"What aspects of family change since the 1960's have had the most important implications for Social Policy?"
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"What aspects of family change since the 1960's have had the most important implications for Social Policy?" Perhaps the most important feature of the family within British Society, as Allen noted in a recent publication, is that there is "nothing set about the family as such" (Allen G and Crow G, 2001, p20). Indeed, ever since the dawn of industrialisation several hundred years ago, the demands made on family forms due to the continuing effects of demographic change have ensured that family forms are continually evolving and advancing. This has been especially true within the past 50-or-so years, as the period has witnessed some vast social reconstruction's in terms of marriage patterns, divorce rates, numbers of elderly people etc.., which have had a profound effect on the family. This essay will look at these developments, and examine them in relation to recent Labour and Conservative governments social policies on the family. One of the changes that has influenced family life and has grown dramatically since the 1960's is that of divorce. In 1964 there were 34,868 divorces per year in England; however by 1972 this had dramatically increased to 119, 025 (www.statistics.gov.uk/statbase). This was due largely to the 1969 Divorce Act, which introduced new grounds for divorce as well as "helping to redefine peoples perceptions of what was acceptable within marriage" (Allen G and Crow G, 2001, p24).
During the 1980's, lone parents came under increased scrutiny from the Conservative government, due in part to the emergence of debates about reliance on welfare promoting "dependency culture". The argument followed that increased welfare provision resulted in individuals and families no longer taking responsibility for themselves. Lone parents and mothers were highlighted as being among this kind of "underclass" who have no incentive to work and no motivation to help themselves. Consequently Conservative policy during the 1980's was concerned mostly with reducing benefit expenditure, a fact that has left many lone-parents on the poverty line- shown in the fact that the main source of income for 45% of lone-parents in 1994 was income support (Allen G and Crow G, 2001, p13). The 1993 Child Support Act aimed to improve the prospects of lone-mothers by encouraging them to participate in more part-time work. This was promoted by lowering point at which people could work and claim Family credit to 16 hours a week. Part-time work has the advantage of reducing the need for child care, but also has the disadvantage for single mothers of not being able to provide an adequate income. Part time earnings tend to be low and "cannot provide lone mothers with enough money to support themselves and their children" (Millar j, in Allen G, 1997, p234).
Another problem that the rising proportion of elderly people within Britain poses is that of care provision. Under present regulations applying to state residential homes (applied 1993), "any person entitled to income support will also receive the cost of their board and lodging, up to certain limits, if they enter a residential home" (Dallos and Mclaughlin, 1993, p140). However, the great increases in numbers of elderly and infirm people has meant that recent governments have pursued policies that incorporate ""mixed economies of welfare" - i.e. putting greater emphasis on home care. In conclusion then, Britain has undergone some great demographic changes since the 1960's, notably in the fields of marriage (where divorce rates have spiralled due to the breakdown of stigmatisation attached to the subject and the greater freedom of women), family households (numbers of single parents, particularly mothers, have increased alongside the high divorce rates), and general population make-up (higher numbers of elderly people than before). This has meant that a series of successive governments have had to rethink their welfare and social policy proposals to accommodate this change, which can be seen in the way benefit schemes such as child benefit provision have altered. It is also true that we are moving away from the policy of universalism that characterised the post-war period to an era of more means-tested and selective benefits, as governments try to cut the cost of increasing welfare provision. Word Count...............................
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