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Towards a More Fragmented Social Assistance Regime? The Family Social Support Program in Turkey

Risk assessment and social vulnerability indices have been widely discussed within the scope of natural hazards and disasters. However, considering that we live in a 'risk society', social vulnerability is no longer perceived as territorially-bounded but rather seen to be caused by late-modernity which is marked by instability and unpredictability, namely with 'man-made risks' (Giddens 1991; Beck 1992). Within the contours of man-made risks and assessment thereof, 'social work is regulated to fend off risk but also to provide secure moorings and a safety net' (Webb 2006:77).

In such an era delineated with risk assessment and/or management, it comes as no surprise that the Turkish government aims to run a program to assess the needs of vulnerable groups, the Family Social Support Program (Aile Sosyal Destek Programi, ASDEP). Even though the project has not officially started yet, ASDEP has already been visible in the media because of the job opportunities it creates. Through the program, the government aims to map social risks of people on city, region and country level, delineate appropriate social work and social assistance models and develop sustainable policies through a data processing infrastructure. This service will be provided by social workers through the Social Service Centers (Sosyal Hizmet Merkezleri) which have already been established officially in 2013 with a by-law and promise employment opportunities for social workers. Officially initiated in 2016, the program has been represented as a model 'based on supply rather than demand' and thus as a 'paradigm change' by the Minister of Family and Social Policy already in 2015. Here, the 'supply-based model' demonstrates that people are not required to apply for being a part of the program, but rather the state 'reaches each and every citizen in need'.

It can be argued that this program amalgamates social work with social assistance policies which hitherto have mostly been dealt with separately. The Social and Economic Support Programme (Sosyal ve Ekonomik Destek Programi) is the exception which proves this rule. However, ASDEP might lead to a fragmentation of Turkey's social assistance regime. As we discussed in our first working paper, Turkey's social assistance regime is already quite fragmented. It consists of a large number of separate programs and is also institutionally fragmented. Even though the centralization of the Turkish social assistance regime has been one of the main aims of successive governments, this policy area still remains fragmented. In accordance with the by-law, Social Service Centers are responsible for social service provision to children, youth, women, men, disabled, veterans, relatives of martyrs, and elderly based on a protective and preventive approach. Yet, the question remains: why could existing institutions, such as the Social Assistance and Solidarity Foundations (Sosyal Yardimlasma ve Dayanisma Vakiflari), not provide the services that the Social Service Centers provide? The task overload of the Foundations could well be given as a simple and shortcut answer. However, this problem could have been overcome, for instance, by improving the infrastructure of the Foundations. Therefore, it is likely that we will encounter more discussions on the new model and the puzzling trend towards fragmentation of Turkey's social assistance regime.


FURTHER READING:

Giddens A (1991). Modernity and Self Identity. Polity Press, Cambridge.

Webb S (2006). Social Work in a Risk Society. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, Palgrave Macmillan

T.C. Aile ve Sosyal Politikalar Bakanligi (2015) Bakan Gürcan Sosyal Çalismacilarla ASDEP'i görüstütü. https://ailetoplum.aile.gov.tr/haberler/bakan-gurcan-sosyal-calismacilarla-asdep-i-gorustu Accessed 28.02.2019

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13.11.2019: Blickwechsel conference "Rights and Equality in Contemporary Turkey" in Berlin