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Constructing relations in social work: client, customer and service user? The application and relevance of the term user in social work discourse
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Work.
2014 (English)In: Nordic Social Work Research, ISSN 2156-857X, E-ISSN 2156-8588, Vol. 4, no 2, 87-98 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The aim of the article is to accomplish a critical discussion of the terms service user/user and through this highlight the power of language in social work. Two main issues are dealt with: to study to what extent the terms service user/user are applied when addressing recipients of social services in the UK and in Sweden, and to discuss the relevance and meaningfulness of the term in Swedish social services discourse. The point of departure for the study is the reappearance of the term user in Swedish social work discourse in the context of a campaign for evidence-based social work. Through search in 11 volumes of research journals in the UK and in Sweden, it can be concluded that the application of the term service user are quite common in the UK, simply as a synonym for client. The term’s equivalent in Swedish, user is not extensively applied in Sweden. The application of the term user in Swedish social work discourse can be relevant when considering the supportive side of social work, but is shown to be problematic when it comes to statutory services like compulsory treatment or the removal of children from parents. The term hides questions of power and unequal relations immanent in the delivery of social services and social work.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014. Vol. 4, no 2, 87-98 p.
Keyword [en]
service user, client, customer, social services
National Category
Social Work
Research subject
Social Work
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-98621DOI: 10.1080/2156857X.2013.867894OAI: diva2:684678
Available from: 2014-01-08 Created: 2014-01-08 Last updated: 2016-05-24Bibliographically approved

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