Publication date: December 1987
Collana: Social issues and projects
Author: Claudio Calvaruso and Massimo Maria Scalise.

Constructing a report on regional social policies in the complex and strongly differentiated panorama of this phase of transformations and social changes that our country is going through is certainly not an easy task. difficulties arise above all from the need to circumscribe the object of attention within a definition of the “social”, whose boundaries are increasingly expanding in post-industrial societies and tend to overlap with every formal act of the governor. The repercussions, if not the direct connotations as “social”, of every political decision-making moment are difficult to contest: if, on the one hand, the definition of the “social” is given a community-type qualification closely connected to the “quality of life” ; and, on the other hand, it recognizes the exercise of “governing” a goal of orientation and positive development of the organization of the corporate system.

The strategic character of social-welfare policies.

The need to “discriminate” in some way within this broad scenario has been resolved by Labos, identifying in the social-assistance sector the most specific and at the same time more indicative area of ​​the social demand that today most recalls forms and interventions of social solidarity. They are thus identified in those marginal groups that insist on this sector, those weaker areas in favor of which today more targeted government actions are required to achieve a better overall quality of social development. And it is precisely in the partner sector. -assistance of social policies that focused the analysis of this relationship, taking into consideration all those social groups in difficulty confined to it, such as the elderly, minors and the disabled, in the first place; but also the tramps, the immigrants, the maladjusted adolescents and the drug addicts themselves: those social groups, that is, that for some years have accumulated in the definition of “new poverty” often mixing confusedly under this meaning reminiscences of old material poverty and new post needs -materialistic. But there are other elements that, in our opinion, justify and at the same time reinforce this type of choice. If the proposed connotation in a purely social sense of every act of government within complex post-type societies is shared. industrial, like ours, it can be drawn that the living conditions of these marginal groups and the nature of their social needs take on a particular significance, almost an undeniable “spy” value, of the capacity of a social system to guarantee to its own community qualitatively high overall levels of satisfaction of social needs. This is even more evident when the overcoming minimum survival thresholds in the living conditions of the community is objectively obtainable from the simple juxtaposition of some fundamental indices of economic development, such as, for example, relating to the evolution of the income scale, to the quality of consumption, to the product gross, to recapitalization, savings and private investment, and so on. Conquer the fourth place in the world rankings for the wealth of the national countries cannot, in fact, be irrelevant on the way of conceiving the social policy and on the overall quality goals of the life that a social system is obliged to ask.

The goal of “affluent society”, widely reached by our country, which is necessarily accompanied by a connotation that is no longer exclusively material of social needs – as evidenced clearly by the results of this survey – indeed involves, in our opinion, a profound revision of the very concept of development model, disentangling it from the bottlenecks of an economic policy to the bitter end and orienting it towards a far broader policy that concerns the quality of life and the sphere of interpersonal relations, within a society that must rediscover the its community origins and the profound reasons for solidarity, once the “impasse” of material survival has been overcome. In this sense, the choice to restrict the scope of this relationship to socio-welfare policies can be particularly happy. This sector of social policy seems to center today, in our opinion, a markedly subordinate and residual sum in the Italian political scenario, and which can be briefly indicated: a) in the disruptive force that in fact it exerts in exposing the contradictions of a model of extremely weak and inadequate social organization in pursuing universalistic goals of social well-being not only in a material sense; but also, if not above all, as can be seen from this relationship, in a relational and qualitative sense, b) in the predictive potential that distinguishes it in terms of the possible prefiguration of a more advanced model of social organization; to the extent that, by dissecting the material and immaterial components of need where life conditions are most precarious, it is able to identify the indispensable premises for the development of a new institutional culture and the definition of new social policies capable of to give a qualitative leap to community life. The part of the report devoted to the analysis of social needs largely gives an account of this growing emergency, alongside the traditional material needs, of a dominance of relational and post-materialistic needs. Not only, in fact, the concern regarding the satisfaction of these needs is evident from the same objectives that the legislator has set himself in preparing the various regional regulations that today govern the social-assistance sector; but the perception that the operators have of the social question underlines the growing weight of these new needs within a complex structure of social demand.

