An Introduction to Social Policy


Peter Dwyer & Sandra Shaw

  • Citations
  • Add to My List
  • Text Size

  • Chapters
  • Front Matter
  • Subject Index
  • Copyright


    This book is dedicated to the memory of Dr Helen Prosser. Helen was going to write a chapter for the book before her unexpected death at a tragically young age. A warm and much respected colleague at the University of Salford, we miss her very much.

    About the Editors and Contributors

    Dr Anya Ahmed is a Senior Lecturer in Social Policy at the University of Salford. She teaches and researches issues around social exclusion, retirement migration, gender, different forms of community and social housing. She has led a range of externally funded projects on hard to reach groups and specializes in qualitative data generation and analysis. She has a number of academic publications (journal articles and book chapters) and has written a number of reports for local government and voluntary sector organizations. She is currently writing a book on British retirement migration to the Costa Blanca in Spain and is leading a research project on the Somali community and social exclusion in London.

    Dr Margaret Coffey is Programme Leader for the MSc in Public Health at the University of Salford, and a Senior Lecturer in Public Health. Margaret teaches research methods and evidenced-based public health on the MSc Public Health Programme, and her research interests focus on stress in the workplace, with an emphasis on the organizational, rather than individual, factors which impact on health and wellbeing in the workplace. In addition to this, Margaret is interested in evaluating behaviour change interventions in respect of lifestyle and the social determinants of health and health inequalities.

    Dr Paul Copeland is Lecturer of Public Policy at Queen Mary, University of London. His research focuses on the political constellations surrounding EU social policy and the effectiveness of current governance tools within Social Europe. His work is strongly interdisciplinary and attempts to analyse the process of European integration surrounding Social Europe by engaging with the approaches and methods found within the broader school of the Social Sciences and Law. His most recent research analysed the EU's Lisbon Strategy and is entitled The EU's Lisbon Strategy: Evaluating Success, Understanding Failure (co-edited with Dimitris Papadimitriou). He is also currently writing up his research monograph: EU Enlargement, the Clash of Capitalisms, and the European Social Dimension (Manchester University Press).

    Lindsey Dugdill is a Professor of Public Health at the University of Salford. Lindsey teaches evidence-based public health on the MSc Public Health Programme, and her specialist research areas are workplace health and physical activity. Lindsey is known internationally for her work in these fields and has worked directly (and published) with the World Health Organization on workplace health evaluation. In addition she has published over 100 peer-reviewed journal articles and commissioned reports and has been a member of several national expert groups such as the Department of Health Obesity Task Force (2005).

    Peter Dwyer is Professor of Social Policy at the University of Salford. His research and teaching focuses on two main areas. First, a critical engagement with the notion of social citizenship, especially in relation to welfare rights and responsibilities and social inclusion/exclusion. Second, the impact of international migration on welfare states and migrants' rights. To date he has published four books and a variety of journal papers, chapters and reports on these themes and allied debates. His work has been funded by a range of organizations and he is currently leading a large ESRC collaborative project on welfare conditionality and conducting European Commission-funded research on Roma in nine EU member States.

    Rita Haworth is a Senior Lecturer in social policy at the University of Salford. Her research and teaching focuses on two main areas. First, a critical engagement with the concept of user engagement in decision-making processes within health and social care settings. Second, an analysis of policy implementation and outcomes in relation to gender inequalities in the labour market. To date she has had published a number of papers in the above areas. Rita has received funding for a number of projects and is currently bidding for NHS funds to review and compare the impact of newly established adult mental health teams on service user groups.

    Dr John Hudson is Senior Lecturer in Social Policy at the University of York where he is also currently Head of Social Policy. His research and teaching centre on two key topics: comparative analysis of welfare states and the politics of social policy making. He is author of Understanding the Policy Process (with Stuart Lowe) and The Short Guide to Social Policy (with Stefan Kühner and Stuart Lowe). He currently leads an ESRC-funded project examining the links between culture and welfare states.

    Karen Kinghorn is Lecturer in Social Policy at the University of Salford. Karen was granted lifetime membership of the Millennium Awards Fellowship in 2001 for services to the community for projects in health and education. She completed her BSc first class honours in Social Policy (2005) at the University of Salford. Her subsequent employment was in the mental health sector working with carers. Her areas of interest include disability, care in the community, carers, and older people.

