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Abstract

Excerpt from the full-text article:

Degradation and humiliation are the consequences of using many social services In our society. Added to this is classification as a non-normal or a failure because one turns to a government source for help. The person is stigmatized for use and the agency is negatively labeled by both non-users and users.

While these public opinions stem partly from a long-held philosophy regarding the role of social services and the nature of the poor, these attitudes are reinforced and strengthened by specific policies and practices in the administration and structuring of the programs. Comparisons between services in the United States and Britain, Sweden, Norway, show there is wide variation in the degree the public and the user perceive of the service as an unacceptable or acceptable method of meeting a need and the degree the public give It a strong negative label. Evidence indicates that within one country this varies -for different services; in the United States, for example, public welfare, mental hospital and public housing programs are highly stigmatized while Old Age Survivors Insurance, various educational scholarship programs and possibly Medicare lack this negative label.

The purpose of the research described below was to investigate what types of institutional arrangements or administrative policies are conducive to a publicly acceptable program for one social service, public housing. A further purpose was to examine both the historical and contemporary social and economic factors in a society that explain why a negative label or stigma is imposed on this social service. The focus was on British social services, especially public housing, and based on the author's two years of research in Britain; comparisons were made with policies in American public housing, based on the author's San Francisco housing project study, and on data gathered in Interviews with Swedish and Norwegian social service officials.

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