The relational and post-materialistic needs, in the perception of the operators, conquer a “leading” and greater growth prospect role even when examining the living conditions of the elderly, the handicapped and the minors who turn to public services. ‘assistance. It is, as is extensively described in the report, the conditions of solitude, in which these social groups live, their needs for affection and communication, the lack of cultural stimuli, the difficulty of participation in the fall of the sense of belonging to society: new needs that could also be defined as community because they are deeply linked to the very roots of a community. The leading role of the Regional Authority in socio-welfare policy Having identified in the social-assistance sector the most significant context for building a report on social policies, a second order of difficulty had to be faced, rappresen cated by the need to confront the different levels of administrative and political competence that are incumbent on this sector: from the central ones of the State to the regional, provincial and municipal ones, up to the most decentralized management units which are the Local Health Units. Here the path now more than a decade of the process of institutional decentralization could not allow doubts in the choice of the Regional Authority as a privileged interlocutor of an evaluation relationship of social policies. , since the very origin of the CNEL, in its constituent phase, is closely linked to a prevailing representativeness of the regional moment, in the direction of which the regional cognitive role is most exalted.

However, and our investigation makes it stand out clearly, a series of difficulties are immediately noticeable as to the real possibility of an evaluation and a comparison of the work of government of the Regional Authority and this in relation above all to the management role of the Municipalities . The social-assistance intervention of the municipalities is not only strongly characterized in an autonomous sense and sometimes completely removed from general guidelines provided by the Region; but it is also in fact often separated on the administrative level due to the growing capacity demonstrated by the Municipalities, above all it concerns the large metropolitan areas to provide for their own account the funds for the financing of the assistance activity, leaving aside in large part from the regional financing. It was therefore necessary , while maintaining a centrality of attention towards the Region; do not completely abandon the municipal level; in particular in the moment in which, in the preparation of the Report, we passed from the examination of the macro-structural elements of the government of assistance (the legislation, the guidelines, the objectives, the budgets) and a more direct analysis and assessment of the social demand by one side and the institutional response on the other, an exercise that could not be separated from a direct observation of the phenomenon in terms of managerial skills. In this sense, a remarkable section of our relationship is dedicated to the analysis of the services offered and the perception and more direct assessment of social demand in 19 municipalities capital of 5 Italian regions, such as Veneto, Lazio, Le Puglie, Liguria and Umbria.

The choice of this sample, while not responding to scientific criteria of representativeness, has deliberately favored a list of Municipalities which for high demographic amplitude and for a supposed quality of innovation and modernization guaranteed an autonomous capacity to cope with the complex system of social policy. It has however intended to represent typologically: – the different geographical districts (8 municipalities in the North, 6 in the Center and 5 in the South) – the non-homogeneous institutional solutions in the offer conditions, in particular as regards the associated form or not of the services social assistance with health services – the three different urban realities: small size with 9 municipalities with less than 100,000 inhabitants, of medium size with 6 municipalities between 100,000 and 300,000 inhabitants and metropolitan areas with 4 municipalities over 300,000 inhabitants. As already noted, this part of the survey was extremely indicative of the deepening of the intervention procedures and above all in relation to the quality and rapid transformation of social needs. What should be emphasized right now is the extreme differentiation of situations and the difficulty of reporting to unitary address lines or to well-defined types of model i of various management methods, albeit within a limited and stratified sample of the municipalities considered. This is a further element of complexity of our object of investigation which, on the one hand, supports the founding hypothesis of this report on social policies aimed at to create a cognitive transparency between the different areas of assistance; on the other, it warns against excessive schematization suggesting rather differentiated exploratory paths, updating and constant revitalization of observation methods to keep pace with a constantly changing reality and that objectively crosses, it seems we can affirm, a phase of strong transitionality still looking for moments of definition and sedimentation. A report on regional social policies is therefore unlikely, in the eventuality of periodic elaboration, to follow conceptual schemes and rigid and pre-established investigation methods; but, on the contrary, he will have to make his best weapon out of the flexibility of the interpretative categories and the plurality of methodological addresses.

A new cognitive approach to social needs. Choosing the social welfare sector and identifying in the Region the institutional subject inspiring the social policies to be activated in this sector, while maintaining attention to the management of the Municipalities, did not seem sufficient for Labos to construct a report on social policies for two reasons. The first concerns the participatory and itinerant study that Labos aspires to carry out and which is the most important reason for its being a foundation. A participatory modality that consists in choosing fund to do “search with”, rather than “search on”; meaning with this investigation procedure that seeks, as far as possible, to involve in the process the most meaningful interlocutors belonging to the same object of investigation (politicians, officials, social workers, users) who are then the final recipients of the survey, as privileged witnesses , as essential social antennas for a correct understanding of the phenomena, as necessary and complementary referents in the process of in-depth knowledge. The second order of reasons is related to our conviction that the “social material” it deals with here is a subject, we have already stressed this several times, in constant transformation and always more pivoting on qualitative rather than quantitative aspects. Social needs, in fact, not only mark a phase of great change and constant complexification; but they increasingly refine their quality in the direction of a post-materialistic or relational structure (the needs of communication, of belonging, of participation, of protagonism and co-responsibility, of affectivity and of human relationships), whose measurability escapes mostly to the classic methods of social inquiry, requiring moments and levels of strategic listening that are as contiguous and sensitive to the formation and modification of social demand. To meet these two types of needs, Labos has tried to articulate the preparation of this report on the basis of a close collaboration with the regional councilors responsible for the social-assistance sector, with their officials and experts, with the same social operators of the municipalities in the phase of survey of the social demand.