    Dr Sandra Shaw is a Senior Lecturer in Social Policy at the University of Salford. Sandra's current teaching and research interests encompass children, young people and families; gender; and, comparative and global welfare. Recent publications include: Parents, Children, Young People and the State published by the Open University Press and McGraw Hill Education in 2010. A chapter entitled ‘Gender: Continuity and Change; Gender and Welfare’ was published in November 2012. She has undertaken a number research projects in health and social care, and authored other publications.

    Mel Walker has extensive teaching and lecturing experience having worked in adult, further and higher education for nearly thirty years. In 2009 he was awarded a Teaching Excellence Award by the University of Salford for his ‘outstanding contribution to teaching and the student learning experience’. He has a particular interest in teaching the social dimensions of health and illness; ‘race’ and ethnicity; social exclusion; and in the development of students' study skills and learning strategies.

    List of Acronyms


    Anti-social Behaviour


    Anti-social Behaviour Order


    Camp for Climate Action


    Commission on Social Justice


    Childcare Tax Credit


    Department for Work and Pensions


    European Commission


    European Court of Justice


    Environmental (or Ecological) Modernism


    Environmental Movement Organizations


    European Monetary Union


    European Social Model


    European Union


    Gross Domestic Product


    Greenhouse gases


    Gross National Product


    International governmental organizations


    International Health Regulations


    International Monetary Fund


    Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change


    In vitro fertilization


    Multinational Corporation


    Member of the Scottish Parliament


    Not in Education, Employment or Training


    Non-governmental Organizations


    National Health Service


    National Minimum Wage


    Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development


    Open Method of Coordination


    Riots Communities and Victims Panel


    Single European Act


    Single European Market


    Social Exclusion Unit


    Universal Credit


    United Kingdom


    United Nations


    World Bank


    Working Families Tax Credit


    World Health Organization

    Editors' Introduction


    This book aims to introduce students to the study of social policy by offering an accessible consideration of certain key concepts, themes and contemporary issues and debates. It has been written for students who are studying social policy and welfare in the early years of their undergraduate studies, either as a major part of a single or joint hours social policy degree, or as a single module in related disciplines such as sociology, social work, politics or nursing and social care. More widely we also believe that the book will provide concise and user friendly introductions to key welfare debates for all students undertaking foundation degrees and access courses. It is an impossible task for a book such as this to cover the diversity of subject matter that contemporary social policy encompasses. For example, a critical discussion of the historical development of welfare states in particular nations is both a valuable and valid endeavour. Although certain chapters in this book do offer outlines of particular areas of policy development since World War II, wider historical debates about welfare are not a primary feature of this book. Rather than enter into a detailed chronological/historical discussion of particular policies each chapter attempts to highlight and summarize key debates and issues relevant to the topic under discussion. That said, students' comprehension of new policies needs to be grounded in an understanding of the context in which they emerged.

    These are certainly interesting times for students of social policy. The onset of the global financial crisis in 2008/9 and the continuing issues facing economies in the Eurozone are already having a significant impact on welfare states around the world. Economic imperatives often dominate welfare policy decisions and provide a backdrop in which unprecedented cuts in public expenditure and the retrenchment of welfare dominate. It is highly probable that for the foreseeable future publicly funded social welfare services are likely to diminish with the responsibility for meeting needs increasingly being transferred from the state to individuals. At the time of writing the full impact of the new ‘age of austerity’ upon the lives of citizens has not yet been realized; nonetheless, it is already becoming apparent that as more and more people are likely have to turn to collective social provisions to meet basic needs, welfare states will offer less.

    In terms of structure this book is divided into three main parts. Part 1 offers discussions around some of the key concepts that are central to understanding current policy and welfare debates. In Part 2 the authors consider policy issues in relation to individuals at key stages of the life course. Discussions in parts 1 and 2 of the book draw largely, but not exclusively, on policy examples and developments in relation to UK social policy. The focus shifts in Part 3 to consider comparative and supranational policy issues. In the UK, New Labour's extended 13-year period of office ended in May 2010 with the unexpected emergence of the Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition government. Many of the chapters in this book, particularly those in parts 1 and 2 (see below), ground their discussions in the approach and legacy of the New Labour administrations alongside a consideration of the new Coalition government's policies; policies which appear to be shaped by a much stated need to reduce the ongoing public deficit and, arguably, antipathy towards big government and extensive publicly funded welfare provisions

