Social Exclusion: UK Social Policy
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Some time right after the election in UK (United Kingdom) in 1997, the current Labor government in the UK stated a commitment to “combat social exclusion” to be at the center of the domestic policy agenda, the interpretation of the term “social exclusion” has been the source of extensive debates in England. States that the term “social exclusion” is a relatively new term in the British policy. It does not only refer to poverty and low income but to their broader causes and consequences as well. Social exclusion is defined by the British government as “what can happen when people or areas suffer from a combination of linked problems such as unemployment, poor skills, low incomes, poor housing, high crime, bad health and family breakdown".
Has identified three faces of social exclusion which includes economic – the excluded people are known to be unemployed, deprived of access to assets such as property or credit; social – the loss of an individual’s association to mainstream society; and political – certain categories of the population (i.e. women, ethnic and religious minorities or migrants) which are deprived of part or all of their political and human rights. On social exclusion is “an individual is socially excluded if he or she is geographically resident in the society and he/she does not participate in the normal activities of citizens in that society”. identified five dimensions through which participation is debatably relevant for individual and group well-being. First is consumption activity which refers to traditional measures of poverty. Second are savings activities which include pensions, savings and home ownership. Third dimension is production activity which is defined as the engagement in an economically or socially valued activity like paid work, education or training and retirement. The fourth dimension is political activity which involved in the some collective measure to improve or protect the immediate or wider social or physical environment. The last dimension is social activity which involves in essential interactions with both family and friends and recognizing with a cultural group or community.
Shortly after its election in 1997, the present New Labor government in the UK stated that social exclusion will be the major social ill against which domestic policy was to be directed. Adds that this rise to the center of policy is very striking as there is vagueness in it which permits anti-poverty policy to progress without using the term “poverty” with which some member states disagree, the UK government believes social exclusion as a little more that a convenient shorthand for a collection of social issues.
The discussion regarding social exclusion terminology persists to use the language of long-term dependency, underclass and new poverty while at the same time driving the principles of self-reliance, enterprise and opportunity. The focus of social exclusion remains to be highlighted on economic and moral integration to fight welfare dependency, crime and drugs, in addition to building personal responsibility by “putting in what you take out”. The beginning of the debates regarding social exclusion has brought back people talking gravely on the subject matter of how to address social problems and inequalities. However, the vagueness in the rationality of the concept cannot be denied. Agree that many people are concerned on the elusiveness about the whole idea of social exclusion. This paper will be focusing on social exclusion in the context of UK Social Policy. The essay will outline and discuss some of the key assumptions and conceptual issues that underpin the developments in the social policy area. In addition, strengths and weaknesses regarding UK’s social policy will be critically examined. A relevant model of policy making will be used in assessing the development of the social policy in the UK.
Defines social policy as an “interdisciplinary and applied subject concerned with the analysis of societies’ response to social need”. Social policy allow us to understand theory and evidence drawn from a variety of disciplines in social science such as economics, sociology, psychology, geography, history, philosophy and political science. West (n.d.) adds that social policy is centered on the areas of economy, society and policy which are essential in human existence and the means by which they can be provided. These basic human needs include food and shelter, a sustainable and safe environment, the promotion of health and treatment of the sick, the care and support of those unable to live a fully independent life and the education and training of individuals to a level that enables them fully to participate in their society.
The term social policy is applied to (1) the policies in which governments use for the welfare and social protection; (2) the ways in which welfare is developed in the society; and (3) the academic study of the subject. Social policy is specifically involved in social services and welfare state, as well as stands for a variety of issues and topics that extends far beyond the actions of the government – the ways by which welfare is promoted and the social and economic conditions which shape the development of welfare (Social Policy, n.d.). According to De Haan (1998), the most common key features of social exclusion framework includes: (1) Social exclusion is the contrary of social integration which highlights the significance of being a part of society; (2) Social exclusion is a multifaceted notion encompassing the economic, social, cultural and political fields and centering on areas of power, identity and the labor market which incorporates concepts of poverty, deprivation, access to goods, services and assets including the instability of social rights; and (3) Social exclusion highlights a process instead of a state permitting an examination of mechanisms and institutions, in addition to lending itself to policy design where problems and failures are recognized within institutions. It must be noted that the third key feature of social exclusion corresponds to a shift away from looking at the deprivation basing on individual’s characteristics; rather the focus is on the mechanisms, institutions and actors that cause deprivation.
