“Claiming” equality and “doing” inequality – Individual action plans for applicants of social assistance


  • Rickard Ulmestig Department of Social Work, Linnaeus University
  • Verner Denvall Faculty of Social Sciences, Lund University
  • Kettil Nordesjö Departmen of Social Work, Malmö University


This study investigates how formal equality is “done” in 48 individual action plans for social assistance. We use a street-level perspective to understand how policy is “done” to enhance equality for social assistance applicants. The analysis is based on the theory of street-level bureaucracy as well as on the concept of equality. Formal equality was inhibited by weak legal security, vague rights and duties, the inability to advocate for one’s own case, and difficulties with ambiguous and incomprehensible language in individual action plans. Establishing formal equality is made even more difficult because of the individual means testing used to determine social assistance. We argue that applicants of social assistance might experience inequality that is greater than the inequality they experienced before the implementation of their individual action plans, despite the intent of these plans to decrease inequality.