Social security

Inter-Agency Collaboration in the Field of Social Assistance: Structures and Processes at the Case Level 

The project investigates inter-agency collaboration in the field of social assistance at the case level. The study thereby contributes to the growing literature on specialization and professionalization in social work and social policy. Two central and related analytic questions are addressed: Firstly, we ask whether the form and the quality of collaboration depend on the policy context in which social services and their partner agencies operate. Secondly, we analyze whether the form and quality of collaboration between social services and their partner agencies is related to the recipient’s personal development. Comparing the situation in two Swiss cantons allows the studying of processes and outcomes of social consultation in very different policy settings: While in the Canton of Bern, the financing of social assistance as well as the setting up of activation programs are centrally coordinated and steered, in the Canton of Zurich, financing and program decisions are in the sole responsibility of the municipality. 
Preliminary results show that the recipients’ and the social workers’ perception of collaboration with other agencies in general is positive and that the measures taken by the different partners are considered beneficial for the recipient’s personal development. 

Quantitative analysis of instances of progression through the various social security systems

Those in need are often not only supported by a single welfare system such as unemployment insurance (ALV), but move over time from one support system to another. This project investigated the progression of individuals between the disability insurance (IV), unemployment insurance (ALV) and social assistance (SH) benefits systems, which are the three most important forms of support provided through the state welfare system in Switzerland. A total of 19% of the population assessed as being capable of work received benefits from at least one of these sub-systems during the period 2004 - 2006. The number of people who change from one sub-system to another was determined for all six possible transition combinations (IV -ALV, ALV-SH and SH-IV). Data provided by the organisations responsible for the payment of disability pensions and unemployment benefits together with social assistance statistics were used for this purpose. Indicators (overlap of benefits received, gaps between payment of benefits, duration of payments, etc.) were used to characterise the transitions between the sub-systems and the persons who drew on the services of the three systems, including their socio-demographic profiles.

Integration in preference to pension

The 5th revision of Swiss disability insurance legislation applicable from 2008 is characterised by a so-called paradigm change with its emphasis on moving away 'from pension to integration insurance'. The project assessed how this paradigm change has been implemented, particularly with regard to early detection and intervention as well as integration measures. Differences in implementation between the cantons were detected and analysed and the effect of the new instruments was assessed on the basis of individual case studies. In this project, BFH collaborated with Büro Vatter in Bern.

The benefit profiles of those who have become recently unemployed and of new recipients of disability benefit

The individual social security systems are often treated as separate entities by politicians. However, it is important to see the different systems such as disability insurance, unemployment insurance and social assistance as a whole and to investigate the 'paths' followed by individuals as recipients of the corresponding benefits. One project (progression through the benefit system, risk profiles and factors influencing the reintegration of unemployment benefit recipients in working life) examined this particular aspect. On behalf of the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), the benefits received by people who first qualified for unemployment payments in 2005 were investigated. How long and how often did they receive unemployment benefit in the following five years? How often did recipients of unemployment benefit subsequently become recipients of social assistance benefit? How often were unemployment benefit payments followed by social assistance payments? What was the percentage of people who then again subsequently claimed unemployment benefit and which population groups were over-proportionally represented among these repeat beneficiaries? The progression analysis showed the frequency of certain patterns of benefit claims and the extent of correlation between the unemployment benefit and the social assistance benefit systems. A socio-demographic risk profile was compiled for the various progression patterns. A multivariate explanation model was used to assess which characteristics are mainly responsible for problematic progressions, i.e. which factors increase the risk of dependence on social assistance benefits following receipt of unemployment benefit and of switching back and forth between the systems.

An additional project (progressions and profiles of new disability benefit recipients in 2010; analysis based on SHIVALV Data 2005-2010) was commissioned by the Federal Social Insurance Office (BSV) in order to establish the relevant progression profiles from the point of view of the disability pension. The main focus was on the phase prior to the receipt of disability pension. How often and at what time intervals were unemployment benefit and/or social assistance benefit received prior to receipt of disability pension? Which socio-demographic, socio-economic and socio-professional factors can be used to determine whether one of the two other benefits must be obtained before eligibility to disability pension arises?

Comparison of social assistance indicators

The purpose of this project is to annually analyse, compare, comment on and interpret social assistance indicators in 14 Swiss cities. Each year has a different theme - such as people over 50 years of age, young adults in social assistance situations or analysis of family policy programmes offered in the cities. To mark the 15th anniversary of the inception of this reporting system, a special brochure was compiled to show the development of selected indicators for Swiss cities over the last 15 years and to interpret them in the light of evolving economic, institutional and regional factors.

Income inequality

The Swiss public has become increasingly aware of the issue of income and asset inequality in recent years, but the level of knowledge regarding actual changes to inequality and the causes for these is limited. Our research project considered this aspect by determining the development of economic inequality in Switzerland on the basis of tax payment data held by the cantons and identifying explanatory factors.

Further information regarding the project is available at:

Divorce as a social risk

Many of those who experience divorce can slip into poverty as a result. However, there is currently little concrete information available in Switzerland on the extent of the effects on the economic, social and health status of those involved. Within a new project financed by the Swiss National Fund, the Social Work division is investing the risk associated with divorce and its social consequences for men and women in Switzerland. Risk profiles are being identified in correlation with the economic, health and social dimensions of the living conditions of divorced people and their dependence on social services. The main aim of the project is to assess the type and extent of the consequences of divorce for women and men, based on a well-supported and systematic analysis. This creates the basis for evaluating the extent to which the current state social security system has managed to reduce the consequences of divorce and the inequalities faced by divorced women. The results obtained are to be used to evaluate the existing social policy instruments and to provide recommendations on future measures.

Work integration

Several service providers participate in the provision of measures designed to achieve the vocational and social reintegration of social assistance recipients on behalf of the Swiss local authorities. However, not all of the services provided have the same objectives. All service providers in the cantons of Bern and Solothurn were surveyed in two pilot studies and interviews were held with key stakeholders. These data were supplemented by comprehensive online research and document analysis. Different types of services were identified: Central to any reintegration programme are a day-based structure and individual consultation and support (coaching) services. The extent to which vocational reintegration of programme participants is achieved is determined to large extent by the state of the economy. Reintegration often fails for health reasons. From the point of view of the social assistance recipients, participation in these programmes must remain voluntary.