Éva Perpék (Centre for Social Sciences, Hungarian Academy of Sciences Centre of Excellence)


Topic: Religious NGOs as project-based social service providers?
Language: English 


The difficulties surrounding the social profession, the underfunding of the sector, the labour shortage, and the profession’s low prestige have long been the subject of public and scientific discourses. The value of social work is undermined by several factors. These include the low status of the target target group, the clients, low salaries, lack of autonomy in decision-making, lack of clear control of the profession, feminisation of the profession, representation of unpopular views (Kadushin 1958), mass media (Keini et al. 2022; Clearfield 1977), self-image of the profession (Vilka, Baha 2018; Euster 1980), and self-criticism (Rapoport 1960).
There are several attempts to counterbalance under-financing of the sector. Such are project-based support or a kind of outsourcing of social services. We can witness the strengthening of the two trends and the combination of them in Hungary. In recent years, several projects funded by the European Union or the state have been launched, the beneficiaries of which are religious NGOs and one of their goals is to supplement the incomplete basic social services. The purpose of the paper is to examine a specific human development program implemented by five different religious organizations in five sub-regions of Hungary. Among others, the program aims to supplement local social services struggling with substantial deficits. The study presents the main outcomes and challenges of the program, with particular regard to social services. We also provide an answer to the question of whether the indicators and overall expectations of the program have been met. According to the results, the program’s quantifiable indicators were fulfilled, and religious NGOs were able to respond to local problems more flexibly than the rigid, resource-deficient state care system. At the same time, the construction under consideration can only be suitable for complementing basic state social services, but not for replacing them.