Social policy is a plan or action of government
or institutional agencies which aim to improve or reform
A society is a group of individuals involved in persistent social interaction, or a large social group sharing the same spatial or social territory, typically subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations. Societi ...
Some professionals and universities consider social policy a subset of public policy
, while other practitioners characterize social policy and public policy to be two separate, competing approaches for the same
The public interest is "the welfare or well-being of the general public" and society.
Economist Lok Sang Ho in his ''Public Policy and the Public Interest'' argues that the public interest must be assessed impartially and, therefore ...
(similar to MD and DO in healthcare
), with social policy deemed more holistic than public policy. Whichever of these persuasions a university adheres to, social policy begins with the study of the
A welfare state is a form of government in which the state (or a well-established network of social institutions) protects and promotes the economic and social well-being of its citizens, based upon the principles of equal opportunity, equitab ...
Social services are a range of public services intended to provide support and assistance towards particular groups, which commonly include the disadvantaged. They may be provided by individuals, private and independent organisations, or adminis ...
. It consists of
A guideline is a statement by which to determine a course of action. A guideline aims to streamline particular processes according to a set routine or sound practice. Guidelines may be issued by and used by any organization (governmental or pri ...
A principle is a proposition or value that is a guide for behavior or evaluation. In law, it is a rule that has to be or usually is to be followed. It can be desirably followed, or it can be an inevitable consequence of something, such as the la ...
Legislation is the process or result of enrolling, enacting, or promulgating laws by a legislature, parliament, or analogous governing body. Before an item of legislation becomes law it may be known as a bill, and may be broadly referred to as ...
and associated activities that affect the living conditions conducive to human welfare
, such as a person's
quality of life
Quality of life (QOL) is defined by the World Health Organization as "an individual's perception of their position in life in the context of the culture and value systems in which they live and in relation to their goals, expectations, standards ...
. The Department of Social Policy at the
London School of Economics
, mottoeng = To understand the causes of things
, established =
, type = Public research university
, endowment = £240.8 million (2021)
, budget = £391.1 milli ...
defines social policy as "an interdisciplinary and applied subject concerned with the analysis of societies' responses to social need", which seeks to foster in its students a capacity to understand theory and evidence drawn from a wide range of social science disciplines, including economics, sociology, psychology, geography, history, law, philosophy and political science. The Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy at
Harvard University is a private Ivy League research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Founded in 1636 as Harvard College and named for its first benefactor, the Puritan clergyman John Harvard, it is the oldest institution of higher ...
describes social policy as "public policy and practice in the areas of
Health care or healthcare is the improvement of health via the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, amelioration or cure of disease, illness, injury, and other physical and mental impairments in people. Health care is delivered by health professi ...
, human services,
Criminal justice is the delivery of justice to those who have been accused of committing crimes. The criminal justice system is a series of government agencies and institutions. Goals include the rehabilitation of offenders, preventing other ...
Inequality may refer to:
* Attention inequality, unequal distribution of attention across users, groups of people, issues in etc. in attention economy
* Economic inequality, difference in economic well-being between population groups
, and labor". Social policy might also be described as actions that affect the well-being of members of a society through shaping the distribution of and access to goods and resources in that society. Social policy often deals with wicked problems
The discussion of 'social policy' in the United States
Canada is a country in North America. Its ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and northward into the Arctic Ocean, covering over , making it the world's second-largest country by total ...
can also apply to governmental policy on social issues such as tackling
Racism is the belief that groups of humans possess different behavioral traits corresponding to inherited attributes and can be divided based on the superiority of one race over another. It may also mean prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism ...
' is an initialism that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender. In use since the 1990s, the initialism, as well as some of its common variants, functions as an umbrella term for sexuality and gender identity.
The LGBT term is a ...
issues (such as
Same-sex marriage, also known as gay marriage, is the marriage of two people of the same sex or gender. marriage between same-sex couples is legally performed and recognized in 33 countries, with the most recent being Mexico, constitutin ...
) and the legal status of
Abortion is the termination of a pregnancy by removal or expulsion of an embryo or fetus. An abortion that occurs without intervention is known as a miscarriage or "spontaneous abortion"; these occur in approximately 30% to 40% of pregnan ...
