Social Welfare Policy And Homelessness Essay - …

On the Swedish scene there are no examples of a modern welfare program that integrates the role of the state, the market, and the civil society. By studying only Sweden we could not illustrate what we had envisaged as the most viable welfare model. However, in 1995 Germany introduced an old age insurance that approximates our ideals. After ten years of operation in a tough economic climate it serves well as a real-life demonstration of the combined efforts of the state, the civil society, and the marketplace to meet the demands of a growing group in the population.

The insurance becomes due when a person needs care for a minimum of one and a half hours per day. Relatives and other caregivers are paid for their services and receive four weeks' vacation. The elderly can chose the home care services they want within the framework and fees of the insurance system. The insurance pays for wheelchairs, special beds, and other aids to daily living. The three types of service for the elderly -- home care, service residences, and nursing homes/hospices -- are available on three levels. The form and level that the insurance plan entitles one to is determined by a physician, not by local politicians or civil servants. Even if they have different care needs, married couples are kept together as far as possible. The form of service granted can be upgraded by the recipient. For example, a person who has been granted home care can move to a service residence by paying the difference out of his own pocket.

In 2004 two million Germans availed themselves of old-age insurance. More than anything else, the qualification that a person requires care a minimum of an our and a half daily affects the extent to which the insurance is can be utilized and make it affordable for the sorely pressed official treasuries.

Germany's capacious social insurances are partly financed through the federal and constituent states, but it is not implements by them. Approximately 85 percent of Germans have placed their sick insurance in the public system (Gesetzliche Krankenkasse or GFV). Others carry private insurance. The efficiency of the system benefits from the competition that exists between insurance companies that vie to deliver GFV's sick care. They are known by their three-letter abbreviation: AOK, BEK, BKK, DAK, KKH, TKK, among others.

The German old-age insurance described above is automatic for all members in the public system, GKV, and is obligatory for all others. The cost is 1.7 percent of wages/salaries (split evenly between employer and employee), and 1.7 percent of the pensioner's income. The above mentioned insurance companies either buy the practical implementation of the policies or handle it themselves. Unlike the Swedish arrangement whereby counties and municipalities implement the insurance plans, in the German welfare state, voluntary association, churches and unions have traditionally carried out the practical aspects of the plan. They can provide home care and service residences as well as out-patient treatment and some hospital care. In Germany there are rules governing the division of responsibility in the public sphere between the state, industry and business, and the civil society. All is not relegated to either the market, the state, or the civil society.

Another difference between Germany and the Nordic countries in respect to their welfare systems is the German voter's tendency to associate German welfare policies primarily with the conservative Christian Democrats, whereas Scandinavian welfare policies as mainly viewed as a project of the Social Democrats.

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Although the thought is unpleasant, it must be articulated all the same: welfare policies can become a trap for democracy. If the expenses of welfare reforms exceed the income and borrowing capacities of the state, crises can arise to the detriment of democracy (Langby 1984). An obvious example is the apparently vital democracy and social state that prevailed in the Weimar Republic. As politicians tried to finance overblown welfare promises and other commitments, the government printed more and more money with the result that inflation ran rampant. [p351] Meanwhile assets were also being diminished in the depression of the 1930s. In that situation the Germans voted in Hitler and the Nazis.

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Can our democracy survive the challenges of the maximalist welfare state? We would like to make such a question unnecessary by giving civil society and the market large enough roles in welfare so that the democratic political system can survive regardless of what happens to state-run social patronage.

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In civil society, compassion rules in the place of competition or organized justice. It is here that patterns of trust and cooperation are created for society as a whole, including the government and the market. It has long been commonplace knowledge that it is very expensive for the state to let law enforcement substitute for the training in civility and civic-mindedness that the civil society provides. Not even a police state has as many policemen as those policemen internalized in the population by a functioning civil society. It should be equally obvious that the active compassion and responsibility for the young, the sick, the elderly that is taught in civil society cannot be substituted by a social state. So many social functionaries are not to be found even in the most maximalistic welfare state.

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The other jaw of the pincer is the government. Characteristic of the postwar social structure of welfare nations has been the state's interference in the welfare provided by civil society and commerce: it nationalizes a part of it and plants a crop of regulations over the rest. Nascent voluntary, cooperative, and commercial efforts to solve problems of social security and care were cut off. Once public systems were launched on the local level, they soon became normative, sometimes acquiring a de facto monopoly. In Sweden, their short-term advantages at a local level were obvious (Gustafsson 1988). They were consolidated into national systems and subjected to the common regulations of parliament. It would take many decades before the long-term accumulated disadvantages of the national systems were subjected to scrutiny.