Social Policy: Overview - Encyclopedia of Social Work
Social policy aims to improve human welfare and to meet human needs. AFDC is a controversial social policy intervention, primarily due to changing views. Social policy is concerned with the ways societies across the world meet human needs for security, education, work, health and wellbeing. Social policy. The main reason is that social policies are meant to meet the needs of people in various ways: providing cash benefits to offset poverty; health services to.
The American middle class has seen its well-being threatened by loss of income and reduced job opportunities, decreasing opportunities for upward social mobility. The obstacles facing the poor for social advancement are numerous. Given the range and relative importance of policy choices, social welfare policies must compete with economic, political, and defense needs for attention and resources.
At least since the presidency of the conservative Republican Ronald Reagan, government policies and programs directed at public social welfare provision have been attacked as ineffectual and inappropriate interferences in the marketplace. Social policies that transferred and redistributed income from the wealthy to the poor, such as programs assisting poor women with families, were harshly criticized.
Efforts have been made to privatize social services and the Social Security system, our most universal social welfare program. In the early 21st century, our political parties debate how our nation can promote economic growth and social well-being, emphasizing the need for job growth, while the longstanding issues of poverty and social and economic inequality receive less attention.
Philosophical Underpinnings of U. Social Policy The notion of citizenship carries specific rights and obligations. Individualism, personal liberty, and the rights of persons to pursue activities freely and without excessive governmental intrusion are hallmarks of U. The radical left and progressive critics generally reject both conservative and liberal social policy perspectives because they believe that social inequality and social problems can be resolved most effectively by active social planning and government redistribution of wealth.
The dominant philosophy of government in the United States in the early 21st century holds that the market, broadly defined, should be allowed to function with as little interference as possible by governments to provide opportunities for all. The Republican Party has long held that government should do less regulation of business, for example, to give entrepreneurs freedom to take risks that might create new jobs. Social Policy Development During the Progressive Era, Jane Addams and other reformers argued that government had obligations to protect poor women and children, who were seen as victims of industrialization.
Modern social welfare policy began with the New Deal enacted in the s during the administration of the liberal Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt in response to the Great Depression and unprecedented unemployment and social unrest.
Policy makers understood that private charities, voluntary organizations, and local and state governments were unable to provide enough economic assistance to address the needs of millions of people who were unemployed. Nearly one third of private social-service agencies ceased operations between and Trattner, The federal government assumed unprecedented authority to intervene in the economy, resulting in controversy and opposition from conservatives who felt New Deal policy innovations were unwarranted intrusions by government into the lives of Americans.
The most sweeping New Deal social welfare legislation, the Social Security Act ofcreated new social insurance and public-assistance programs. Social insurance included unemployment insurance and the Social Security pension program and Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance financed by payroll taxes on employees and employers. Public assistance or welfare was limited to the most needy and was administered by local governments, which often denied benefits to persons of color.
Progressive and radical critics, including some social workers, felt that the liberal reforms of the New Deal did not go far enough in addressing social inequality and the needs of working Americans and they argued for national planning and an institutional welfare state to distribute national wealth and end poverty Reynolds, ; Selmi, American social welfare grew incrementally, subject to political pressures and changing priorities, and never adopted the progressive vision.
Although the Social Security pension program expanded over the years to include agricultural workers and others not originally covered, many of whom were people of color living in the South, it was influenced by contemporary gender and racial norms.
Interventions, Social Policy
Although it has provided a measure of economic security for retired workers who earned high incomes for many years, it disadvantaged women workers, who were unable to work outside the home for extended periods because of home and family responsibilities, resulting in smaller contributions to Social Security and reduced pensions Abramovitz, Medicare and Medicaid provided health insurance for retired workers and medical assistance for the poor.
Although the Social Security pension system has been successful in reducing poverty among elderly workers and has widespread public support, its public assistance or welfare programs have been controversial. A work incentive program, WIN, which required work from AFDC recipients, began a long retreat from support for dependent women and families. Public opinion was galvanized against social welfare programs using media to spread stigmatizing gender and racial stereotypes of welfare recipients as indolent and irresponsible.
New rules required work from recipients and limited cash assistance to 5 years. The Workforce Investment Act required welfare recipients to seek work before receiving social services, which was criticized by social workers as ignoring the needs of women and children who needed long-term assistance and supportive services. Bythe number of persons receiving public assistance was half what it had been in the s.
Although it is certain that many single mothers and others left the welfare rolls, whether they have achieved economic and social self-sufficiency is debatable. Securing employment with employers who provide low wages and few, if any, benefits, such as health insurance, does not provide a decent standard of living or good job security.
There is clear evidence of large increases in the numbers of individuals receiving Medicaid and Food Stamps sincesupporting the argument that former welfare recipients have joined the ranks of the working poor, struggling to obtain decent housing, medical care, and food for their families Shipley, In the early 21st century, although many training and temporary assistance programs are offered by social workers and others working in government, nonprofit, and for-profit agencies that can assist those transitioning from welfare to work by matching them to supportive programs, including medical assistance, housing, and child care, increasing homelessness and scarce job opportunities reduce the chances of finding full-time employment.
