Promoting the digital future: the construction of digital automation in Swedish policy discourse on social assistance

This article focuses the policy discourse that Swedish municipal personal social services (PSS) must engage with when implementing automated decision-support systems; how these tools are conceptualized in the context of social work and what outcomes they are expected to yield in the PSS organizations. Applying an adapted version of Bacchi’s WPR framework, results indicate that the three main policy actors directing the Swedish PSS portray a future where the capacity of the welfare state is threatened, thus suggesting digital automation as an objective and politically neutral tool for saving the PSS from this worrisome prospective. This article, however, argues that by uncritically promoting a particular form of digital automation within the PSS, the policy discourse risks overlooking the characteristics of digital technologies, thus both disregarding its consequences and amplifying the neoliberal ideals that award private enterprise the role of the main supplier of public welfare.