A gun is a ranged weapon designed to use a shooting tube (gun barrel) to launch projectiles. The projectiles are typically solid, but can also be pressurized liquid (e.g. in water guns/cannons, spray guns for painting or pressure washing, pr ...
Euthanasia (from el, εὐθανασία 'good death': εὖ, ''eu'' 'well, good' + θάνατος, ''thanatos'' 'death') is the practice of intentionally ending life to eliminate pain and suffering.
Different countries have different eutha ...
Recreation is an activity of leisure, leisure being discretionary time. The "need to do something for recreation" is an essential element of human biology and psychology. Recreational activities are often done for enjoyment, amusement, or pleasure ...
Prostitution is the business or practice of engaging in sexual activity in exchange for payment. The definition of "sexual activity" varies, and is often defined as an activity requiring physical contact (e.g., sexual intercourse, non-penet ...
. In other countries, these issues would be classified under health policy
Domestic policy is a type of public policy overseeing administrative decisions that are directly related to all issues and activity within a state's borders. It differs from foreign policy, which refers to the ways a government advances its inte ...
The study of social policy can either be a stand-alone degree in social policy such as the
University of York
The University of York (abbreviated as or ''York'' for post-nominals) is a collegiate research university, located in the city of York, England. Established in 1963, the university has expanded to more than thirty departments and centres, cov ...
Oxford () is a city in England. It is the county town and only city of Oxfordshire. In 2020, its population was estimated at 151,584. It is north-west of London, south-east of Birmingham and north-east of Bristol. The city is home to the ...
, and the
University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania (also known as Penn or UPenn) is a private research university in Philadelphia. It is the fourth-oldest institution of higher education in the United States and is ranked among the highest-regarded universiti ...
, or a specialization as part of a public policy degree program such as at
McGill University (french: link=no, Université McGill) is an English-language public university, public research university located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Founded in 1821 by royal charter granted by George IV, King George IV,Frost, Stan ...
Balsillie School of International Affairs
The Balsillie School of International Affairs (BSIA) is a centre for advanced research and teaching on global governance and international public policy, located in Waterloo, Ontario. As one of the largest social sciences initiatives in Canada, t ...
Harris School of Public Policy
The University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy, also referred to as "Harris Public Policy," is the public policy school of the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois, United States. It is located on the University's main campus in ...
, and the
Hertie School of Governance
The Hertie School (until 2019 Hertie School of Governance) is a German private, independent graduate school for governance (public policy, international affairs and data science) located in Berlin's Friedrichstraße. Hertie School is according ...
. In the Global South, social policy is offered along with public policy degree programmes, as at the Institute of Public Policy, National Law School of India University, Bangalore
, combined with development policy.
Social policy was first conceived in the
File:1940s decade montage.png, Above title bar: events during World War II (1939–1945): From left to right: Troops in an LCVP landing craft approaching Omaha Beach on D-Day; Adolf Hitler visits Paris, soon after the Battle of France; The Holoca ...
by Richard Titmuss
within the field of social administration in Britain. Titmuss's essay on the "Social Division of Welfare" (1955) laid the development for social policy to gradually absorb social administration. Titmuss was an
An essay is, generally, a piece of writing that gives the author's own argument, but the definition is vague, overlapping with those of a letter, a paper, an article, a pamphlet, and a short story. Essays have been sub-classified as for ...
whose work concerned the failure of the market; the inadequacy of selective social services; and the superiority of collectivism
and universal approaches. While some scholars describe social policy as an interdisciplinary
field of practice, scholars like Fiona Williams
and Pete Alcock believe social policy is a
Discipline refers to rule following behavior, to regulate, order, control and authority. It may also refer to punishment. Discipline is used to create habits, routines, and automatic mechanisms such as blind obedience. It may be inflicted on ot ...
Some of the earliest examples of direct intervention by government in human welfare date back to
In modern historiography, ancient Rome refers to Roman civilisation from the founding of the city of Rome in the 8th century BC to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD. It encompasses the Roman Kingdom (753–509 ...
Cura Annonae ("care of Annona") was the term used in ancient Rome, in honour of their goddess Annona, to describe the import and distribution of grain to the residents of the cities of Rome and, after its foundation, Constantinople. The city of ...
