, and all countries with developed welfare systems are characterised by considerable social expenditure. Countries have chosen different strategies when it comes to the question whether the expenditure should be paid by the private or public sector. To achieve the objectives outlined in chapter 3 above, Denmark has, as mentioned, organised most of its social security benefits and services within a publicly financed system. The well-developed Danish welfare system is costly. It should be borne in mind, however, that social expenditure is also an investment that supports a well-functioning labour market. 27
Hence, no negative correlation can be established between a social policy based on solidarity and economic growth and productivity. On the contrary, it is a fact that Denmark showed a very strong economic performance in the 1990s: Handsome economic growth, good productivity and low unemployment. Danish social policy is a significant contributor to this performance. This social policy supports a well-functioning labour market through an active policy that strengthens the human capital and maintains the workforce. And an extensive network of social welfare services - for children, elderly and disabled people - has underpinned womenâ€™s possibilities of being in the job market. Labour market affiliation is the most effective way to prevent poverty and social exclusion. In addition, Denmark has chosen to secure decent living conditions for persons who are not part of the workforce. These conditions are instrumental in ensuring that Denmark has one of the worldâ€™s most even income distribution systems.
Published on Nov 11, 2010
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