Work integration programmes are very much influenced by the public policy context, namely in terms of:

  • funding opportunities to develop work integration programmes
  • political priorities that affect the activities of NGOs
  • welfare and health regimes supporting individuals from target groups

Public policies aimed at vulnerable and socially marginalised people, at socially excluded groups, have gone through significant changes in the past couple of decades. Whatever the actual content of these policies, they are always dependent on the ways in which the different powers look at these phenomena and identify the processes and mechanisms underlying them – ultimately, public policies are ideological issues.

While the situation is differentiated among EU Member States, the current socioeconomic crisis can bring about similar trends such as the following:

  • a set back of the State, aggravated by the current socioeconomic crisis
  • severe funding cuts in established programmes and programme reforms
  • a decentralisation of responsibilities (shift from central to local governments accompanied by a decrease in the budget available)
  • the attribution of a growing responsibility to individuals for supporting themselves

The edification of the Welfare State was a trademark of European policies for several decades. However, in the last few decades, the policies typical of Welfare Sates have been increasingly questioned and criticised. They have been charged with being paternalistic, with breeding dependency in those who benefit from them, and ultimately with being ineffective. This debate has gained momentum with the current European crisis, as States are under pressure to cut public expenditure, something that may have direct consequences for social intervention with those who are most vulnerable.

This does not mean that all current transformations are taking place in that single direction. Rather, there is a progressive, parallel evolution, which both reinforces support to those most vulnerable and measures aimed at containing the disorders they are held responsible for (e.g., the multiplication of support programmes and harm reduction policies targeted at drug users, which go together with the criminalisation of begging and loitering, as well as the occupation of critical territories by anti-riots police).


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