Researchers and policymakers working on prosperity, happiness and wellbeing in the UK have recently reworked GDP-centred notions of progress and identified community and belonging as major determinants of a good life. The dominant notion of community in most writing on this topic draws on Putnam’s work on social capital as measured by trust and/or civic engagement. This approach, however, captures only the social aspect of community, without addressing the symbolic dimension of political discourses and their national and local effects. Using data from Newham, London, this article argues that a narrow focus on social capital obfuscates the complexity of community dynamics, leading to misconceptions about the causes of social fragmentation. In the case of Newham, we show that while survey data on social capital suggests that diversity is detrimental to community life, a more nuanced analysis reveals that it is in fact an important part of community cohesion.
This qualitative research study explores prisoner and rehabilitation staff perspectives (N=26) on the phenomenon of ‘change’ as a mode of enforced performance in a work release programme in Illinois. Research questions were developed on the basis of a prolonged encounter with re-entering ex-offenders during a project that combined theatre and research. Bringing together two distinct disciplines – Performance Studies and Critical Social Policy – we explore the extent to which re-entering prisoners and rehabilitation staff conceive of their work release programme as enforcing a performance of change into a rehabilitated self. Our results show that all participants feel that the programme enforces such a performance. However, some saw this performance as truly transformative, while others considered it politically oppressive and instrumental. Language performance in particular was considered a strictly imposed demand on prisoners, mostly black, who were advised not to use Ebonics outside of the facility. Implications for policy are outlined.
Policy discourse around ‘community cohesion’ has displaced liberal multiculturalist and anti-racist approaches with a much narrower focus on the promotion of ‘British values’ and, for minority communities, through a ‘faith’ agenda. We argue that these developments derive from the predominance of the doctrine of communitarianism within the contemporary policy terrain, influencing both New Labour and the Conservatives. The convergence of this with neoliberal social and economic imperatives has created a discourse of ‘conditional citizenship’ for Muslim communities particularly. There is a major policy contradiction where faith based approaches are promoted on one hand, but, in the context of transnational Islamist terror, lead to whole Muslim communities being pathologised as ‘insufficiently British’ on the other. We discuss the ‘Trojan Horse schools’ affair in Birmingham in 2014 as an example of this. We conclude in calling for an urgent refocussing of the debate toward secular approaches in policy, alongside looking at the specific economic and social conditions that we argue are the root cause of breakdowns in community cohesion.
A household is fuel poor when it is unable to afford the level of energy services required to allow its members to live a decent life. From 2010 to 2015, the UK government transformed the politics of fuel poverty, with a new definition (‘Low income, high costs’ or LIHC), indicators and targets. Using a subjectivity framework to analyse the government documentation around LIHC, I find that: a distinction between poverty and fuel poverty is reinforced by the new politics, resulting in energy efficiency measures being prioritised as the appropriate solution. The austerity maxim of ‘helping those most in need’ is threaded through this new politics, belying an acceptance that not all fuel poverty can be alleviated. Further, LIHC underplays the role of changing energy costs, which now have no impact on the headline indicator. I argue that this new politics is symbolic, and unlikely to have positive impacts for most fuel poor households.
Despite the poor outcomes of early childbearing increasingly found to be equivocal, there remains a persistent pathologising of teen parenting, which structures government response. By applying a Foucauldian analysis to the recently introduced Young Parent Payment, this article examines the political rationalities that shape government responses and welfare assistance for young parents in Aotearoa/New Zealand. A biopolitical concern for the good economic citizen and right parent is found to inform the social investment approach, and exclude those who do not conform. Discourses about being Māori, young, a parent and needing financial assistance frame young Māori parents as at risk of long-term welfare-dependency and a threat to their own children. Welfare assistance is demonstrated to be a disciplinary practice to punish young Māori mother beneficiaries for deviating from the preferred normative life-course trajectory.
Credit inclusion has emerged as an important policy issue in post-communist member states of the European Union because of reductions in state welfare. Sub-prime lenders have emerged to fill the gap left by welfare cuts for low-income consumers who do not qualify for mainstream credit. Home collected credit has become established in post-communist member states but high interest and administrative costs make this an expensive option resulting in vulnerable people becoming involved in a cycle of indebtedness. Some of the important consequences for social policy are addressed.
