In This essay I will look at what is new about New Labour in regard to social policy. To begin a description of social policy is provided together with a brief history of the welfare state in Britain.

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In This essay I will look at what is new about New Labour in regard to social policy.  To begin a description of social policy is provided together with a brief history of the welfare state in Britain.  A strong debate exists in social policy as to whether provision is about social care or control.  This debate will be explored.  The three prevailing political ideologies Social Reformism, Market Liberalism and the Third Way will be discussed in regard to social provision and their policies will be compared.  Finally I will identify aspects of New Labour policies that establish it as a new way of thinking in regard to social welfare policy

According to Marsh (1979) social policy can be described as action on the part of the state or voluntary organisations to deal with the myriad variety of individual and social problems in a complex industrialized society.  Marsh (1979) argues the state has, over the centuries, attempted to provide help to the poor, and to overcome many other forms of ‘social evils’ such as improving living and employment conditions, education and healthcare etc through legislation and voluntary action.  Hill (1993) goes on to say that the study of social policy, in Britain, is primarily concerned with the extent to which the welfare state meets the needs of people and the extent to which it contributes to social equity.

During and after the Second World War social policy and its implementation began to develop into a highly significant and important area within the political realm.  It was this period that gave rise to the welfare state and introduced legislation that brought about the:

organisation of the educational system, provided family allowances, set up a comprehensive and integrated scheme of social insurance underpinned by national assistance, brought into being  a national health service and assumed a greater responsibility for deprived children, the handicapped, the homeless and for providing better housing, industrial training and more employment opportunities” (Marsh:1979:17).

From this outline it can be argued that social provision is about care and a response to the social needs of a society.  However,

“several recent discussions of social policy have suggested that welfare policies are promulgated not from humanitarian concerns to meet need but as responses to social unrest” (Hill: 1993:3).

Marxist arguments take this one step further and  argue that social policies that promote welfare is a means of social control rather than care.  Hill (1993) agrees with this argument and further argues that social policies are used to maintain order, buy-off working class protest and to secure a workforce with acceptable standards of health and education.  

Hewitt’s (1998) response to this is that the government, when responding to society’s welfare needs must at the same time consider the needs of business and the government, needs which do not always coincide.  Thus need is conceptualized, by governments of the day, in accordance with their political ideologies, and by the social and economic conditions that exist.  From the arguments put forward it can be said that social policy is derived from a perspective of social care to address the needs within the society or as a means of social control so that an element of law and order can be maintained.  

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The period from 1944 saw the rise of Social Reformism and with it the rise of the welfare state, beginning with the implementation of the Beveridge report, 1944 Education Act and the start of the National Health Service in 1948.  Beveridge identified 5 giants that needed to be tackled, these being idleness, squalor, want, disease and ignorance.  The Beveridge report outlined a government strategy to overcome these 5 giants.

Under the Beveridge plan, poverty was to be overcome by means of a social security system that would provide benefits during periods when earnings were interrupted due ...

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