David Pålsson (foto: Emil Widstrand)
David Pålsson (foto: Emil Widstrand)

Huvudhandledare: Docent Stefan Wiklund samt handledare Professor Marie Sallnäs.

Opponent: Professor Kerstin Svensson från Lunds universitet

Läs mer av David Pålsson här

Abstract

The aim of this dissertation is to describe and analyse the prerequisites and practices of auditing Swedish residential care for children. Residential care is a complex intervention provided to children in vulnerable life situations. The care is extensively delivered by private providers and shows difficulties in demonstrating clearly positive treatment effects. Licensing and inspections are policy instruments to address alleged quality problems in decentralised and marketised welfare services. However, in research there are mixed opinions on the ability of audits to generate improved service quality.

The dissertation consists of four papers exploring central facets of the audit system. The empirical material is based on interviews (n=50) with inspectors and residential staff, documentation (n=286) in terms of guidelines and license/inspection decisions and observations (n=12) at inspection-related events. Each paper includes a unique set of data.

Paper I analyses the controls that private residential homes undergo prior to their entry into the market. The results show that a majority of applicants are granted a license and that the controls do not reduce the need for ex post control. There is limited guidance on care content and research evidence is weakly incorporated in the controls. Overall, the state exerts limited influence over the composition and professional development of the care market.

Paper II explores the operationalisation process of care quality in inspections. The results show that the standards display a marked variation and there is no differentiation between different residential homes. In general, the standards focus on reducing malpractice and not maximising care quality. In practice, the inspections are often discussion-based and standards relating to work with children are often indistinct.

Paper III analyses how inspections are perceived by representatives from residential homes. The results show that inspections induce reflection and to some extent shape the administrative parts of care, but also that it is difficult to discern the actual impact of the inspections on the work. The inspections appear to bring a degree of stability and legitimacy to the work, but there are sometimes tensions between standards and professional judgment.

Paper IV studies the influence the inspection process grants children in care. The results suggest that different inspectorial rationales (regulative, supportive and protective) may influence the agency children exert and that it is difficult to allow children’s views to have a substantial impact on the process. Overall, there tends to be a gap between what the children find important and what the audits can address in concrete terms.

The theoretical ideas used to analyse the results are derived from institutional organisational theory and the thesis on the audit society. The overall analysis shows that 1) making certain core care aspects auditable and ensuring their impact is difficult (e.g., children-staff relationships, children’s views and use of research knowledge), 2) the system has a restrained character and is in many senses associated with inconclusive formative effects, 3) the use of uniform goals does not necessarily equal a more suitable care provision and 4) the audits signify strong symbolic values. Despite the limitations, the audits may help to discipline care providers, secure a minimum level relative to the audited care aspects and induce reflection among auditees.

Keywords: Child welfare, Out-of-home care, Residential care for children and adolescents, Audit, Licensing, Inspection, Quality Indicators.

Stockholm 2018
ISBN 978-91-7797-135-1
ISBN 978-91-7797-136-8
ISSN 0281-2851

http://su.diva-portal.org/smash/record.jsf?pid=diva2%3A1177723&dswid=1662