Published online by Cambridge University Press: 18 January 2022
Activation policies are at the core of the changing face of welfare. Previous analyses of the activation phenomenon have focused on whether activation policies fit into or cause changes in different welfare regimes (Torfing, 1999; Barbier, 2004; Barbier and Ludwig-Mayerhofer, 2004). Similarly, a significant number of studies have demonstrated that activation policies rebalance the relationship between rights and obligations (Kildal, 2001; Kvist, 2002; Gilbert, 2002; van Oorschot and Abrahamson, 2003). Conversely, the number of studies examining the field-level administration of activation programmes is limited (Handler, 2003; Olesen, 2003). In other words, our knowledge concerning the implementation of activation policies is relatively rudimentary.
This chapter is aimed at contributing to filling this gap in our understanding of the implementation of activation policies. More specifically, the article will present reflections concerning the so-called ‘individual action plan’ (IAP) that serves as an instrument in the activation efforts in countries such as Denmark. Activation in Denmark is not allowed to proceed in an abstract, unstructured manner. Prior to being activated, an IAP has to be drawn up. It explicitly has to account for the content and purpose of the activation (OECD, 1995), that is, the means of activation that are employed (such as education or job-training), have to be tailored to fit a well-defined ultimate objective. The client has to engage in dialogue with a social worker to negotiate the IAP. This dialogue must be built on the basic understanding that the unemployed person is genuinely interested in becoming integrated in the labour market. Subsequently, another basic premise for this dialogue is that the IAP embodies an attempt at balancing the wishes of the individual with the needs of the labour market (as failure to grant consideration to the needs of the labour market will render integration in the ordinary labour market impossible). Mutual rights and obligations must be specified in the negotiations and, by signing an IAP, unemployed individuals are obliged to act in the manner agreed upon. Conversely, the administration is obliged to make the resources available that render it possible for the unemployed persons to fulfil the IAP objectives. Thus, an IAP assumes the form of a mutual contract between the agency and the client.