Explain the meaning of the term ‘social policy’ and discuss how social policy is applied in practice, drawing upon the major milestones in the development of the British welfare state. For the purpose of this assignment I intend to discuss in great detail social policy and how it is applied in practice, using examples from mainly voluntary sectors. I will also discuss the introduction of the Beverage report in 1948 and Margaret Thatcher’s move to the new right approach in 1979 in regards to being the two major milestones within the development of the welfare state.
Social Policy is a study of the social services and the welfare state, the welfare state being anything that helps people get back on their feet after hardship, this is not always in regards to money it can sometimes relate to resources. Social Policy it looks at socially constructed issues such as divorce, unemployment, crime and it aims to improve them by making positive changes. Social policy also looks at vulnerable people in society such as single parents, elderly people, disabled people and looks at ways in which they can be supported.
Social Policy Essay Example
Social policy is not always legislation it can be looked at more along the lines of trial and error, almost like guidelines or aims something to be worked towards achieving. It is not always effective depending on how beneficial or valuable it is and whether or not people choose to conform. Although most sociologist wouldn’t agree on social policy and the definitions may vary depending on whether the sociologist is left or right wing. Left wing approach supports social equality and discourages hierarchy, whilst looking out for and supporting disadvantaged individuals within society.
In contrast to this is the right wing approach which accepts hierarchy and social inequalities, and views them as inevitable. It is very much a functionalist approach seeing hierarchy as necessary for society to function. Ways in which social policy is put into place are through projects such as The New Economic Foundation also known as the NEF they work with people within society as well as the government, businesses and academic sources to help improve society as a whole tackling all areas surrounding the nvironment, economy and society. NEF are an independent registered charity who are funded by, grants and donations, individual followers and earned income “Our individual supporters gave a total of ? 121,860 this year” (NEF, 2013). There is also David Cameron’s Big Society, which aims to concentrate on welfare being provided more through voluntary sectors rather than the state, this in turn aims to give communities more control over issues such as public services, schools and housing.
It also encourages and financially supports people working towards a better future, to enable them to improve their circumstances. “A strong, diverse, well-capitalised and sustainable social investment market in the UK, through which social sector organisations can access appropriate and affordable finance and support to grow their impact on society. ” (Big society, 2013)
There are believed to have been two major milestones in the development of the British welfare state, one of which was the implementation of The Beverage report in 1948, this was introduced by William Beveridge after the war to help maintain control. The Beveridge report was very much a left wing approach, based on and supported by social democracy, he had the idea that everybody needs to work together in order to reduce inequalities and believed it was the responsibility of the government to help and support citizens who needed it.
He identified 5 social evils that needed to be overcome in order for society to function, Ignorance (education) , squalor (housing), want (need), idleness (unemployment) and finally disease (health) for the purpose of his assignment I will be concentrating on disease, this was combated by the introduction of the National Health Service, most commonly known as the NHS. This was introduced in 1948 and provided free healthcare for the state, it provided security from the cradle to the grave.
The second of the major milestones was Margaret Thatcher’s move to the new right approach in 1979, as a conservative her approach was very much a right wing approach, she questioned the social democracy, she reduced welfare spending and she sold off council houses. Margaret Thatcher also challenged the method of delivering welfare. Social democracy which was favoured by the UK government following the war was based on the theory of John Keynes and was implemented through the
Beveridge report, this theory believed it was necessary for the government to intervene within the economy and thought society should work together to help each other, the strong supporting the weak. The new right theory which was dominant in 1979, supported the capitalist system and believed it was cable of providing wealth for everyone, they believe that the government should not intervene with the market system via taxes, or welfare as the market system makes sure prices and wages meet supply and demand ensuring employment for all.
It sees the welfare state as being unnecessary and although it shouldn’t be eliminated entirely they believe it should follow a residual model, which is basically only the deserving poor should be given minimal benefits, thus making the rich richer and he poor poorer. Margaret Thatcher’s challenging attitude towards the delivery method of welfare introduced welfare pluralism, also known as mixed economy welfare, meaning that the welfare is not provided only by the state it is made up of 4 different sectors.
Government agencies, which is the welfare state, advantages of this would be that there is very little chance of bankruptcy within this sector as the government can raise taxes to maintain welfare for those who require it, this way of providing welfare also ensures that only qualified individuals can work within this sector maintaining a high standard of care which can be equally distributed throughout the whole country, the disadvantages of this method of welfare are that specialist care such as elderly people is overlooked and it is possible that they would benefit more from voluntary care rather than the state, it creates higher taxes as people now have longer life expectancies and it can also create dependency upon the state giving people no motivation. Voluntary Organisations, which is charities this can be cheaper as volunteers and donations are used, and as previously discussed can attend to specific needs better than the state such as elderly, people suffering with HIV or dealing with domestic abuse. Disadvantages of this are that if the charity fails to get funding the care may not be available long term, also due to funding welfare may not be distributed evenly across the country. In addition to this volunteers may lack qualifications and training.
Private Sector, which is profit making companies because of their profit making nature the quality of care can often be better in the hopes to attract business, there is also more of an element of choice within this sector. Although like the voluntary sector if the business ends the service provided will be terminated, and the private sector is only really available to those with money. Informal Sector, this is where welfare is provided by the family. Although it promotes independence and saves the government money it is very much a New Right view upon which the care responsibilities fall on women and in some cases young children who are more often than not lacking in resources.
As you can see Margaret Thatcher and William Beveridge had a huge impact on the development of the British welfare state, whether some would agree or disagree that all changes where positive they have never the less influenced the British society we live in today. Although there is still controversy in regards to certain aspects of the welfare state, recently there has been argument by Iain Duncan Smith, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions in regards to pensioners and their benefits “Wealthy elderly people who do not need benefits to help with fuel bills, TV licences or free travel should return the money, the work and pensions secretary says. ” (BBC, 2013).
This has created huge controversy as people feel that after such a long time of paying into the system that they are deserving of these benefits and may also discourage people from paying into the system in future, this is a situation in which the trial and error of social policy would be applicable. Reference List: NEF. (2013). Who funds us. [Online]Available: http://www. neweconomics. org/pages/who-funds-us. [Accessed 10th May 2013]. Big Society Capital. (2013). OUR VISION AND MISSION. [Online] Available from: http://www. bigsocietycapital. com/our-vision-and-mission. [Accessed 10th May 2013]. BBC News UK. (2013). Iain Duncan Smith urges wealthy elderly to ‘hand back’ benefits. [Online] Available from: http://www. bbc. co. uk/news/uk-22327335. [Accessed: 10th May 2013].