Funded from many sources, including federal and local governments, foundations, philanthropy, and private donations, social services attempt to meet specific needs, such as job retraining and employment assistance, child care, homelessness, and hunger. Despite many innovative services and programs aimed at poverty alleviation, its seeming intractability while the wealthiest Americans prosper remains a national dilemma.
Suggestions to privatize Social Security, our most large-scale and institutional social welfare program, were proposed during the Bush administration. Bush favored state and charitable programs rather than federally run programs as the most effective way of dealing with certain social problems. He proposed federal funding for faith-based community services, based on the premise that local service providers can deliver the most humane and cost-effective human services, and he used his executive authority to fund an array of nonprofit faith-based social services Smith, Both President George W.
Bush, a conservative Republican, and his successor, President Barack H. Obama, a moderate Democrat, used federal funds to shore up the shaky economy in an attempt to stave off a major economic depression. Thus far, these efforts and others, although controversial, seem to have kept the nation from falling into a major depression, although the economy remains unsteady.
Millions of workers lost jobs as companies downsized or disappeared as demand weakened. Rising unemployment challenged local and state governments and social-service agencies to respond to increasing needs for unemployment compensation, job retraining, and services to assist those who were economically and socially at risk. Social workers, long accustomed to the challenges of providing services in times of crisis, worked creatively and doggedly to respond to emerging challenges.
Byunemployment was slowly falling but sectors of the labor market, including older workers and new college graduates, continued to face dismal job prospects. Social policies to address the unemployment crisis are issues in local, state, and federal politics. Many corporations and public employers demand pension and benefit cutbacks, arguing that such draconian measures are necessary to maintain economic viability. Retirees and public employees such as social workers and teachers face job loss and reduced retirement income, increasing their economic and social insecurity.
Escalating needs in areas of traditional concern to social workers present social policy challenges. Age, ethnicity, and family composition contribute to poverty. Racial disparity among poor Americans is evident, with 1 in 4 Hispanics and African Americans living in poverty compared to 1 in 10 Whites. In46 million Americans lived in poverty, the largest number in 53 years of published poverty rates. Not since the Great Depression have so many families and children become homeless.
Social security, food stamps, and other programs provide a safety net for millions of Americans, keeping them out of poverty. Rates of economic and social mobility are lower than the rates of many of our national competitors. Forty-two percent of men raised in families in the bottom quintile of incomes remain there as adults.
Social policy - Wikipedia
Social policies may also regulate and govern human behavior in such areas as sexuality and morality. Policies that involve access to abortion or laws governing marriage and divorce therefore fall within the sphere of social policy interventions. Between the s and the s, many European countries instituted pension and social insurance programs for industrial workers and needy individuals.
These programs became comprehensive social welfare systems in the s to s. The United States also instituted social benefits for women and their children. The Social Security Act of created a basic framework for U. In the s, in conjunction with the war on poverty, major new programs of public assistance were established in the United States. Among comparably developed countries, the United States has the highest level of economic inequality and the lowest level of cash assistance to the poor.
With noncash assistance added, the United States falls in the middle. Cash benefits require trust that recipients will spend the extra income on expenditures the public deems worthy. Noncash public assistance programs pay directly for those expenditures deemed worthy, such as food in the case of the Food Stamp Program or health care in the case of Medicaid.
The four largest components of U. The Food Stamp Program is a nationally provided program. It is the only public assistance program available to all poor people, whether or not they have children.
Food stamp recipients spend their benefits to buy eligible food in authorized retail stores. As family income increases, food stamp benefits decline. Therefore, recipients who live in states that provide less in the way of cash assistance to the poor receive more in food stamps. Medicaid, established inpays for health-care costs among eligible low-income groups. The program is run by the states, with certain mandates from the federal government. Like all health-care costs, Medicaid costs have substantially increased over the s, s, and early s.
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This is mostly due to increased costs for longterm care among the elderly and disabled, as well as the fact that the benefits expanded in the s to include all poor children. Medicaid is the most costly of U.
An individual receives the highest level of assistance from AFDC when she or he has the least income; in fact, for every extra dollar in income the recipient earns, a dollar is lost in benefits. Moreover, inflation has steadily eroded the real value of AFDC benefits over the years.
AFDC is a controversial social policy intervention, primarily due to changing views regarding the primary recipient population—single mothers. States were expected to replace their AFDC programs with new programs of their own; federal mandates include work requirements for recipients and limited time periods for benefits. EITC is a refundable tax credit that reduces or eliminates the taxes that low-income working people pay.
The program frequently operates as a wage subsidy for low-income workers. People who work, earn low wages, and have children are eligible to receive EITC. The rationale underlying this intervention is that employment alone is insufficient to bring people out of poverty. Another example of an important, albeit controversial, social policy intervention is affirmative action. Affirmative action is a policy or program whose stated goal is to redress past or present discrimination through active measures to ensure equal opportunity, generally to higher education and employment.