The aims and contents of the Report, as well as the methods of acquiring cognitive data were discussed and defined together with the assessors and their experts during two seminar meetings. In the second of these meetings, carried out under the aegis of the CNEL, some problematic ways of a political and cultural type that today affect the social-assistance sector have also been addressed; giving rise, next to the collegial work of setting up the Report, to a socio-cultural reflection that we hope will find its continuity in a particularly significant institutional context, which is precisely that of the CNEL. Subsequently to the setting and definition of contents and Investigation modalities, regional officials and experts have provided an indispensable contribution to the implementation of the Report, making their experience, knowledge and basic materials related to legislative production and the budgets of individual regions available to the Labos. research relating to the description of the state of the services and the deepening of the social demand, it was possible to obtain information from the municipal officials (in some cases also from the Local Health Authorities) and to be able to count on the active collaboration of about 800 operators of the 19 main Municipalities taken from sample to determine the characteristics he of the social demand coming from services. This report has therefore attempted to maintain, at least in the intentions of Labos, an exploratory type of participatory type, offering a moment of meeting and comparison of regional policies in the social-assistance sector and proposing itself as a tool of refinement , evaluation and verification of the social intervention with those characteristics of continuity, transparency and involvement of the interested subjects that is required in our opinion, from the complexity and together from the transitionality of the current phase of transformation of social needs. If nobody escapes, in fact, the difficulty of a comparison in Italy today between regional policies, which is nevertheless increasingly impracticable, in the light of our investigation, appears to be the need to make this comparison, especially with regard to the socio-welfare sector.