'' (grain dole) founded in 123 BC, and Umar ibn al-Khattāb
's rule as the second
A caliphate or khilāfah ( ar, خِلَافَة, ) is an institution or public office under the leadership of an Islamic steward with the title of caliph (; ar, خَلِيفَة , ), a person considered a political-religious successor to th ...
of Islam in the 6th century: he used ''
Zakat ( ar, زكاة; , "that which purifies", also Zakat al-mal , "zakat on wealth", or Zakah) is a form of almsgiving, often collected by the Muslim Ummah. It is considered in Islam as a religious obligation, and by Quranic ranking, is ...
'' collections and also other governmental resources to establish pensions, income support, child benefits, and various stipends for people of the non-Muslim community. The enactment of English Poor Laws
Poverty is the state of having few material possessions or little and recidivism: these laws influenced the justices of Berkshire to implement the Speenhamland system
The Speenhamland system was a form of outdoor relief intended to mitigate rural poverty in England and Wales at the end of the 18th century and during the early 19th century. The law was an amendment to the Elizabethan Poor Law. It was created ..., which was the first social program in the modern sense of that word. In the modern West, proponents of scientific social planning such as the sociologist Auguste Comte, and social researchers, such as Charles Booth, contributed to the emergence of social policymaking in the first industrialised countries following the Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution was the transition to new manufacturing processes in Great Britain, continental Europe, and the United States, that occurred during the period from around 1760 to about 1820–1840. This transition included going fr .... Surveys of poverty exposing the brutal conditions in the urban slum
A slum is a highly populated urban residential area consisting of densely packed housing units of weak build quality and often associated with poverty. The infrastructure in slums is often deteriorated or incomplete, and they are primarily in ... conurbations of Victorian Britain supplied the pressure leading to changes such as the decline and abolition of the poor law system and Liberal welfare reforms. Other significant examples in the development of social policy are the Bismarckian welfare state in 19th century Germany, social security policies in the United States introduced under the rubric of the New Deal
The New Deal was a series of programs, public work projects, financial reforms, and regulations enacted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the United States between 1933 and 1939. Major federal programs agencies included the Civilian Cons ... between 1933 and 1935, and both the Beveridge Report and the National Health Service Act 1946
The National Health Service Act 1946c 81 came into effect on 5 July 1948 and created the National Health Service in England and Wales thus being the first implementation of the Beveridge model. Though the title 'National Health Service' implies a ... in Britain. Thus, two major models of social insurance
Social insurance is a form of social welfare that provides insurance against economic risks. The insurance may be provided publicly or through the subsidizing of private insurance. In contrast to other forms of social assistance, individuals' ... arose in practice: Bismarkian welfare from Germany and Beveridgean welfare from Britain.
Social policy in the 21st century is complex and in each state it is subject to local
Local may refer to:
Geography and transportation
* Local (train), a train serving local traffic demand
* Local, Missouri, a community in the United States
* Local government, a form of public administration, usually the lowest tier of administra ... and national governments, as well as supranational political influence. For example, membership of the European Union
The European Union (EU) is a supranational political and economic union of member states that are located primarily in Europe. The union has a total area of and an estimated total population of about 447million. The EU has often been de ... is conditional on member states' adherence to the Social Chapter of European Union law
Social policy aims to improve human welfare and to meet human needs for education, health, housing and economic security. Important areas of social policy are wellbeing and welfare, poverty reduction,
Welfare, or commonly social welfare, is a type of government support intended to ensure that members of a society can meet basic human needs such as food and shelter. Social security may either be synonymous with welfare, or refer specifical ..., justice
Justice, in its broadest sense, is the principle that people receive that which they deserve, with the interpretation of what then constitutes "deserving" being impacted upon by numerous fields, with many differing viewpoints and perspective ..., unemployment insurance
