Posts Tagged 'welfare state'



Celebrating the British Welfare State?

The UK has recently looked back over the last sixty years in the context of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. At The Policy Press we have been thinking about what the last sixty years have really meant for Britain, and would love to know your thoughts – by leaving a comment on this blog, emailing tpp-marketing@bristol.ac.uk or on Twitter @policypress.

Here, author Paul Spicker (How Social Security Works, Social Policy) takes a look at what has happened to the British Welfare State over this time:

The British Welfare State was intended to be an ideal. Asa Briggs identified three key elements by which it would act:

“First by guaranteeing individuals and families a minimum income irrespective of the market value of their work, or their property. Second by narrowing the extent of insecurity by enabling individuals and families to meet certain “social contingencies” (for example sickness, old age and unemployment) which lead otherwise to individual or family crisis, and third, by ensuring that all citizens without distinction of status or class are offered the best standards available in relation to a certain agreed range of social services.”  (Briggs A., ‘The welfare state in historical perspective’, European Journal of Sociology, 1961, 2, pp.221-258)

Although he refers three times to “individuals” and “families”, the Welfare State was conceived in collectivist terms. It depended on the idea that some things are done better through collective action, that government needed to serve the public, that it should try to ensure basic universal standards, and that it should do things as best it could.

The assault on the Welfare State by the New Right, and the shift in politics that has taken place since, challenged the conceptual foundation of the Welfare State, not just its practice. The market economy is now taken as the norm. The Treasury’s Green Book advises:

“Before any possible action by government is contemplated, it is important to identify a clear need which it is in the national interest for government to address. Accordingly, a statement of the rationale for intervention should be developed. This underlying rationale is usually founded either in market failure or where there are clear government distributional objectives that need to be met. Market failure refers to where the market has not and cannot of itself be expected to deliver an efficient outcome; the intervention that is contemplated will seek to redress this. Distributional objectives are self-explanatory and are based on equity considerations.”  (HM Treasury, n.d., Green Book, at http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/d/green_book_complete.pdf)

It appears, then, that it is not good enough for government to justify their actions because they would benefit people, because they protect people’s rights, because the government has a moral commitment – or even because it has been elected to address an issue. We have lost sight of the fundamental principle that government is there to do things for people.

Paul Spicker.

Paul Spicker’s book How Social Security Works is available for only £15 until the end of June only. Order your copy here.

DEBATE: A Beveridge report for the 21st century? The implications of self-directed support for future welfare reform

The Policy & Politics Blog features debates from recent issues . An extract is below, then please click on the link at the end to download the full article. Policy & Politics is the leading journal in the field of public policy with an enviable reputation for publishing peer-reviewed papers of the highest quality .

DEBATE: A Beveridge report for the 21st century? The implications of self-directed support for future welfare reform

Jon Glasby, Simon Duffy, Catherine Needham

In the early 21st century, elements of the English welfare state are in the middle of a ‘transformation’ process based on the concepts of personalisation and self-directed support (HM Government, 2007; Glasby and Littlechild, 2009; Carr, 2010; Needham, 2010). Beginning in adult social care, these approaches seek to recast users of state welfare away from being passive recipients of prepurchased services towards a situation where they are active citizens with a right to control and shape their own support. Central to this agenda has been the concept of direct payments (pioneered by disabled people’s organisations and developing in the United Kingdom from the mid-1980s onwards) and personal budgets (developed from 2003 onwards by a national social innovation network known as In Control)… Read the rest of this article by downloading the pdf (free).

Policy & Politics: The practicalities of participation and deliberation

History may come to define the current UK coalition Government as the government that ushered in the end of the welfare state as we know it. The government that forced through a fundamental reconfiguration of the relationship between the citizen and the state. It may well turn out that the British population like the principle of firm action to address the state’s fiscal problems rather more than they like the practice. That story is yet to play out fully.

