Narratives of societal vulnerability. An insider’s critical reflection on social policy practice


  • Wilma Numans Tilburg University - Tranzo, Scientific Center for Care and Welfare / Academic Collaborative Center Social Work - Tilburg School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, the Netherlands
  • Juliette Boog Medical and Symbolical Anthropologist and Sociologist of Non-Western Countries
  • Tine Van Regenmortel Professor, Tilburg University and at the University of Leuven, Faculty of Social Sciences
  • René Schalk Professor, Tilburg University and in the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences North West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa.


Accessibility of social rights, social inclusion, social policy practice, societal vulnerability, vulnerable persons


Despite social policies’ aim to realize an inclusive society, social exclusion of vulnerable groups happens. We analyse the experiences of vulnerable persons with practices of implementation of social policies. The analysis of data of in-depth interviews brings to the fore critical notes of vulnerable persons’ interactions with social policy practitioners. This insider’s perspective provides insight in how they experience access to social rights. Respondents report feelings of intensified vulnerability, a confrontation with too much bureaucracy, and a range of insufficiencies in practitioners’ approaches. The bureaucratic contexts often fail to meet persons needs due to protocols and budget restrictions. In order to implement a more individualized approach practitioners need discretionary space in which they can apply moral-ethical considerations, and are responsive to personal requests. Based on the acknowledgment of the insider’s perspective and addressing the shortcomings of the social policy practice, practitioners can pave the way for more social justice.

Author Biographies

Juliette Boog, Medical and Symbolical Anthropologist and Sociologist of Non-Western Countries

Drs. Juliëtte Boog is Medical and Symbolical Anthropologist and Sociologist of Non-Western Countries. Her qualitative research executed in non-western countries focused on obstetric choices of village women; lay perceptions on Tuberculosis and its social implications; HIV transmission among drug injecting users and prostitutes; Health Seeking Behaviour among pregnant women. She developed and implemented Qualitative Research Training for Health Professionals.

Tine Van Regenmortel, Professor, Tilburg University and at the University of Leuven, Faculty of Social Sciences

Prof. Dr. Tine Van Regenmortel is professor at Tilburg University - Tranzo, Scientific Center for Care and Welfare / Academic Collaborative Center Social Work - Tilburg School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, the Netherlands; and University of Leuven, Faculty of Social Sciences, Research Group Social and Economic Policy and Social Integration - HIVA, Belgium. Her research focuses on empowerment, social inclusion and well-being.

René Schalk, Professor, Tilburg University and in the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences North West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa.

Prof. Dr. René Schalk is professor at Tilburg University - Tranzo, Scientific Center for Care and Welfare/Academic Collaborative Center Social Work - Tilburg School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, the Netherlands; Tilburg University, Department of Human Resource Studies, the Netherlands; and Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences North West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa.


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How to Cite

Numans, W., Boog, J., Van Regenmortel, T., & Schalk, R. (2023). Narratives of societal vulnerability. An insider’s critical reflection on social policy practice. Social Work and Social Sciences Review, 23(3). Retrieved from