The needs of the comparison But it is time to enter more directly into the contents of the Report, and to draw some significant conclusions, first of all in relation to the interest of promoting a comparison between the different regional governments of the assistance operating today in our country. some reasons for this need, which cannot be postponed as can be seen from the contents of the Report: 1) the socio-welfare sector has been waiting for too many years for a national framework law, with respect to the definition of which the more or less advanced or innovative paths implemented by the different regions represent essential experiences to be taken as a reference, even if the regions that have defined a framework law to date are only: Piedmont, Lombardy, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Veneto, Emilia Romagna, Umbria, Basilicata, Calabria, Sicily; 2) l autonomy from the health and social care sector, a parallel autonomy that aims at integration and of these two sectors on an equal footing, it is not yet completely taken for granted both on a theoretical and practical level and it is extremely urgent for the regional councilors of the social-welfare to confront themselves on a common strategic line. On the one hand, in fact, the debate is still open about the real opportunity to split these two areas of social policies so strongly intertwined and complementary to the point of constantly creating confusion and conflicts of competence, bias or duplication of interventions (just think about what happens for the elderly, especially those who are not self-sufficient, for drug addicts for the mentally weak and the disabled); on the other, in fact, in some regions the two sectors are united under the same department. While in others still a process of decentralization of competence was implemented up to the USSL, where it is then very difficult to distinguish the two fields of intervention; 3) the socio-welfare sector undoubtedly represents the most marginal of the different regions in which the Regions are governed: first of all, due to the low influx of economic resources (the percentage of socio-welfare expenditure on the total of regional expenditures fluctuates between 0.4 of Umbria and 1.5 of Veneto and Val d’Aosta); but also, and probably consequently, for the permanence in our country of a deep and deep-rooted welfare subculture that tends to consider this matter detached from and incident with respect to the central axis of the country’s development, or even of a weak obstacle; then derives the need for a policy of recovery and relaunch of this sector that the regional managers and the pooling of appropriate political strategies, 4) reconstructing a balance sheet of the regional expenditure in the socio-welfare field is an extremely enterprise arduous, above all for the difficulty of finding updated data and then: – for the difference between the different Regions in the technical presentation of the various budget items; – for the levels of delegation to the Local Authority that vary from Region to Region; – for the different levels of integration existing between the social and health sectors – for the extremely differentiated “social” vocation of local authorities: since some municipalities autonomously provide important parts of the social welfare budget, while for others the regional authority provides totally or partially preponderant to this item. The survey shows that the financial commitment of the single municipality contributes above all to determining higher spending levels. This must be placed in relation to the greater capacity for governance and programming of social-assistance interventions that distinguish these municipalities, 5) again with regard to social-welfare expenditure, the index of variation in the incidence of social-welfare spending on the total of regional spending fluctuates from 0.4% in Umbria to 1.5% in Veneto and Val d’Aosta; while the expenditure calculated for inhabitants records an average of 14,500 liras per capita in 1984 and of 18,500 in 1985 with notable differences between the Regions with respect to which it is more opportune to have greater comparative parameters; 6) there are also still too great disproportions, emerged in the survey on the 19 chief towns, in the spending levels both within the individual categories of users and between the different categories: for example, the average cost of services for minors in Venice is 40 times higher than in Verona (and they are capitals of the same region); yet Venice has an average expenditure for the elderly of 15 times higher than that of Rome and Frosinone, but does not spend even a third of the expenditure paid to Rieti for the disabled, 7) always from the survey on the municipalities, it is not possible to deduce lines of regional uniformity with respect to the intervention models, they choose user areas and apply expenditure parameters that are completely unrelated not only to a regional logic but also to a careful assessment of needs, highlighting a shortcoming of the Region as regards the indication of lines programmatic and the ability to promote homogeneous guidelines. Thus, a possible stalemate of the orientation function of the Regional Authority, with respect to which it is necessary to create synergy and identify innovative paths, is emerging 8) this lack of regional importation mostly translates into the frequency of more traditional interventions and in the complementary difficulty, on the part of the municipalities, to carry out effective preventive and rehabilitative interventions and to satisfy the new needs; however, there is a fairly significant difference between the management model of the center-north that is able to guarantee greater services, compared to that of the South which is more available to provide economic subsidies, especially in favor of the elderly; shortcomings that emerge in the capacity of the services to satisfy the new social needs are above all qualitative and closely connected to the rapid change in social demand: they concern in particular the scarce political sensitivity of the institutions, the lack of innovative and managerial capacity of the management levels and lack of adequate professional training; 10) the particular complexity of social demand, finally, within which old and new social needs are intertwined and whose rhythms of transformation are now very rapid, today imposes a real institutional challenge precisely at the regional tops that are responsible for the most delicate function and strategic identification of philosophies and innovative models of intervention. The existence of proceeding with a systematic comparison of the different regional policies constitutes, as we have seen, one of the irreplaceable presuppositions for the realization of that greater cognitive transparency that is indispensable for the promotion of a more adequate operation of the system of regional government considered as a whole. The ten emblematic situations taken into consideration among the results of the research constitute as many: – moments of strong differentiation of the regional behaviors that even concern the same matters of government; inves tone the role and competences of the Regional Authority – highly complex institutional challenges in comparison with the new social demand and in the operational connection with the local authorities – stalemate conditions of the political and cultural value of the social-assistance sector both with regard to of other sectors of social policy (in particular the health sector) that compared to the more general scenario of the country’s policy.To the framework law: assessments and comparisons of regional regulationsBut perhaps the most urgent issue, at least in the perception of the managers of the sector, on which accelerating a process of comparison and homogenization of the various regional situations remains still the normative one and this in function of the absolute urgency of the launching of a framework law that, perhaps even with an excessive emphasis, is considered as the decisive junction of the revival of policies social assistance. The analysis and comparison of regional legislation was then d the first chapter of this report is published, trying to adopt a participatory procedure and close collaboration with the institutional managers, on the one hand; but also strongly innovative from the other. Meanwhile, the vast material analyzing, around 300 documents that represent the normative production of the 20 Italian Regions from the first seventies to December 31, 1986, could be collected thanks to the availability of the competent Regional Councilors.

Secondly, the investigation was not limited to the mere description of the legislation but intended to derive some evaluation criteria from the examination of the legislative material; that is to say a judgment of value relative to the potential capacity of the single normative act to guarantee a satisfactory level of achievability to the objective contained in the same norm. It is an important effort aimed at investigating the planning capacity present in the spirit of the legislator and to verify therefore, how much potential operation can be transfused into a juridical norm. This, in our opinion, is an attempt to take a step forward with a view to dynamic analysis of legislative production aimed at enhancing the application of evaluation criteria that are extremely indispensable today in the different levels of social policy approach.