We examine the Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) launched in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province. Using corpus linguistics and critical discourse analysis, we explore the dominant discourses that emerge in a genre chain produced by the Government of Ontario, including the initial 2008 PRS, annual reports and the 2014–2019 recontextualised PRS. Six key discourses surfaced: social exclusion, social inclusion, economic benefit or social investment, expert knowledge, community engagement and requisites for the PRS’ success – typically involving investments from the federal government and a favourable economic climate. No discourse of human rights, or of the rights to food, housing and an adequate standard of living is present in the PRS texts, absolving the government from its responsibility to ensure these rights. Without the accountability mechanisms attached to a rights-based approach, the PRS has little chance of ‘breaking the cycle’ of poverty, and will not likely ‘realise its potential’ to do so.
Employing Carol Bacchi’s What’s the problem? approach, this article examines the abuse policy recently implemented through the Social Inclusion Act of Ontario, Canada’s developmental services sector (DSS), and how it constitutes sexual abuse of people with intellectual disabilities as a policy problem. Politically committed to preventing and addressing abuse, we examine how sexual abuse is ‘given shape’ in the policy and its compliance training materials, and how the policy’s mandatory police reporting requirement ‘subjectifies’ victims according to a taken-for-granted legal ‘worldview’ that presumes justice is achieved through criminalisation. We also demonstrate the everyday ‘deleterious effects’ of this policy in relation to how it leaves both support for sexuality and the long-standing crisis management approach of Ontario’s DSS unproblematised. This analysis calls into question the abuse policy of the Social Inclusion Act and demonstrates the pressing need to re-problematise abuse prevention and redress for people with intellectual disabilities.
Policies designed to extend working life and reduce pension costs have been the dominant policy response to population ageing. Such policies include increasing state pension age, flexible working and privatisation of pensions. Despite men’s and women’s typically different work-life trajectories, policymakers have paid little attention to either the differential effects of such policies on the economic well-being of older women and men, or to the implications for diverse groups of women. This article on policy, employment and pension outcomes in the US and Ireland analyses these issues, using a feminist political economy of ageing framework to assess the likely gender implications of these policy trends. It finds that existing and proposed reforms are likely to take what are already poor pension and employment outcomes for many contemporary older women and make them even worse in future. It concludes with suggested policy modifications and future avenues for research.
In a climate of fiscal austerity, Australia’s neo-liberal government is continuing to fund and implement an expensive National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). This article presents a demographic, funding and policy context for the introduction of the NDIS. Its success, we argue, must be situated in the context of development of a post-industrial workforce, and owes a lot to its embrace of social investment, marketisation of welfare services, and cash for care. We then look at two tensions unfolding during the scheme’s implementation: increasing demand for care work alongside a shortage of care workers, and the market-driven reform of the Australian vocational education and training system. The changes to vocational education, we conclude, have produced more problems than they solved. Since they anticipate key aspects of the NDIS, they raise questions about the intent and future of Australia’s National Disability Insurance Scheme.
This article empirically grounds the ‘psychic life of power’ (Butler, 1997) by demonstrating the psychic form that power takes as immigrants or agents of the state make their way through the British ‘citizenisation’ policy – i.e. the ‘integration’ policy that requires noncitizens to acquire ‘citizen-like’ skills and values in view of seeking citizenship or other statuses (e.g. settlement). The framing argument is that an ambivalent relationship between desire and anxiety mediates the state-citizen relationship (following Honig, 2001). Taking this argument further, the article offers an in-depth analysis of how citizenisation policy’s frames of desire (the assumed desirability of citizenship and the desire for desirable citizens) also take the form of anxieties. Drawing on a multi-sited study of citizenisation in Britain, the article explores some of the different forms anxiety takes: fetishisation, enervation, and uncertainty. The analysis reveals how the uneven distribution of anxiety between agents of the state and immigrants not only mediates the state–citizen relationship but also variously enacts the state itself. Attending to the psychosocial dynamics of citizenisation reveals how hierarchies are (re)produced not only discursively and materially, but also through different ‘anxious states’.
