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Standards and discretion in the “backyard of law” – case handling of debt relief at the Swedish Enforcement Authority

Conference contribution
Authors Bengt Larsson
Bengt Jacobsson
Published in 26th Conference of the Nordic Sociological Association, 15-18 August 2012, University of Iceland, Reykjavik
Publication year 2012
Published at Department of Cultural Sciences
Department of Sociology and Work Science
Centre for European Research (CERGU)
Language en
Keywords discretion, standardization, formalization, "street-level bureaucracy", "screen-level bureacracy"
Subject categories Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)

Abstract

The number of applications for debt relief has been increasing in Sweden during the last ten years. Up until 2006 when a new debt relief law was introduced, the number of rejections was higher than the number of decisions on debt relief. But since then that relation has been inversed and the number of positive decision almost twice as high as the number of rejections. The policy of the enforcement agency during the last years has been, not only to grant debt relief in as many cases as possible given the legal space for maneuver, but also to strengthen both the productivity and the uniformity in the decision making process. This paper analyses the case handling in the debt relief process at the Swedish Enforcement Authority. The focus is on the relation between legal standards and professional discretion in case-handling. In addition to this general theme, the paper also discusses the relation between individual and collective interpretive practices, local variation and uniformity, and the translation of the debtors’ accounts and other information into legally binding decisions. The empirical base of the paper is organizational documents from the Enforcement Agency, ethnographic participation at meetings, and interviews with staff and management.

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