In many Western welfare states, social work services that have traditionally been provided by paid employees are being replaced by family support, community support, informal networks, and volunteering. For the field of social work, it is relevant to know what it matters to beneficiaries whether services are provided by volunteers or by paid employees. The central question of this article is therefore as follows: What are the differences between unpaid and paid social services for beneficiaries? The article is based on literature review and focus groups. Our results suggest that beneficiaries do experience some differences regarding the advantages of volunteer services for beneficiaries that can be summarized in three propositions: (1) services provided by volunteers are more relational than are services provided by paid employees, and they are therefore perceived as more equal, flexible and sincere. (2) The effects of volunteer services for beneficiaries are not exclusively positive. (3) Although particular tasks may appear to be interchangeable to some extent, the relative advantages of a given task depend upon whether it is performed by a paid worker or by a volunteer. Additional research is needed in order to provide further validation.
- RSM ORG