Pete Alcock – What is Social Policy?



can I ask a sort of obvious question what is social policy and it's interesting you're asking that here at the annual conference of the social policy Association because it's a question that's been asked in at least two other sessions that I've been to I think a lot of people both studying social policy and seeking to implement social policy as it were doing social policy in the world would say that it's it's about promoting welfare and well-being it's about how we make the lives of all of the citizens in our country that how we make it possible for them to live safe fulfilling healthy lives how we make it possible for them for them to achieve what they want to do within their lives and that's often captured in this notion of welfare and well-being so what we're studying when we study Social Policy is we're studying how we deliver welfare and well-being to people what that turns into in practice actually is a number of different ways in which we conceive of the issue of welfare what do we mean by it for example it presumably includes health what do we mean by good health can we define health can we measure health and then what would what what do we do to try and promote good health so you end up then moving from the very general notion of what you study to look at particular aspects of policy development and policy delivery so in a Social Policy student we'll study things like the National Health Service how its developed how it's changed how it operates they will study education systems the role of Education for school children and then how education is taken forward into later life what they call these days lifelong learning increasingly important to recognize that education isn't just something that happens to kids at school they would study how we provide for people's material needs how we provide for housing how we provide transport and other environmental factors and of course in particular how we provide people with it with the wherewithal to meet their own material needs in other words the question of the distribution of resources particularly cash resources people's incomes the social security that can help to support or replace the incomes that they might lose so we study those different policy areas and how they're implemented as they've been developed and how they're in practice and then of course when we're studying that there's often an assumption I think particularly when people start out studying Social Policy that they're you're mainly then looking at what the state and the government does in other words social policy is about delivering welfare for citizens and it's the government that does that and they do it predominantly through the public agencies like the National Health Service but actually of course when you begin to look at how social policy is played out in the world it's not just what government does that makes us that the country contributes to our welfare our welfare is developed and is improved and it's enhanced by a range of different agencies which includes private commercial agencies providing for example providing as you know the people who make the glasses that we were to help us to see there the different right wide range of volunteering community agencies who contribute in a number of different areas including a much of the provision of social care for people who can't look after themselves or who need assistance in looking up themselves are provided by voluntary agencies so it's what we do on a voluntary basis for each other but also actually and probably the most unsung area is what happens informally in informal relationships between individual citizens an awful lot of our welfare we actually do on a more or less face to face certainly person to person basis and of course in particular through the family and the importance of the family and different family structures and different family shapes then there are all the same but but the role of those informal relationships so it's not just about what happens in the NHS and indeed it's not just about what people in government and policymakers say the implementation of social policy covers a wide range of relationships that start perhaps with the formal and governmental but also include the informal the family the community the voluntary and so on

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