    In his opening chapter to Part 1 Hudson unpicks what he refers to as the key ‘slippery concepts’ at the heart of social policy. In offering discussions and definitions of ‘welfare’ and the ‘welfare state’ he reminds readers of the need to interrogate terms which are routinely used by politicians, policymakers, students and the general public. Having defined these often taken-for-granted terms he then draws on the work of Titmuss (1958) and subsequent scholars to discuss the social division of welfare and alert students to the need to consider the full range of redistributive welfare transfers in which states routinely deliver welfare. This allows for a fuller appreciation of welfare dependency beyond the myopic preoccupations of those who routinely speak of a welfare dependent ‘underclass’. He then provides a brief discussion of the importance of the particular mix of welfare provisions that pertain in different national welfare states and introduces the idea of diverse welfare regimes. Hudson finishes by introducing the concept of well-being, an idea that is increasingly popular in some policy circles and one that is more fully discussed in Chapter 5.

    Dwyer discusses the contentious issue of social justice in Chapter 2. In doing so he discusses differing views about the validity of social justice. He argues that social justice is about answering questions concerned with ‘fair’ ways of allocating and redistributing the resources and opportunities available within society and offers a critical discussion of three well known approaches to social justice as outlined by Nozick, Rawls and Sen, each of whom offer different and competing visions. Moving on from these essentially philosophical debates the chapter concludes with a consideration of the ways in which recent UK governments have conceptualized social justice. Dwyer argues that the Coalition government now offers an individualized and constrained notion of social justice that is primarily concerned with solving the problems of a disadvantaged minority.

    In the first of his two contributions to the book, Walker focuses on the concept of social exclusion in Chapter 3. This chapter outlines the origins of the idea of social exclusion and the ways in which it became a prominent theme in UK social policy during New Labour's years in office. The chapter then goes on to make two main points. First, how social exclusion may offer more rounded explanatory insights into understanding disadvantage than the related concept of poverty by considering the experiences of people with mental health issues. Second, the malleability of the concept and how (utilizing the work of Levitas, 2005) differing discourses of social exclusion emphasize diverse understandings about the causes of and solutions to social problems. In Chapter 4, Walker moves on to explore issues of difference and diversity and outlines the importance of the role of social construction in understanding welfare policy implementation and developments. Although he considers how the construction of difference can impact across a range of dimensions, i.e. class, gender, age and sexuality, his main focus is on how racialized constructions have informed policy over time to discriminate against and disadvantage members of minority ethnic communities. Chapter 5 rounds off Part 1 of the book. Here Coffey and Dugdill initially highlight how differing definitions of health and wellbeing, and who does the defining, can have important implications for both individuals and providers of healthcare. Discussions then move on to consider the determinants of health, how such factors are distributed, and the impact of health inequalities and their consequences. Drawing on recent literature concerned with health and paid employment the authors then explore policy approaches aimed at improving health and wellbeing in the workplace.

    Part 2 of the book offers four chapters on welfare and policy in relation to the life course. In Chapter 6 Shaw looks at children and families and provides a discussion of the ‘traditional’ family while simultaneously outlining the extent to which families and ways of partnering and parenting children have undergone significant change in recent decades. A consideration of New Labour's pledge to end child poverty and the ways in which poverty negatively impacts on the lives of children who experience it then follows. Next the definition and measurement of child poverty are highlighted and a critical consideration of the policies favoured by New Labour and the current Coalition government in attempting to eradicate it is outlined. Shaw concludes the chapter by arguing that recent changes in the benefit system announced by the Coalition government are likely to lead to increased hardship for many families, and the continuation of child poverty in the UK for the foreseeable future. In Chapter 7 she moves on to look at welfare policy and young people. She argues that negative perceptions of ‘youth’ are apparent in many policy areas and illustrates this view with particular discussions of the issues faced by those young people who are ‘Not in Education Training or Employment’ (often labelled as NEETs), and how young people are routinely subject to anti-social behaviour policy. Emphasizing that young people are not an homogeneous group, she also details how anti-social behaviour policies are most likely to be applied to youths whose lives are already blighted by poverty and social exclusion.