Unemployment benefits, also called unemployment insurance, unemployment payment, unemployment compensation, or simply unemployment, are payments made by authorized bodies to unemployed people. In the United States, benefits are funded by a comp ..., living conditions, animal rights
Animal rights is the philosophy according to which many or all sentient animals have moral worth that is independent of their utility for humans, and that their most basic interests—such as avoiding suffering—should be afforded the sam ..., pensions
A pension (, from Latin ''pensiō'', "payment") is a fund into which a sum of money is added during an employee's employment years and from which payments are drawn to support the person's retirement from work in the form of periodic payments ..., health care
Health care or healthcare is the improvement of health via the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, amelioration or cure of disease, illness, injury, and other physical and mental impairments in people. Health care is delivered by health professi ..., social housing
Public housing is a form of housing tenure in which the property is usually owned by a government authority, either central or local. Although the common goal of public housing is to provide affordable housing, the details, terminology, d ..., family policy, social care
Social work is an academic discipline and practice-based profession concerned with meeting the basic needs of individuals, families, groups, communities, and society as a whole to enhance their individual and collective well-being. Social work ..., child protection, social exclusion
Social exclusion or social marginalisation is the social disadvantage and relegation to the fringe of society. It is a term that has been used widely in Europe and was first used in France in the late 20th century. It is used across discipli ..., education policy, crime
In ordinary language, a crime is an unlawful act punishable by a state or other authority. The term ''crime'' does not, in modern criminal law, have any simple and universally accepted definition,Farmer, Lindsay: "Crime, definitions of", in Can ... and criminal justice
Criminal justice is the delivery of justice to those who have been accused of committing crimes. The criminal justice system is a series of government agencies and institutions. Goals include the rehabilitation of offenders, preventing other ..., urban development
Urban means "related to a city". In that sense, the term may refer to:
* Urban area, geographical area distinct from rural areas
* Urban culture, the culture of towns and cities
Urban may also refer to:
* Urban (name), a list of peopl ..., and labor
Labour or labor may refer to:
* Childbirth, the delivery of a baby
* Labour (human activity), or work
** Manual labour, physical work
** Wage labour, a socioeconomic relationship between a worker and an employer
** Organized labour and the lab ... issues.
United States social policy
The United States was a pioneer in generous social spending (relative to comparable countries), as it provided substantial social spending for Civil War veterans and their families. However, the United States would go on to lag behind other advanced industrial democracies in social spending.
Religious, racial, ideological, scientific and philosophical movements and ideas have historically influenced American social policy, for example,
John Calvin (; frm, Jehan Cauvin; french: link=no, Jean Calvin ; 10 July 150927 May 1564) was a French theologian, pastor and reformer in Geneva during the Protestant Reformation. He was a principal figure in the development of the system ... and his idea of pre-destination
Predestination, in theology, is the doctrine that all events have been willed by God, usually with reference to the eventual fate of the individual soul. Explanations of predestination often seek to address the paradox of free will, whereby Go ... and the Protestant
Protestantism is a branch of Christianity that follows the theological tenets of the Protestant Reformation, a movement that began seeking to reform the Catholic Church from within in the 16th century against what its followers perceived to b ... Values of hard work and individualism
Individualism is the moral stance, political philosophy, ideology and social outlook that emphasizes the intrinsic worth of the individual. Individualists promote the exercise of one's goals and desires and to value independence and self-relian .... Moreover, Social Darwinism helped mold America's ideas of capitalism
Capitalism is an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production and their operation for Profit (economics), profit. Central characteristics of capitalism include capital accumulation, competitive markets, pric ... and the '' survival of the fittest
"Survival of the fittest" is a phrase that originated from Darwinian evolutionary theory as a way of describing the mechanism of natural selection. The biological concept of fitness is defined as reproductive success. In Darwinian terms, ...'' mentality. The Catholic Church's social teaching has also been considerably influential to the development of social policy.
