Academic journal article Romanian Journal of Political Science

Participation in the Administration of Local Welfare Systems in Spain

Academic journal article Romanian Journal of Political Science

Participation in the Administration of Local Welfare Systems in Spain

Article excerpt

Introduction

The article presents an analysis of the opportunity offer for citizen participation in the design, implementation, follow-up and assessment of the public policies of local welfare systems in Spain, and of their potential influence on the social local public agenda. The results of this research allow us to systematically describe the offer of mechanisms, bodies and process of participation in the design, management and assessment of municipal social services. They also allow us to determine the factors that help increment the efficiency of the social public policies, by means of an increase in the citizens' participation in local governance.

The complexity and the interdependence of the phenomena and social issues described, as well as the difficult situations experienced by people, families, social groups and communities, requires a degree of engagement, competencies and interactions of the different publics actors (public and civic). Thus, public participation becomes a substantial element in this new pluralist, relational context. In this current context, participation provides essential benefits to organizational and community dynamics, as it allows for a progressive adaptation of the functioning of institutions, breaking citizens' apathy and mistrust and offering their representatives tools to assess and improve the management of public affairs. It also allows citizens to seize and win back public spaces, whilst creating social capital, fostering community feelings, allowing "politics to socialize" and supporting decisions to be adopted, as has been pointed out by several authors (Cunill, 1991, 1997; Maiz, 2000; Held, 2001; Warren, 2001; Montero, Font & Torcal, 2006; Bloundiaux, 2008; Pares, 2009; Navarro & Font, 2013; Font & Navarro, 2013). Participation is a key element of integration and social cohesion (Machinea & Andras, 2007), as it is one of the markers of international cohesion (CEPAL, 2007, 2008, Taguenca & Lugo 2011, Millan, 2012, Gurgel, 2013; Pastor, Tamez & Saenz, 2014) and of the quality of democracy (Barreda, 2011). This is the reason why participation has become a cross-sectional issue of great interest on the governments' agenda, as well as the agenda of professionals who wish to implement a political management and/or efficient technique aiming to improve social welfare, the citizens' quality of life, and the users of the centers/services.

As has been pointed out by Sauca and Wences (2009), the consolidation of citizens' participation in decision-making and control is constantly spreading in Western democracies. The tools seeking to encourage participation are multiplying in terms of practical policies (see for instance eParticipation and eGovernment in Velicu, 2012), and in plenty of societies they are spreading out at every level of the government (Blondiaux, 2008). The importance of citizens' participation in the uptake and expansion of social rights and the consolidation of representative democracies are clear. The strengthening of this form of government no longer depends only on free execution of the political rights of the citizens, but also on the fact that they actively get involved in the various fields and stages of public affairs (Vallespin, 2000; Giddnes, 2000; Bobbio, 2003). We are now facing a "deliberative turn," as some authors believe (Chambers, 2003; Jorba, 2009).

The current model of Public Social Services System in Spain began to structure starting from the enactment of the Spanish Constitution (1978) and the democratization of institutions. In the constitutional text, the syntagm social services is vaguely present, as it is only used to refer to a system that should ensure the public authorities to promote the welfare of the citizens during the "third age" (art. 50). It referred to certain sectors being unemployed, physically disabled, sensory and psychological, family and children (arts. 39, 41 and 49); collective own Social Services. …

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