Using discursive policy analysis, we analyse recent Australian childcare policy reform. By examining the policy framings of two successive governments and a childcare union, we demonstrate how the value of care work was strategically positioned by each of the three actors, constructing differing problems with different policy solutions. We argue that women’s care work was recognised by one government as valuable and professional when it aligned with an educational investment framing of enhanced productivity. This framing was capitalised upon by a union campaign for ‘professional’ wages, resulting in a government childcare worker wage subsidy. However, prior to implementation, a change of government re-framed the problem. The new government cast mandatory quality standards as placing unnecessary financial pressure on families and business. Within this frame, the remedy was to instead subsidise employer staff-development costs without increasing workers’ wages.
In the aftermath of the financial crisis, policy-making in post-industrial nations has been widely characterised in terms of austerity. Yet this provides an insufficient basis for an understanding of social policy-making at this time. I argue for a ‘late neoliberal’ phase distinguished by a change in the regime governing the emergence of public service formations. I work from the example of UK policy discourse to demonstrate how in late neoliberalism austerity, social investment and localism operate in conjunction. Beyond fiscal constraint, this conjunction serves to move social policy on from ‘quasi-marketisation’ to reflect more closely the logic and forms of finance capital. The effects of this change can be seen in the reconstitution of ‘value’ in public services, how capital is distributed, and in the subjectivating force of policy. Ultimately late neoliberalism serves to sustain and reproduce familiar relations of domination.
The biopsychosocial model (BPS) of mental distress, originally conceived by American psychiatrist George Engel in the 1970s and commonly used in psychiatry and psychology, has been adapted by Gordon Waddell and Mansel Aylward to form the theoretical basis for current UK government thinking on disability. Most importantly, the Waddell and Aylward version of the BPS has played a key role as the government has sought to reform spending on out-of-work disability benefits. This article critiques Waddell and Aylward’s model, examining its origins, its claims and the evidence it employs. We argue that its potential for genuine interdisciplinary cooperation and the holistic and humanistic benefits for disabled people as envisaged by Engel are not now, if they ever have been, fully realised. Any potential benefit it may have offered has been eclipsed by its role in Coalition/Conservative government social welfare policies that have blamed the victim and justified restriction of entitlements.
The ‘Go Home Van’ was the centrepiece of the UK government’s 2013 immigration enforcement campaign. Vehicles were driven around ethnically diverse London neighbourhoods clad with giant posters offering irregular migrants a choice between ‘voluntary departure’ and criminal arrest. Abandoned shortly afterwards in response to complaints, the GHV nonetheless had a significant impact on migrants. Through interviews and focus groups, this article investigates what was conveyed by the van, and the means by which it achieved these effects. We find that the GHV communicated meanings about the illegitimacy and criminality of migrants, with its material characteristics (visibility and mobility) as important as the words and pictures on its surface. Migrants sought to resist the van through hiding, while support organisations rejected dominant meanings and crafted alternatives. The article establishes a research agenda around the wider role of symbolic objects, in the context of the global migration crisis.
The combination of the impact of welfare reform by the UK government and the opportunity for change presented by the debate on Scottish independence produced a profusion of alternative proposals for social security from scholars, formal political parties, the Scottish Government, and a range of think tanks and civil society organisations. The extent to which these proposals demonstrated considered gender analysis or specific objectives to address economic and social constraints principally experienced by women and arising from the constraints of gender relations varied considerably. This article considers the extent to which concerns for alternative approaches to social security policy reflect a political commitment to women’s economic and social well-being in a future Scotland through an analysis of proposals from key policy documents prior to the referendum and the proposals emerging in the post-referendum period.
