To gain a better understanding of Social Policy we need to look at its definition:
Social Policy is the study of social services and the welfare state. In general terms, it looks at the idea of social welfare, and its relationship to politics and society.
The principal areas relate to
Policy and administrative practice in social services, including health administration, social security, education, employment services, community care and housing management;
Social problems, including crime, disability, unemployment, mental health, learning disability, and old age;
Issues relating to social disadvantage, including race, gender and poverty; and
the range of collective social responses to these conditions (http://www2.rgu.ac.uk).
One of the earliest examples of social policy was the Elizabethan Act in 1500 which made provisions for the punishment of ‘sturdy beggars’ and ‘the relief of the impotence poor’. An early piece of legislation to discourage giving to the undeserved and begging but to rather give relief or help to those in genuinely in need. Elizabeth 1st enacted procedures for collecting charitable alms from the wealthier people of the parish to help the poor; a task was usually carried out by churchwardens. This later gave way to the Poor Law Act in 1601 which developed work houses where those in needs could be ‘set to work’ to earn their keep (HNC in Social Care, 2009, Page 49).
Social Policy can only be formed if private problems are made public. For example in the Elizabethan times a private issue could be an individual who encountered absolute poverty which resulted in her/him begging for survival, a problem that was clearly difficult for the person to resolve by her/his self. Private problems grow to become public issues when people experiencing the issues are highlighted in the wider sense thus in the development of ‘work houses’ as stated above, where these individuals could be put to work.
Influences on social policy come from a range of directions:
Political Parties; influence how welfare is approached and therefore how policies are formed. For example, there is a range of political parties such as Green Peace who priorities environmental issues over other issues. The Scottish National Party may priorities issues around independence above others etc. It is the Political Parties who are in power that help pass legislation to protect the country’s citizens.
Public Opinions; is the ultimate source of the political parties to win votes and stay in power and by doing this the political parties need to take the concerns and opinions of the general public and address the issues important to the public. Public Opinion can be swayed in many ways for example cyber space is the most up to date place where views can be expressed instantly and anonymously and where it also not as easy to control as traditional news outlets. “Comments, rumours and opinions can be quickly spread between internet groups that make it hard for the government to censor. So instead of just trying to prevent people form having their say, the government is also attempting to change the way they think” (http://news.bbc.co.uk).
Central and Local Government; local government led the way in establishing and delivering services and tackling the problems facing the local community: by developing gas and electricity supplies, building schools and hospitals, and providing better public facilities. Central government had an important role to play in setting nationally acceptable minimum standards. In order for the political party in power to sustain governmental support individual authorities must be able to show that they are not falling below a minimum acceptable standard (http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk).
Demographics; the branch of sociology that studies the characteristics of human populations. For example, the current rise in the elderly population in the UK will...