A more positive aspect of the current political agenda is the emphasis upon localism and involvement. The government aims to move power out of Whitehall and down to localities, giving local elected representatives and communities more scope to determine their own future. The two parties that comprise the current Con-Dem government may value this policy direction for different reasons. Are we talking about a vision of state withdrawal and survival of the fittest? Or a more positive vision of enhancing social cohesion and commonality of purpose in the more fragmented and networked Big Society? It is difficult to identify a consistent narrative. But the parties’ interests intersect and we are expecting Localism bill to be laid before Parliament next month.

While greater local autonomy and accountability in decision making is laudable, it is not without problems. What are the practicalities of delivering on this agenda? Is it another case of something that many feel is fine in theory but less palatable in practice?

Much has been written about participation and deliberation in policy making. Much has been written about the challenges facing those seeking make it a reality. The news is, generally, not encouraging. This is well-trodden ground.

One aspect of the issue which requires greater exploration is how changing structures of governance interact with mechanisms to enhance participation and local deliberation. In a paper forthcoming in Policy & Politics Robert Hoppe addresses precisely this question.

The paper aims to provide some theoretical reflections on the links between policy problems, the structure of policy networks and appropriate mechanisms for deliberation. It focuses on the practical ‘perplexities’ and dilemmas in running deliberative projects, highlight problems at each of the input, throughput and output/outcome stages.

Equally importantly in the current context, the author pinpoints power – or the ‘ironies of real power politics’ – as at the heart of the issue. Participation mandated from the centre runs the risk of simply being seen as a supplement to existing processes, without significantly altering the locus of control. While deliberation from the bottom -up runs the risk of colliding with the self-identity of those at the centre who see themselves as having the legitimacy to make the decisions.

The author holds out some hope that governance structures can be nudged in the direction of accommodating the views of a wider range of stakeholder and citizens. But there remains a tension between peaceful, collective “puzzling” over what do to and the ‘competitive and potentially violent mode of political interaction’ that is “powering”. A timely reminder of the complexity of the challenges in realising the potential of deliberation – and a suggestion that some of the more far-reaching aspirations for deliberation may be over-reaching in the face of the unavoidable subtle, and not so subtle, uses of power.

Hoppe, R. (2010) Institutional constraints and practical problems in deliberative and participatory policy making, Policy & Politics, fast track article.*

Alex Marsh, Management Board, Policy & Politics

* Fast track articles are only available to subscribers. If you’d like to read this article, why not sign up for a free trial at http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/tpp/pap/trial?

Evaluating New Labour’s legacy

Were you still up for………er……. Lembit Opik? No ‘Portillo moment’: Jacqui Smith and Charles Clarke were about the best that the night could deliver. No ‘Edgbaston’ like 1997 (Labour landslide) and no ‘Basildon’ like 1992 (Conservatives hanging on). [Blair’s legacy is that we all write sentences without verbs!]. So New Labour ends not with a bang but with a whimper, and even that was drawn out for days as we followed the courting rituals of the parties. It is a sobering thought to have your books consigned to ‘history’. New Labour, new welfare state? (1999) explored the ‘third way’ in social policy. Evaluating New Labour’s welfare reforms (2002) examined delivery and achievements against aims and objectives. Modernising the welfare state (2008) examined Blair’s legacy in social policy. Since then, Brown has ‘saved the world’. Some things did get better, but at a cost. ‘Prudence’ and ‘New Labour’ will be wise spenders, not big spenders’ seems like a distant memory. Who would have thought that New Labour would end up redistributing towards merchant bankers (Cockney rhyming slang optional)?

Farewell, then, to New Labour. It may well be that 2010 was an Election better not to win. You can read about Conservative/Liberal Democrat policy in Hugh Bochel’s 2011 book The Conservative party and social policy, and perhaps someone, somewhere is already planning a book about ‘Team Miliband’ (hedging my bets), although ‘The Social Policy of Balls’ has the hint of a bestseller. In an uncertain future for social policy, you can be sure only of one thing: you can read all about it with ‘Policy Press’.

Martin Powell, author of Modernising the welfare state, Evaluating New Labour’s welfare reforms and New Labour, new welfare state?


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