A combination of high profile cases, enquiries and a steadily building research evidence base has seen sexual exploitation of children (CSE) gain prominence and urgency as a policy issue in the UK. This has followed a paradigm shift that frames CSE as a form of abuse and distanced it from exploitation through prostitution and the sex industry. In turn this has resulted in a focus on the vulnerability of individual young people rather than structural inequalities that connect CSE with sexual exploitation of adult women, despite the multiple similarities and overlaps. A gendered analysis has disappeared from view, leading to men who pay for sex with young people becoming invisible. The article reviews policy approaches to CSE and explores the links between exploitation of girls and of adult women, concluding that those concerned with stopping sexual exploitation should support calls for policymakers to address those who pay for sex.
The discursive rhetoric of responsibility has become associated with a neo-liberal ‘responsibilisation’ agenda, typified by policy approaches to rough sleeping in England. I draw on feminist ethics of care literature to provide a critical discussion of responsibility. Informed by original ethnographic research I explore how responsibility is practised and negotiated between rough sleepers and local actors through on-site food provisioning activities in the city of Newcastle in northeast England. A distinction and tension was identified between voluntary organisations’ ‘taking care of’ rough sleepers’ food needs, and commissioned service providers and rough sleepers who articulated a ‘caring with’ approach; both practices highlighted a complex interplay between care and responsibilisation framings. The research revealed how these discourses interacted to inform the implementation and responsiveness of local voluntary and policy actors, to the extent that responsibilisation was made possible by the purposeful rendering of collective and situated care practices.
This article begins by posing the question of whether Long-Term Care (LTC) Insurance in South Korea is a socialising care policy. The socialisation of care is an application of the ethics of care as a normative principle governing the public domain. Its key characteristics include challenging the feminisation of care, re-evaluating the value of care, and encouraging the social recognition of care. However, LTC Insurance has reinforced the feminisation of care by treating care as a means for job creation, has weakened the value of care by adopting market distribution principles, and has created a hierarchy of care by professionalising care despite achieving institutionalisation to a certain degree. As a result, Korea’s LTC Insurance has failed to achieve the socialisation of care.
In the context of the UK government’s immigration policies, this article argues that the secondary nature of gender equality compared to the UK government’s multiculturalism and assimilation agendas has directly impacted on South Asian women’s experiences of family abuse. By drawing on the experiences of 11 Pakistani Muslim women, this article explores the manner in which immigration rules can equip perpetrators of abuse with a powerful tool of oppression, where women can be faced with threats of deportation, or be left economically destitute when leaving an abusive relationship. This article also elucidates the overlooked experiences of UK-domiciled women of South Asian heritage with husbands on a spousal visa who are also being adversely affected by these policies. By acknowledging the hidden nature of abuse, and the economic dependency that characterises women’s experiences of abuse, it is argued that the UK government must critically evaluate its immigration policies.
Income management, which reduces the control that benefit recipients have over social security income by quarantining a percentage for approved expenses, was introduced in both Australia and New Zealand in the late 2000s. In Australia, income management explicitly targeted Indigenous communities, being initiated as part of the Northern Territory Emergency Response in 2007, then later extended to other benefit recipients. In New Zealand, all 16- and 17-year-old benefit recipients and 18-year-old parents on a benefit became subject to income management in 2012 as a means to inhibit future ‘welfare dependency’ amongst young people. Despite the absence of an explicitly racialised framing in New Zealand, this article contends that both income management programmes represent a form of institutional racism, disproportionately affecting Indigenous peoples and significantly limiting Indigenous opportunities for self-determination.
Migrants as a group are recognised as being at risk of receiving low retirement pensions. Income over a lifetime is the principle for calculating pension rights. We have interviewed a group of migrants about their retirement preparations. Our results show that there are obstacles that obstruct migrants from entering the Swedish labour market, which will greatly influence future pension rights. There are various lock-in effects that isolate migrants from the labour market and thus affect their present and future financial situation. Examples are labour market policy activities and that the minimum level pensions have mobility restrictions. These trajectories are set in perspective to Nancy Fraser’s reasoning on justice in a transnational setting and Yeheskel Hasenfeld’s reflections on people processing. An important implication from our findings is the need to explore ways to include a group that is currently excluded from the labour market, hence adequate retirement income protection.