United States politicians who have favored increasing government observance of social policy often do not frame their proposals around typical notions of welfare or benefits; instead, in cases like '' Medicare'' and '' Medicaid'', President Lyndon Johnson
Lyndon Baines Johnson (; August 27, 1908January 22, 1973), often referred to by his initials LBJ, was an American politician who served as the 36th president of the United States from 1963 to 1969. He had previously served as the 37th vice ... presented a package called the Great Society
The Great Society was a set of domestic programs in the United States launched by Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964–65. The term was first coined during a 1964 commencement address by President Lyndon B. Johnson at the Universit ... that framed a larger vision around poverty
Poverty is the state of having few material possessions or little and
quality of life
Quality of life (QOL) is defined by the World Health Organization as "an individual's perception of their position in life in the context of the culture and value systems in which they live and in relation to their goals, expectations, standards .... Insurance
Insurance is a means of protection from financial loss in which, in exchange for a fee, a party agrees to compensate another party in the event of a certain loss, damage, or injury. It is a form of risk management, primarily used to hedge ... has been a growing policy topic, and a recent example of health care law as social policy is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act formed by the 111th U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama
Barack Hussein Obama II ( ; born August 4, 1961) is an American politician who served as the 44th president of the United States from 2009 to 2017. A member of the Democratic Party, Obama was the first African-American president of the ..., a Democrat, on March 23, 2010.
Moreover, former president Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt (; ; January 30, 1882April 12, 1945), often referred to by his initials FDR, was an American politician and attorney who served as the 32nd president of the United States from 1933 until his death in 1945. As th ...'s ground breaking New Deal
The New Deal was a series of programs, public work projects, financial reforms, and regulations enacted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the United States between 1933 and 1939. Major federal programs agencies included the Civilian Cons ... is a paragon example of Social Policy that focused predominantly on a program of providing work and stimulating the economy through public spending on projects, rather than on cash payment. The programs were in response to the Great Depression affecting the United States in the 1930s
File:1930s decade montage.png, From left, clockwise: Dorothea Lange's photo of the homeless Florence Thompson shows the effects of the Great Depression; due to extreme drought conditions, farms across the south-central United States become dry a ....
One example of a recent, widely discussed education policy change was the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) during the administration of Republican President George W. Bush with bipartisan
Bipartisanship, sometimes referred to as nonpartisanship, is a political situation, usually in the context of a two-party system (especially those of the United States and some other western countries), in which opposing political parties find co ... support. The law took effect on January 8, 2002, attempting to raise standards in education, address educational inequities (framed as an achievement gap), and issues in schools framed as issues of accountability. The No Child Left Behind Act required every state to assess students on basic skills to receive federal funding. While the law did attempt to address issues underlying U.S. education, it's provisions were widely viewed as unsuccessful. States continued to create their own standards while assessing themselves. NCLB also led to the closure of numerous schools labeled "low-performing" or "failing", disproportionately impacting schools that served predominately Black students and rural communities. Provisions of NCLB were changed and replaced under the Race to the Top and Every Child Succeeds Act passed during the Administration of President Barack Obama
Barack Hussein Obama II ( ; born August 4, 1961) is an American politician who served as the 44th president of the United States from 2009 to 2017. A member of the Democratic Party, Obama was the first African-American president of the ....
* Education policy
The Great Society was a set of domestic programs in the United States launched by Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964–65. The term was first coined during a 1964 commencement address by President Lyndon B. Johnson at the Universit ...
* Health policy
* Housing policy
* Social insurance
Social insurance is a form of social welfare that provides insurance against economic risks. The insurance may be provided publicly or through the subsidizing of private insurance. In contrast to other forms of social assistance, individuals' ...
* Social Security Administration
The United States Social Security Administration (SSA) is an independent agency of the U.S. federal government that administers Social Security, a social insurance program consisting of retirement, disability and survivor benefits. To qualify for ...
* Social Security (United States)
In the United States, Social Security is the commonly used term for the federal Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) program and is administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA). The original Social Security Act ...
* Social theory
Social theories are analytical frameworks, or paradigms, that are used to study and interpret social phenomenon, social phenomena.Seidman, S., 2016. Contested knowledge: Social theory today. John Wiley & Sons. A tool used by social scientists, so ...
Social Policy & Administration
* Titmuss, R. M. (1951
''Problems of social policy''
HM Stationery Office.
*Dean, H. (2006). ''Social Policy''. Cambridge: Polity Press. .
* Esping-Andersen, G. (1990) ''The three worlds of welfare capitalism''. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Ferragina, Emanuele and Martin Seeleib-Kaiser, "Welfare Regime Debate: Past, Present, Futures?" ''Policy & Politics'': 39 (2011): 4: 583–611.