Institute of Social Work and Social Policy

The Institute of Social Work and Social Policy (ISP) has a wide-ranging research portfolio. One focus of its research is on basic principles of social work and social policy. The DFG-funded replication study “The gentle controllers” (2016–2020, Prof. Jan Wehrheim), for instance, looks at contact between professionals and the recipients of their services in specific fields of social work. The TransSoz doctoral training group (with Professors Fabian Kessl, Carsten G. Ullrich and Simone Leiber), funded by the NRW Ministry of Innovation, Science and Research, focused on fundamental questions of the relationship between social work and social policy. Its findings were presented to the expert community in 2017 in special issues of relevant journals (Soziale Passagen; Sozialer Fortschritt). Methodological research – such as on qualitative group discussions in web forums (DFG project “Student performance and success”, 2015–2017, Prof. Ullrich and PD Dr. Daniela Schiek) – completes the range of work in this area of research.

Other projects that were concerned with the areas of implementation and target groups of social work and/or social pedagogical interventions are listed below.

Several projects in the Social Policy research group (Prof. Leiber) explore the political governance of care provision. One example is “Family caregivers as the recipients of preventive social policy” (2016–2018), which is funded by the FGW Research Institute for Societal Development of the State of NRW.

Poverty is the focal point of the DFG project led by Prof. Ullrich and PD Dr. Schiek “From generation to generation” (2016–2018), which reconstructs the experience of poverty on a qualitative basis from a family history perspective.

The fourth wave of the Cologne High School Panel (DFG project; 2018–2020) on which Prof. Klaus Birkelbach is working with the University of Cologne explores occupational and private life courses as people reach middle age or move from employment into retirement.

Another DFG project, “Conflicts over the appropriation of urban resources in processes of upgrading and social mixing in inner-city residential areas” (Prof. Wehrheim; 2018–2020), looks at conflicts surrounding the development of inner-city neighbourhoods.

Added to this social research perspective is a legal view of current developments in labour and social law by the ISP’s legal professorships (on topics such as protection for family caregivers, old-age provision for the self-employed, or issues of family and procedural law; Prof. Wiebke Brose and Prof. Ulrike Schwedhelm).

The specific implementation and outcomes of social work interventions are investigated in evaluation studies conducted by members of the ISP, for example in relation to corrections (“Evaluation of social therapy at JVA Neustrelitz correctional facility”; Prof. Dirk Hofäcker and Dr. M. Stegl) and in educational support (“Evaluation of the ‘Allianz für Bildung und Lernen in Ratingen’ educational alliance”; Prof. Birkelbach).

The extensive research in the German-speaking context is accompanied by international collaborative projects, for example on the consequences of labour market insecurity for the lives of young people in Europe (EU Horizon 2020 EXCEPT project; Prof. Dirk Hofäcker).