Policy Advocacy Coalition Framework: A Theory on Public Policy
Two things must be considered in theorizing public policy: nature of theory in the social sciences and character of public policy, for experimental researchers, theory is “a body or system of prepositions about the casual relations that link together elements of social, economic and political worlds.” in addition, these associations are standardized which has the applicability over a range of cases both in space and time. Social science theories are more often than not claims about the nature of human action and power relationships which seek to give a logical and consistent account of reality. Frameworks are developed from a wider variety of theories which “organizes diagnostic and prescriptive inquiry”. Theories, as states, differ in their applicability but they are associated by the goal to generalize and in themselves to not defer hypotheses. What theories actually do is to generate models which are more restricted assumptions about social and political relationships from which hypotheses can be derived and tested.
The policy advocacy coalition framework has the main idea that there exist sets of core concepts about causation and value in public policy. Sabatier along with his colleagues, sought to understand policy communities with regards to beliefs and values and to model essential structures – advocacy coalitions – as flowing from the bonds and relationships of actors sharing the same values and beliefs. These so-called coalitions, may be tightly or loosely couples, are constituted of government agencies, interest groups, associations, think tanks, academics, university research centers, journalists and prominent people which in one way or another share similar world perceptions and generally agree on policy solutions.
Sabatier assumes that two to four advocacy coalitions can be found in each policy community, with one coming out as the more dominant coalition which controls the important forces of power. This means that certain think tanks and academics will have greater prevalence when individuals sharing the same views assume positions of importance in the central institutions controlled by the dominant coalition, be it local, national or international organizations. Sabatier’s formulation for his framework is the principle that advocacy coalitions are formed around a core set of beliefs and values which are very stable and not easily shaken. These core beliefs and values are comprised of a basic orientation of the world. They form the foundations for the beliefs and values about problems and the program for interventions in particular policy areas.
On the contrary, Sabatier’s advocacy coalition framework permits for policy actors, be it individual or organizational, to change their positions on policy solutions, which Sabatier casts as the “secondary aspects” of their belief system. In policy communities, Sabatier’s views are on the intrinsic conservatism in policy making. Members of the competing advocacy coalitions will not surrender core values and beliefs but rather, they will organize movements on items of secondary importance, maybe in response to careful research and studies or to convincing anecdotal evidence.
A distinguishing feature in the advocacy coalition framework is the potentially essential role that Sabatier sees for researchers to facilitate policy learning. Sabatier suggests that as conflict is persistent in policy communities, research findings can have a moderating effect on what otherwise might be shrill and nonproductive debates. Research may facilitate advocacy coalitions in order to produce better arguments and equally may be used to test the claims of opponents.
Policy change comes from the ability of the ideas created by the coalitions to adapt involving around a whole series of operational questions and “what works” in any time or place in response to wider social and economic changes or political events, in addition to policy learning - the balance of power in these network changes and the structure and memberships of the coalitions to alter. Adds that the logic of this approach is centered on three things. First, it leaves behind the concept that policy sectors are composed of integrated networks; rather, it is believed that policy sectors are political terrains through which different collations fight it out that is closer to contemporary reality. Second, the ideal approach to policy making is fully incorporated into the way in which coalitions operate, so as to provide a grounded way of comprehending the essentials and importance of discussion in the political process. Lastly, the advocated have developed an efficient research program to plan the development of advocacy coalitions by coding the identification of legislative communities.
Furthermore, states that the policy advocacy coalition framework actually has an efficient account in policy change which occurs through the relationship of wide external changes or shocks to the political system and the success of ideas in the coalitions, which may cause actors in the advocacy coalitions to alter and change positions even for just tactical reasons. There is a great possibility that there is a roundabout evolutionary process. Some adaptation process occurs when partners maneuver for strategic advantage within and across the coalitions. Moreover, it must be noted that no coalition mindlessly supports arguments that are unlikely to win. Thus new situations may deserve new arguments and perhaps switches across coalition divide. Consequently, some success may be explained by fitness for purpose and others by adaptation. Naturally, there are also limits for this approach such as the strength of the core concepts developed by the coalitions. However, it is completely consistent with evolution, which is not predicated on plasticity, simply the chances of adaptation within the limits set by previous adaptations.
