Conceptualizing and Theorizing Social Policy, Poverty, and Inequality

Conceptualizing and Theorizing Social Policy, Poverty, and Inequality

Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0969-2.ch003
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The chapter conceptualizes and theorizes social policy in the context of poverty and inequality. Inequality and poverty are two concepts that are by definition multi-dimensional and, therefore, require a comprehensive approach. The chapter argues that different theories underpinned social policies of welfare states in their fight against extreme poverty and inequality. The chapter, therefore, seeks to examine the following concepts and theories as they influence the development and reform of social policies: conceptual clarifications of social policy, poverty, social exclusion and inclusion, social cohesion or equity, theoretical underpinnings that influence social policy development and reforms, and the new social policy paradigm.
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Conceptual Clarifications

Concept of Social Policy

Social policy is about the study of the distribution of welfare and well-being within societies. Its focus is on the ways in which different societies meet the basic human needs of their populations. Social policies are “laws, rules, and regulations that govern the benefits and services provided by governmental and private organizations to assist people in meeting their needs” (Chapin, 2007, p. 1). Social policies make it possible for citizens to receive benefits and services. It can help citizens or clients by creating social programs. Social programs are defined as the specified set of activities that are designed to solve social problems and/or meet basic human needs. The sum of social programs is referred to as “the welfare state” (McDaniel & Um, 2015, p. 3). Social policies create the social programs that shape social work. Social work in this context can be defined as “the professional activity of helping individuals, groups or communities to enhance or restore their capacity for social functioning and creating social conditions favorable to this goal” (National Association of Social Workers, 1973, p. 4). Social workers clearly play essential role in helping to shape the social policies that underlie the social welfare system (Chapin, 2007). For example, social workers deliver social welfare services that meet social needs, such as: child protection services, adoption services, mental health counseling, case management, services for older adults, for people in the corrections, and for people with disabilities. The effectiveness of these social services will be influenced by the social policies that govern their delivery (Chapin, 2007, p. 3).

Social policies can be developed by both the public and the private sectors. Public social policies are those policies created by federal, state and local governments. On the other hand, private sector, such as: religious organizations, foundations, nongovernmental organizations and volunteering organizations also develop social policies and programs. However, public social policies dominate most of the social policies of most countries.

Social policy is a subset of public policy. Public policy encompasses all actions taken by states presumably in the public interest. It can also be regarded as actions and inactions of government. Public policies include accumulation and re-allocation of resources by states for what they deem the public good. On the other hand, social policy typically includes the human aspects of policy, such as: healthcare, human services, unemployment, inequality, poverty, pensions for older population education, criminal justice and distribution or redistribution of societal resources (McDaniel & Um, 2015, p. 3).

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