Public Management

Three key tasks for the transformation of the social domain

October 29, 2014


The social domain is being drastically restructured. The social support of vulnerable groups and youth welfare work are to be the responsibility of the municipalities from now on. This offer huge opportunities for improvements but also involves considerable risks. This is evident from elsewhere in Europe: the situation of a more preventive and local approach that is closer to the citizens has already come about in England, Germany and the Scandinavian countries. It has been found that the model does not guarantee a (spectacular) decrease in the intensive care profession and that the implementation is far from an easy task.

There have already been initial signs to that effect in the Netherlands. Because of the many changes, one can soon lose sight of the goal of the transformation. Minor issues present themselves. Municipalities are not able to maintain an adequate quality level of aid and care. In addition, it is often not possible to bridge the gap between the local and the specialized care.

Clear statements and goal-oriented choices are required

What do we want to achieve exactly and how do we go about it? In my book ‘Steunend stelsel’, I have defined 3 key tasks for government authorities and citizens. Clear statements and goal-oriented choices are required, because we will never get where we want to go if everything is considered important.

The first key task involves expanding the social networks of citizens. It is assumed as part of the transformation that we can count on the individual efforts of citizens. How can this be guaranteed? Can formal care be replaced by informal care and how can this be organized? A second key task concerns creating a prominent local support structure. How do you go about bringing the support closer to the citizens? How do you shape the support in such a way that it is recognizable and accessible to citizens? This can be achieved by opting for a pronounced set-up, such as a location, a team or a person who has full access to the local care supply. How can this best be organized?

The third key task involves giving coherence to the total supply. Is it possible to have hundreds of professionals from dozens of disciplines and organizations function according to a single plan? It is essential that specialist aid and care links up as much as possible with society and the basic care facilities. How do you then ensure network navigation that also keeps the route to ‘normal life’ open for those with considerable problems?

Central tasks as benchmark

The transformation of the social security system will only succeed if these 3 central tasks are observed as benchmark. The 3 key tasks must be decisive factors in the approach to change. An intrinsic focus and ambition is necessary with respect to the needs of the citizens, the typical quality of a neighborhood or the town, the corresponding supply and the complex cooperation that is needed to that end. In this way, it is also possible to make the entire system more compact and more efficient. We will have gained a lot if we can succeed in implementing these three key tasks in a single approach.

Pieterjan van Delden is organization advisor at Andersson Elffers Felix (AEF). He is affiliated with TIAS and obtained his doctorate in 2009 on the subject of Cooperation in the public services sector. In 2014, Van Delden published the book 'Steunend Stelsel'.
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