UK Social Policy
United Kingdom is a unitary state wherein the central government considerably directs most government activities. On the other hand, the structure of services in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland differs in certain aspects. Each region in the United Kingdom is composed of a Secretary of State and administrative department located in central government and its own assembly and executive, which take on the role in the region of certain central government ministries. As mentioned earlier, the laws applied in Scotland and Northern Ireland are different as those in Wales and England. Accordingly, the Scottish parliament has in consequence much more influence than the Welsh Parliament. In addition, the Scottish Executive has the role of a civil service for Scotland with a social policy in its own right. Administrative structure in Northern England is considerably different as personal social responsibilities are the responsibility of the Health Board and public housing is managed by Northern Ireland Housing Executive. It must be noted that this framework changes frequently. In recent years, there has been changes regarding the reformation of the Department of Social Security into the Department id Work and Pensions, the considerable transfer of income maintenance to the Inland Revenue and the destruction of the Department of Transport, the Regions and Local Government, whose main responsibility is now being handed in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.
British social policy was ruled by the Poor Laws which was first passed in 1598 and continued until 1948. The 1601 Elizabethan Poor Law presented a compulsory poor rate, creation of “overseers” of relief and provision for “setting the poor on work”. The church was the basic unit of administration in UK. However, there was no general mechanism through the enforcement of the Poor Law; operations on the Poor Laws were inconsistent in some areas. The changes of the industrial revolution drove the development of the towns. There was rapid growth of population which resulted to unemployment, further resulting to increasing poor rates. The 1834 Poor Law Commission highlighted on two main principles: (1) less eligibility – position of the pauper must be “less eligible: than that of a laborer; and (2) the workhouse test – no relief outside the workhouse. As a result, the Poor Laws were very much hated. In addition, much of the government provisions of social services developed in the twentieth century such as national insurance, means tests and health care were framed to avoid on depending on them.
As of 1942, a system of National Insurance was proposed in the Beveridge Report which was based on family allowances, National Health Service and full employment. It became a major propaganda weapon. During the war, the coalition government also obligated itself to full employment through the Keynesian policies, along with free universal secondary education and family allowances. In 1945, the Labor government was elected which introduced three key acts including the 1946 National Insurance Act which implemented the Beveridge scheme for social security, the National Health Service Act 1946 and the 1948 National Assistance Act which abolished the Poor Law and made provisions for welfare services. the aforementioned acts took effect on the same day, July 7th 1948. Another important element was the 1948 Children Act.
UK’s welfare state after 1948 provided welfare services which includes social security, health, housing, education and children welfare. Arguments highlighted the interrelated nature of these services as well as the importance of each for the others. It must be noted that the “welfare state” did not intend to respond to poverty as the Poor Law had done; rather, its main purpose is to motivate the provision of social services. Criticisms and arguments of the welfare state in later years concentrated more on the problem of poverty.
Social Exclusion and UK Social Policy
Social exclusion is indeed an intricate issue in United Kingdom as it has complex and multifaceted causes and consequences which create profound and long lasting problems for individual families and the economy, as well as society as a whole which can last for generations wherein parents’ current situation can greatly affect their children’s life chances. The latter part of the twentieth century in the United Kingdom was characterized by big economic and demographic changes such as post-war baby boom, swift decline in traditional manufacturing industries together with the increased demand for skilled labor, rise in the number of elderly and single person households, tremendous increase in single parents and a gradual increase in immigration from the Caribbean, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. According to the Social Exclusion Unit, some of the major causes have considerably worsened like unemployment and the proportion of children growing up in workless and low income households which was mirrored in rising numbers of people suffering extreme disadvantage like rough sleepers. In addition, the problems associated with social exclusion are usually interrelated and mutually reinforcing. Sometimes it is even difficult to separate its causes and consequences, as there are more disadvantages, there is also a higher risk for social exclusion. Wherein the probability of non-employment increases as the number of disadvantages experienced by the individual also increases. For instance, more than fifty percent of those with three or more disadvantages are non-employed, compared to three percent with none of these characteristics. Some of the disadvantages would include being a single parent, having low qualifications and skills, being over fifty years old, having a physical impairment, living in a region of high unemployment rates and coming from an ethnic minority group.
It is reported that a majority of the UK population experienced rising health and prosperity; however, it was not equally distributed. There was increasing division between those will qualifications and skills to contribute in a knowledge-based economy and those without those bring intense consequences in the distribution of wealth and income. It was in 1997, when the Labor government of the UK stressed on agendas to undertake both the causes and consequences of social exclusion which targeted at improving social justice, strengthening communities and supporting long-term economic growth. UK Labor government invested on new policies and new approaches to sustain at risk people by centering on individual needs and highlighting prevention, early intervention and coordinated working. The Social Exclusion Unit was established in 1997 to address social exclusion from school and absenteeism, homelessness, housing, crime, poor education and unemployment, adds that related policies were also developed during the time of Labor’s New Deal program which was primarily concerned with combating youth unemployment through employer subsidies, in addition to investing in child care and employment advice for single parents to return them into the workforce.
