This essay attempts to; discuss the dominant social policy perspectives that have influenced social policy making in the United Kingdom since 1945.
To explain how differing perspectives have responded to healthcare as a social problem.
To describe two key policies that have been instigated since the start of New Labour in 1997, and to examine a contemporary social policy relating to health.
In 1941 Sir William Beveridge was commissioned by the then Conservative prime minister, Winston Churchill to conduct a study of the welfare system of the time.
The Beveridge report paved the way for the welfare state as we know it and was important in shaping the social democratic ideology that remained prevalent until the mid 1970’s.
The key principals behind most social democratic ideology are that of equality and collectivism. In practice, the state manages the economy using Keynesian economic principals, manages the provision of welfare through the welfare state and takes a regulatory roll in peoples lives. This protects citizens from the extremes of poverty and prevents major economic inequality.
The New Right ideology came to the fore in the mid 1970’s as a result of a major recession and the reality of an economic crisis.
The 1979 general election was won by the Conservative party led by Margaret Thatcher. Thatcher was prime minister until 1990 in a period of politics that came to be known as Thatcherism.
Two key thinkers of the time were Milton Friedman and Friedrich von Hayek who saw ‘the free market’ as central to the success of Thatcherism and believed that government should concentrate on economic issues, thus allowing ‘market forces’ to shape society.
From the early 1990’s a new, politically central ideology began to emerge under the Conservative prime minister John Major.
This ‘post-Thatcherite perspective developed through the 90’s.
In a speech to the Fabian society in 1995 the New Labour leader, Tony Blair said ‘New Labour policies should and will cross old boundaries between left and right, progressive and conservative’ (see Blair, 1998).
Blair questioned whether welfare should be universal or should be targeted at particular groups. He stated that people have an obligation to help themselves out of welfare dependency and that the voluntary, state and private sectors are part of a pluralistic welfare system.
It has been said that, ‘some New Labour policies were a reform of past Conservative reforms’ (Driver & Martell. 1998).
New Labour believed that the state should no longer be the main provider of welfare and should move to be more of a purchaser/regulator.
The difference between social democratic and New Right ideologies is most easily outlined by the different positions they hold on the political spectrum.
The New Right stems from a capitalist, right wing viewpoint with a free market economy central to their thinking. New Right governments focus on economic issues such as public borrowing...