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Social Policy Essay

2676 words - 11 pages

Social Policy

In This essay I will look at what is new about New Labour in regard to
social policy. To begin a description of social policy is provided
together with a brief history of the welfare state in Britain. A
strong debate exists in social policy as to whether provision is about
social care or control. This debate will be explored. The three
prevailing political ideologies Social Reformism, Market Liberalism
and the Third Way will be discussed in regard to social provision and
their policies will be compared. Finally I will identify aspects of
New Labour policies that establish it as a new way of thinking in
regard to social welfare policy

According to Marsh (1979) social policy can be described as action on
the part of the state or voluntary organisations to deal with the
myriad variety of individual and social problems in a complex
industrialized society. Marsh (1979) argues the state has, over the
centuries, attempted to provide help to the poor, and to overcome many
other forms of 'social evils' such as improving living and employment
conditions, education and healthcare etc through legislation and
voluntary action. Hill (1993) goes on to say that the study of social
policy, in Britain, is primarily concerned with the extent to which
the welfare state meets the needs of people and the extent to which it
contributes to social equity.

During and after the Second World War social policy and its
implementation began to develop into a highly significant and
important area within the political realm. It was this period that
gave rise to the welfare state and introduced legislation that brought
about the:

"organisation of the educational system, provided family allowances,
set up a comprehensive and integrated scheme of social insurance
underpinned by national assistance, brought into being a national
health service and assumed a greater responsibility for deprived
children, the handicapped, the homeless and for providing better
housing, industrial training and more employment opportunities"

From this outline it can be argued that social provision is about care
and a response to the social needs of a society. However,

"several recent discussions of social policy have suggested that
welfare policies are promulgated not from humanitarian concerns to
meet need but as responses to social unrest" (Hill: 1993:3).

Marxist arguments take this one step further and argue that social
policies that promote welfare is a means of social control rather than
care. Hill (1993) agrees with this argument and further argues that
social policies are used to maintain order, buy-off working class
protest and to secure a workforce with acceptable standards of health
and education.

Hewitt's (1998) response to this is that the government, when

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