The growth of the term “social exclusion” has corresponded to the de-caring of the state which means that the society has bigger demands yet neglects to provide for the concentration of new problems. As there is great highlight on the labor market which focuses on helping and facilitating unemployed to work, pensioners along with people having disabilities face a decline in benefits whilst other benefits are set at a minimum level of subsistence, adds that while welfare-to-work policies may have the likelihood of lessening the overall poverty rate in the United Kingdom, the threat remains that those people who are unable to work will further suffer exclusion. Moreover, the discussion on the current social exclusion in UK also has the risk of overlooking the prevalence of poverty in society and the significance of sufficient incomes in securing the well being or the welfare of the families.
There has been an exchange of concepts under the New Labor government of United Kingdom which focuses on social obligations over social rights. Inquiries and skeptisms revolving around the redistribution of wealth or the rising inequalities in the labor market have been altered and replaced by discussions on educational opportunities, training and paid employment, this alteration or shift has failed to notice the insufficiency of wages and benefits and at the same time demoralizes the principle of equality of outcomes, adds that a major criticism directed at the Social Exclusion Unit in United Kingdom is that it is in danger of promising to the underclass discussion by concentrating almost exclusively on benefits, education, training and advice whilst failing to notice the question of income poverty. The advent of the “Working Families Tax Credit” is actually meant to provide assistance to families who work but shill find themselves suffering from poverty, while at the same time exclusive of those families who are performing unpaid work or who are unable to work.
Has observed that the assumptions underpinning the approach of European governments such the United Kingdom towards social inclusion and poverty seem to be similar in the criticisms of the Dutch experience. Social inclusion policies are failing due to the fact that the government has neglected to notice and pay specific attention to failure of United Kingdom’s social structure and the necessity of a rejuvenation of the society and the community. Rather, UK social policies continue to make the following assumptions. First, UK Labor government continues to define poverty and social exclusion as an individual problem. Second, the Labor government has focused only at economic aspects without a serious involvement with social exclusion factors. Third, the Labor government has also failed to notice democratization of power through structural change. Fourth, the government has demoralized unpaid work and the social service sector where wealth and income is dictated by the labor market. Lastly, the UK Labor government lacked a vision of solidarity around issues of distribution of wealth and resources.
Despite the criticisms for the UK Social Exclusion Unit, the unit has claimed some of their policies have worked well. This claim has been supported by some case study evidence where people are subjected to multiple interventions which have changed both their environmental and personal circumstances. The Social Exclusion Unit (2004) adds that this is specifically important especially for people who have multiple problems. For instance, in their case study work, a single parent had returned to work due to the help that she received from New Deal for Lone Parents and a personal adviser. It was reported that because of her work, she became happier, more confident and was financially off.
Furthermore, preliminary evidence has suggested that the government’s social policies have resulted to a reduction of the number of young people not in school or employment. Nevertheless, it must be noted that nearly one out of ten young people are not in education, employment or training and as the Social Exclusion Unit has promised, they will continue to undertake this issue in their priority list. There may be claims of progress by the Social Exclusion Unit in terms of the reduction of specific facets of social exclusion and social inequality; however, there are still important inequalities that remain principally for specific groups. Some examples are cited in the proceeding part of the essay: First, black Caribbean boys are three times more probable to be excluded from school compared to other students; Second, disabled people are still two times as likely as non-disabled people to have no qualifications even though there has been a rise in the employment rate of disabled people; Third, children receiving free school meals make less progress at each key stage compared to their peers who do not receive free school meals; Fourth, parents from lower social classes are less likely to be engaged in their children’s education compared to parents from higher socio-economic groups which can greatly influence upon the child’s educational attainment; And lastly, it is reported that there remains a greater occurrence of low birth weight amongst children born into the manual social classes compared to non-manual groups.
Some key actors in fighting social exclusion should include policy makers and public authorities, trade unions and staff, service uses and their representatives and volunteers. But despite the improvements claimed by the Social Exclusion Unit, there is still a long way to go to in addressing the issues of social exclusion. Policy and delivery mechanisms need to respond to the ever-changing and dynamic economic, demographic, social and technological trends in the external environment which will include the rising quality of skills and qualifications, the ageing population with related care needs, greater ethnic diversity and a rising population of single person households.