Policy, identity and practice: a study of how policy decisions regarding the welfare of chdren with disabilities are formulated within the Portuguese welfare state
Gulyurtlu, Sandra Sibel Cabrita
This thesis seeks to explore how key decision-makers within the Portuguese civil service formulate decisions regarding policies orientated at children with disabilities. It breaks the issue down by focusing on three main perspectives - the decisionmaker, the policy framework and children with disabilities. The decision-maker was analysed in the context her/his professional identity. By combining social identity theory (self-categorisation) and identity theory (role-identification) and interview data, this thesis found that the basis for decision-making was the way in which the term "children with disabilities" was identified and conceptualised by the decisionmaker, as well as the associated approaches, rules and guidelines at both the national and international level. It found a variable balance of influences between the concepts of parenting and families, the norms of the Portuguese welfare system and the emergent international thinking regarding children with disabilities. Through the use of a multi-method approach which incorporated interviews, vignettes and documentary analysis this thesis captured the approaches of each decision-maker. This thesis found that children with disabilities were predominantly viewed as dependants. The familialist structure of the Portuguese welfare state introduces the notion of a "disabled family", whereby the family carries the responsibility of addressing the challenges associated with children's disability and state support is directed at the family. In addition, this thesis found that "normalisation" was the predominant approach to disability, regardless of intended approach of each decision-maker. This study concluded that a combination of rehabilitative and integrative policy impulses in a context of limited and incomplete information and guidelines from international organisations have influenced this approach.