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Issues » 2015/5 - Power and Powerlessness at Work with a Client »

Michaela Hiekischová

Social Work at Labor Office – From Stress to Powerlessness?


The article deals with the nature of social work in the sphere of material needs at labor offices of the Czech Republic. The so called “social reform” came about in 2012, leading to a split in the material needs agenda which in turn led to a change in social work practices. Social work was reduced to the payment of benefits of assistance for material needs, and it has become highly bureaucratized. Using the concept of powerlessness, the causes of this reduction as well as consequences on the psychological well-being are described. Based on policy documents and semi-structured interviews, it is shown that causes are to be found mainly in the political and economic structures forced on social work.


social reform, material need, powerlessness, street-level bureaucracy, politicization, economization, social work

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