Institute of Social Work and Social Policy (ISP)

The Institute of Social Work and Social Policy (ISP) conducts a broad spectrum of research. Basic research in the field of social work and social policy is one of its specialisms. The replication study ‘Gentle Inspectors’ (2016–2020, Professor Jan Wehrheim), funded by the DFG, examines contact between professionals and their target groups in selected fields of social work. Another DFG-funded research project, ‘Collective Representations of Unemployment’ (2019–2021, Professor Carsten Ullrich) focuses on the perception of unemployment and the unemployed in Germany.

Professor Dirk Hofäcker’s group carries out studies into issues relating to labour market and retirement policy. Two projects funded by the pension research network (Forschungsnetzwerk Alterssicherung) of the German pension insurance union (Deutscher Rentenversicherung Bund) investigate the employment trajectories of older unemployed people in Germany (2019–2020) and periods of reduced income during the transition to old-age retirement (2020–2021), respectively.

The ISP is also involved in various high-ranking, international collaborative projects. One is the EU’s ‘Transdisciplinary Solutions to Cross-sectoral Disadvantage in Youth/YOUNG-IN’ (2018–2022, Professor Hofäcker). Another is the ‘EuroAgencyCare’ project, funded by the German-Polish research foundation (Deutsch-Polnische Wissenschaftsstiftung, DPWS), which focused on the role of employment and recruitment agencies for migrant labourers in Germany and Poland (Professor Simone Leiber).

Further projects examine the potential settings and target groups of interventions in social work.

Professor Leiber’s research group is working on a range of projects which investigate political control of nursing care, including a study into family caregivers as a target group of preventive social policy. The same group has carried out an international comparative study into social work as a political player in the welfare state.

Professor Klaus Birkelbach and the University of Cologne are planning to initiate the fourth wave of the Cologne High School Panel, which was funded by the DFG between 2019 and 2021. It examines the professional and private lives of a group of former high-school students as they reach middle age or transition from their careers to retirement. A proposal for renewal has been submitted.

Another DFG-funded project (2018–2021, Professor Wehrheim) studies conflicts over the appropriation of urban resources in processes of upgrading and social mixing in inner-city residential areas.

These approaches from a social-studies perspective are complemented by legal assessments of current developments in the field of labour and social law carried out by the ISP’s professors of law (Professor Ulrike Schwedhelm).

Professor Ullrich’s research groups on qualitative methods continues to engage in methodology research. Two DFG-funded projects (2019–2021) tackle issues of interview methodology. The first team focuses on the impact of questions in interviews, while the second (a collaboration with Universität Hamburg) examines the possibilities of online interviews.

In addition to the Institute’s high profile in German-speaking academia, its researchers have been attending international conferences on a regular basis, including the annual conference of European Social Policy Network (ESPAnet) and the IMISCOE (International Migration, Integration and Social Cohesion in Europe) Spring Conference 2019.