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Describe how political ideology influences social policy and suggest how this may affect families with young children. Give examples to explain your answer.

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Introduction

Describe how political ideology influences social policy and suggest how this may affect families with young children. Give examples to explain your answer. An ideology is quite simply about ideas. It is defined as beliefs, opinions and attitudes which when put together form a set. This set of ideas, attitudes and opinions can influence social policy. The word ideology is commonly used to describe political ideals. Each political party is described as having a particular ideology. The type of social policy adopted by a society will have a strong influence on that society's structure, the life chances of its citizens and the way in which that society choose to regulate and allocate its resources. Firstly a society must decide what level of state intervention it finds politically, financially and socially acceptable. Secondly it will develop policy that reflects a particular model of welfare provision. Thirdly an eligibility or needs criterion is established for those who will benefit from the policy. The concept of welfare relates to the way a society ensures the 'well being' of its citizens. A society has to decide who should be responsible for its well-being and in what circumstances. Society has to choose which needs to meet and how it will cope with social problems. Most societies use a mix of the models outlined below: * The Residual and Selective models of welfare hold that the state should provide welfare if the individual, family or private sector are unable to do so. The state provides a 'safety net' based on a criterion of need. This criterion targets those most disadvantaged. Both Britain and the USA adopt this model but apply it in different ways. * The Institutional model of welfare holds that welfare provision is an important function of society. The institutional welfare state aims to ensure a decent standard of living or all citizens. It is based on a belief in social equality and the redistribution of resources from those with more to those with less. ...read more.

Middle

observes that in 1980's and 1990's policy reforms there was the passing of 3 social security acts in 1986, 1989 and 1990 that all reduced benefit payments and worst affected by these changes were low earners, single parent families and women. Under the social security act (1986) changes were made to the state earnings related pension schemes (serps), high paid workers were allowed to opt out and pay a lower contribution for the state basic pension and take on private/occupational pension schemes, this was in keeping with the aim to increase individual choice, however, it reduced the redistributory principle where previously those that could afford to pay more did so and subsidised low earners and as a result less money was available for state pensions. The 1986 social security act also changed the rules for entitlement to unemployment benefit. Those who left their job voluntary or were dismissed had to wait longer to claim. The time extended from 6 weeks to 13 weeks in 1988 and to six months in the 1990 act. The job seekers allowance introduced in 1995 to replace unemployment benefit would now be paid for a maximum of six months and linked to the principle that it would be paid providing the claimant sought paid work. The government also targeted low income families and single parent families and placed emphasis on more means tested benefits. The government had plans to abolish universal child benefit payments and wanted to means test it and pay it to a selective group of those in most need. However, there was strong opposition and the government were forced to rethink. Instead, child benefit payments were not kept in line with rises in prices and inflation and so the 'real value' fell. Between 1988-90 the government saved £350 million and child benefit was not uprated until 1991. The conservative government welfare reforms had a sharp impact on low income families with young children and single parent families in particular. ...read more.

Conclusion

As a consequence, there was a huge increase in low income families experiencing poverty. New Labours ideology of the family is based on the belief that the married, working, heterosexual couple, together with their children is the ideal type of relationship to achieve stability in the family and society on the whole. This can be seen in the policy commitment to strengthen the institution of marriage. However, there is also recognition that Britain is a multicultural society made up of diversity of family types and that the government has a responsibility to these families, who may need extra support by the provision of opportunity to enable them to keep out of poverty and allowing such families to play a positive role in society. Such a belief has shaped welfare reforms and initiatives of the late 1990's and 21st century which have included: the welfare to work programme incorporating the New Deal, Sure Start, working family tax credit and National Child Care Strategy. With New Labour believing that there are different family types, this had a positive effect on the families with children as they based their reforms on this idea. Pugh (2001) observes that in the late 1990's there has been a significant organisational change within local authorities with regards to early years and child care provision with the setting up of Early Years Child Care and Development Partnerships, some have chosen to develop existing structures , while others have placed emphasis on joint planning and unitary structures. The Health Act (1999) enabled local authorities to develop integrated child care services and placed the responsibility for early year's services with the department for education and skills. All these governments based their ideologies on the same family principle that families should consist of a married heterosexual couple comprising of male breadwinner and housewife, and their children were the ideal type. New Labour however realised that Britain is a multicultural society made up of diversity of family types and that the government has a responsibility to these families. ...read more.

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