    Chapters 8 and 9 consider aspects of policy that routinely relate to those at the other end of the life course i.e. older people. However, it needs to be remembered that policies related to death and end of life unfortunately have relevance for all of us regardless of our age in cases of terminal illness. In Chapter 8 Haworth starts by noting that there has been a significant rise in the number of people living into old age in developed nations since the 19th century. Allied to this, she points out that there has been a positive shift in thinking, away from the depiction of old age as a time of ‘natural’ dependency and ill health toward a more positive vision of active ageing, as many people live longer and healthier lives. More negatively, she also notes the simultaneous emergence of a view among many policymakers that ageing populations constitute a threat to economies across the western world due to the increasing amounts of money that will be needed to provide welfare services for older people in the future. Against this backdrop she offers an outline of key UK policy developments in three areas, namely housing, health and social care and pensions. In Chapter 9 Kinghorn reviews debates and recent policy initiatives in respect of death and the end of life. In addressing an aspect of the life course that is often missing from introductory texts, she presents discussions on a range of important issues such as palliative care, the hospice movement and the highly contentious issue of assisted suicide and the right to die. She then reviews the End of Life Care Strategy introduced by New Labour in 2008 and briefly outlines the Coalition government's early deliberations in this often emotive area of policy.

    Comparative and supranational dimensions form the subject matter for Part 3 of the book. Kinghorn opens this section (Chapter 10) with a look at devolution in the UK and the implications that this has for welfare policy. She begins by outlining the makeup, roles and powers of the devolved governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and their relationships with the UK government. Key questions about these still developing relationships are explored through a discussion of two issues. First, the ways in which funding is allocated to the devolved administrations. Second, the so-called ‘West Lothian Question’ whereby MPs in the UK Parliament elected to represent constituencies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland retain the ability to vote on policy issues that solely impact on people who live in England – a debate that has become more contentious with the onset of UK devolution from the late 1990s. Devolution can also have an effect on welfare policy and the chapter finishes with a discussion of the differing approaches to the provision of care in the community that have emerged in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

    Chapter 11 is on comparative social policy and opens with a discussion of comparative study. It outlines how welfare regimes can be described and categorized, setting out the work of G⊘sta-Esping-Andersen as a key author in this area. Critiques of his work are then explored. These include a consideration of the basis for his analysis; whether or not countries were classified appropriately; how Mediterranean countries were excluded; and the need to expand the analysis to include new and emerging welfare regimes such as those in South East Asia. A significant critique of Esping-Andersen's work is that based on gender, and this is also explored. The chapter concludes by reflecting on the value of the regimes approach in accounting for welfare systems, and how this continues to develop and adapt.

    In Chapter 12 Copeland turns to supranational policy debates and reflects on the European Union's role vis-à-vis social policy. Following a concise historical overview of the establishment and expansion of the EU, and having outlined its main institutions, he traces key points in the development of EU social policy. Noting continuing differences between the welfare states of various Member States and that the European integration process has predominantly been concerned with market integration, Copeland views the emergence of a more substantive EU social policy as unlikely. He believes that any further expansion of the EU's competency in welfare matters will depend on the enthusiasm of the governments of Member States to drive such change forward and that any such eagerness is only ever likely to emerge when centre-left political parties are in power in the majority of nations across Europe.

    Globalization has been recognized as an increasingly important dimension of welfare debates. In Chapter 13, Shaw starts by discussing the process of globalization, moving on to look at the development of global social policy. The plurality and complexity of global governance are considered, and global health policy provides an interesting illustration of developments in global social policy. The role of key organizations is also outlined, including the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank (WB), multi-national organizations (MNCs), and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. A discussion of the global health agenda on infectious diseases including HIV/AIDS follows. The chapter concludes by looking at the broader health agenda, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and the impact of environmental changes on health.

    The book concludes with a final chapter that explores social policy and environmental issues. Here Ahmed discusses the inherently global issue of climate change and the challenges it poses for the ‘traditional’ concerns of social policy. She then highlights and discusses a number of landmark ‘green’ policy documents that have shaped international debates over the last three decades. Ahmed concludes by noting that while social policy and environmental policy share common ground, in that they are both often focused on setting out and achieving some notion of social justice, welfare policies which remain embedded in capitalist systems and linked to the necessity for economic growth will have to be rethought if a sustainable future is to be achieved for all and climate change tackled successfully.

    As noted earlier in this introduction, our aim in putting this book together has been to provide students with accessible ways in to particular key social policy debates and issues. All the chapters have been written by academics who are experienced and active teachers on welfare and policy matters. We hope that both students and teachers of social policy will find the book, or the discrete chapters within it, useful as they endeavour to make sense of social policy and its impacts on the lives of us all.

    Peter DwyerSandra ShawSeptember 2012

    • Loading...
Back to Top

Copy and paste the following HTML into your website