Access to social services as a rite of integration: Power, rights, and identity
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Access to social services is a multifaceted and multifactorial process, involving social policy lines, services organization, and professional front line practices. It appears to have a crucial role in how personal social services work: depending on the way the process is handled, access to social services could provide a bridge to an inclusive and solidarizing community or worsen discrimination and marginalization. Many underline how studying the actual encounters between citizens and practitioners can provide a privileged site to highlight the interconnections between the abovementioned factors. This is the focus of our research that explored access in a specific Italian region using a case study strategy. After a pilot study, the main points of access to social services were identified, and three units were selected as best examples of different approaches. The three units were explored using mainly qualitative methods inspired by ethnography. We were able to gain in depth understanding of three cultural approaches to access, defined as the “ethical duty,” the “good organization,” and the “professional approach” and reach an in‐depth understanding of their impact on access. There is a vast literature on the power of street‐level bureaucrats, seen as similar to gatekeepers. However, our research suggests that specific organizational cultures also play an important part: different organizational cultures may impact the implementation of local social policy, the organizational procedures, and social workers' practices.