• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Assess the argument that rather than eliminating poverty, the Welfare State has created a form of dependency culture.

Extracts from this document...


Assess the argument that rather than eliminating poverty, the Welfare State has created a form of 'dependency culture'. In 1997 when New Labour came to power, approximately fourteen million people in Britain were living in relative poverty (George et al, 1995). Relative poverty occurs when people live below the generally accepted standard of living within a particular society, even though universal basic needs are met. For Britain in 1997, this equated to one quarter of the total population. Consequently, the government set out new policies to tackle the ever growing problem. This essay will look at different theories of poverty and examine whether they help alleviate the problem, or push people further into a culture of dependency. One theory which attempts to understand poverty is that of the Culture of Poverty. The Culture of Poverty links economic deprivation and marginalisation, and the politics and culture of society (Clarke et al, 1994). In other words, people can be poor because of their social exclusion from society. A cultural explanation looks at how health inequalities are rooted in the behaviour and lifestyles of the individual and that those suffering poor health have different attitudes, values and lifestyles which mean they don't look after themselves. Even though these adults know the adverse affects it will have on their health, they continue with this lifestyle because to them it is a way of coping with the everyday stress that living in poverty has on them. Cultural explanations pinpoint the cause of poverty and suggest that the poor are individuals who have been badly socialised that they possess deviant values or they are part of a deviant subculture (Clarke et al, 1994). The Culture of Poverty identifies that the poor have a distinctive set of attitudes, norms and values. These norms are then transmitted to each new generation creating a poverty stricken subculture which is independent of the rest of society. ...read more.


With these functions in place, it is quite clear how the class division helps the capitalist ideal. However, it is also evident how this would only exacerbate the strains put on the welfare system. When Labour came to power in 1997, Tony Blair declared that it was the aim of his government to be the first generation to end child poverty. For this, they adopted the conventional definition of poverty as living in a household whose income is less than sixty per cent of the median income for the size of the household (Alcock, 2003). However, this definition is very challenging as importance is placed upon the relative change in the incomes of household at the bottom and middle of the income distribution. Even a substantial rise in the incomes of the poorest households will not reduce the numbers in poverty if it is matched or exceeded by the rise in the incomes of the middle income households (Alcock, 2003). However, under the capitalist system, reducing child poverty in this fashion would be near on impossible due to the importance placed on maintaining poverty so as to benefit from a motivated workforce. Another problem that New Labour would encounter through the capitalist mechanic was based on their policy that paid work offers the quickest and surest way out of poverty (Alcock, 2003). This objective intended to reduce the number of children brought up in workless households and to ensure that those who move from welfare to work are financially rewarded (Alcock, 2003). By returning to work, Working Tax Credit would supplement the income of workers which further highlights the dependency on the Welfare State. By offering this extra financial incentive, the capitalist mechanic would lose its influence in manipulating wage demands, with financial incentives put in place to bring wages to an acceptable standard. Not only would they lose control over wage demands, they could also suffer a severe reduction in the motivation of workers due to the Working Tax Credit. ...read more.


However, when the New Deal was introduced, it was phased in alongside other tax and benefit reforms. As a result, the New Deal for Lone Parents was heavily supplemented by increased financial support for child care through the newly introduced tax credits (Ellison et al, 2003). This suggests that those on the programme never left the dependency culture, receiving the same amount of benefit support but through another source indicates that work would not have been a viable option due to the loss of income support. Similarly, Working Families Tax Credit was introduced in 1999, replacing family credit, and intended to help families with children. By 2001, 1.25 million families were in receipt of Working Families Tax Credit, with many regarding it as a key part of the household income. As a result, it was seen to play a big part in reducing child poverty and alleviating the poverty trap faced by some households through its generosity in raising income levels (Ellison et al, 2003). However, it suggests that dependency culture is further extended by topping up wages to an acceptable level for families to live off. In conclusion, it is possible to see how the Welfare State does indeed produce a dependency culture. Government financial incentives apply to more people than ever before, with the social stigma of claiming benefit seemingly eradicated. These new schemes are non judgemental and are provided with the idea of entitlement, causing people to see them as part of a fixed income with their financial habits adjusting to include these benefits. For those in work, the welfare system acts as an income supplement which raises expectations to a level which would not be attainable if benefits were removed. Civitas, an independent think tank, offer the advice that the Welfare State is being used to 'create a grateful yet fearful electorate rather than free thinking individuals', indicating that the dependency culture is a useful tool to abuse for personal gain by the government (www.civitas.co. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Sociological Differentiation & Stratification section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Sociological Differentiation & Stratification essays

  1. Outline and Assess Whether stratification is either inevitable or beneficial to individuals and society?

    he predicting a lot change in society with the rise of the workers and the fall of capitalism, however these things have failed to happen, and in fact it is communist regimes who have changed to capitalism. Marx has been accused of being to economic determinist by some sociologists.

  2. Assess the view that the welfare state is the cause of poverty rather than ...

    Relating back to the question that the welfare state is more of a cause for poverty rather than a solution, this is proven in the New Right's approach that is a direct cause. In that it undermines the will for people to work by providing a free health service and

  1. Identify current patterns of ill health and inequality in the UK. Explain probable ...

    The health of children in East Devon is generally better than the England average, as well as rates of teenage pregnancy and smoking. This shows that there is a clear link between teenage pregnancies, health in general and deprivation, the North as a whole is the second deprived area of

  2. Assess the causes and consequences of changes in the UK population

    This rate has generally declined over the past 100 years with just 54.5 per 1000 in 2001 compared to 115 per 1000 in 1900. Fertility rate can also be measured by examining the Total Fertility Rate, meaning the total number of children born to an average woman during her childbearing life.

  1. Assess different explanations for the causes of poverty in the United Kingdom

    This idea also links with the Weberian views, that status in this circumstance being the ruling class are able to effectively prevent many of these groups accessing high-end jobs due to their lack of skills or qualifications. Then leading to them having little skills, being given a low pay and

  2. Poverty and the welfare state

    On the other hand, it suffers from the disadvantage that any absolute poverty threshold is arbitrary; the amount of wealth required for survival is not the same in all places and time periods making it very difficult to define a common minimum standard of living for everyone.

  1. "How sociologists measure the extent of poverty is largely dependent on what definition of ...

    below the poverty line, poverty in 1936 was recorded that 18% of the UK population was still in poverty, thus indicating that the welfare state that had been introduced was starting to work, by improving people living standards and quality of life.

  2. Poverty and welfare models

    If the families' income is 50% below the average British income, then the family is said to be in poverty. The idea behind this is you cannot afford a decent standard of living if you are below this level. It has been suggested that an 80% level would be more appropriate.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work