Introduction Much discussion has taken place in the human sciences regarding the increased concerns over the risks in social life under late modernity – an issue for both the citizen and the state. Citizens are increasingly expected to engage in behaviour that minimises their personal risk and allows them to anticipate potential dangers and thereby take more control of their lives (see Chapter 2). Similarly, the state aims to minimise risks by sometimes shifting responsibilities on to individuals and workers. A wide range of enabling programmes and “good life” advice have been developed to promote self-responsibility – in particular, attempting to identify, categorise and manage high-risk populations. As is discussed in Chapter 2, workers, who are charged with implementing government policies, are increasingly held accountable for preventing and managing the risks of their clients, and draw in particular on their relationship skills. Risk and risk management clearly imply issues of responsibility. When assessing who is to blame for risks, attention turns to questions of who is responsible for managing them. As Giddens (1999: 8-9) comments: “Risks only exist when there are decisions to be taken. . . . The idea of responsibility also presumes decisions. What brings into play the notion of responsibility is that someone takes a decision having discernible consequences.” For those at the margins of the welfare state, allocating responsibility for making decisions regarding risks is a central concern. Citizens who are assessed as having serious problems in managing their lives responsibly are guided and controlled by various health, social and welfare workers in order to avoid unnecessary risks to themselves and society at large. Consequently, risks and choices become shared and negotiable issues between workers and clients; both parties have a responsibility to seek better risk assessments and make responsible choices. There is a wide variety of expert advice and opinions available to help individuals make “right and responsible” life decisions, and as Giddens (1991: 180) notes, “therapy should be understood and evaluated essentially as a methodology of life planning”. In this chapter, we demonstrate how risks and choices are negotiated in caseplanning meetings dealing with substance abuse, mental health and housing
problems. The focus is on how workers and clients assess progress and become more self-responsible when making choices and anticipating risks. Before considering the data, we ground our analysis in concepts of life planning and case management associated with the governmentality literature.