The use of indicators and indexes in social policy, as part of evidence-based policy, is understood by governmentality scholars as ‘techniques of governance’. However, we know very little about how the process of quantification is enacted in the material practices that constitute social policy itself. In this article we focus on a particular quantified object: the ‘Normal Amsterdam Level’ (NAP), used in an Amsterdam Neighbourhood Policy programme. We follow the NAP from its birth, to its life and its afterlife. We show that the qualification ‘deprived’ calls forth a whole set of problematic arrangements which are lost in a process of quantification. We understand the NAP as a generative device that actively assembles and arranges the world. These assemblages are rendered ‘hard’ through semiotic, statistical and visual techniques that produce facts about targeted neighbourhoods in relation to a city-wide average, thus serving as evidence and legitimisation for policy interventions.
Crime reduction is a key objective in drug treatment policy and practice, and the criminal justice system (CJS) is a key player in the delivery of treatment, particularly its potential to provide a pathway into drug treatment. Despite cultural, ideological and philosophical differences, criminal justice and health sector workers are expected to work together alongside other agencies to address dependent drug use and associated harms. Through an analysis of in-depth interviews with drug treatment practitioners this article critically examines a number of assumptions underpinning this policy imperative. The author illustrates how the goals and everyday activities of drug workers have become aligned to the CJS, helping to create closer working relationships between these two agencies. However, also argued is how such changes may have helped to constrain drug workers’ relationships with other health and social care agencies, making it difficult to address the complex needs presented by dependent drug users.
This article focuses on the removal in the Children and Families Act 2014 of the so-called ‘ethnicity clause’ relating to adoption. Reviewing the background to the contentious issue of adoption for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic children and the coalition’s drive to increase its scale, the article analyses the discursive resources deployed – especially during the Bill’s passage through Parliament – to justify, oppose or modify the legal change. It is argued that the emergent government policy can be seen as incoherent, even contradictory in relation to ethnicity and its significance and that this can be understood through the competing aims of striking a populist blow against ‘political correctness’ while staving off accusations of being ‘naïve’ (or worse) about race and ethnicity. These developments and debates are also analysed in the context of the growing power of racial neo-liberalism in shaping debates on child welfare.
This article considers how chauvinistic welfare policies operate as a bordering practice. Taking the UK as an example, it examines a process in which welfare provisions have increasingly been withdrawn from a group of people designated as undeserving. It points out a close link between chauvinism based on ethnicity and that based on class. This relation is explored in detail for the case of social housing culminating in today’s ‘social housing for local people’ approach. A second case, access to social services for unaccompanied minors, is presented to illustrate bordering practices that operate in everyday services despite existing legal entitlements. The cases show that governments and service providers frequently act outside their legal remits to pursue this agenda, despite the UK’s anti-discrimination legislation.
The article analyses the role and effects of economic cost and welfare state arguments in Finnish immigration politics and policies. It argues for a need to distinguish between welfare nationalist, welfare chauvinist and welfare exclusionist discourses. Through an examination of the immigration programmes of the political parties and parliamentary debates and policy documents mapping the changes in asylum policy in 2009–2011, the article shows that welfare nationalism strongly characterises the way asylum and non-Western migration is treated in Finnish politics. Welfare chauvinism is typical for right-wing populist argumentation, but is also used by individual politicians from other parties and by policy makers. Examples of welfare exclusionism were found in party programmes but not in the policy process. Moreover, it is argued that struggles over welfare benefits cannot be understood without an analysis of the cultural definitions of national belonging.
The twin thrusts of neoliberal paternalism have in recent decades become fused elements of diverse reform agendas across the advanced economies, yet neoliberalism and paternalism present radically divergent and even contradictory views of the subject across the four key spaces of ontology, teleology, deontology and ascetics. These internal fractures in the conceptual and resulting policy framework of neoliberal paternalism present considerable risks around unintended policy mismatch across these four spaces or, alternatively, offer significant flexibility for deliberate mismatch and ‘storying’ by policy makers. This article traces these tensions in the context of the UK Coalition government’s approach to the unemployed and outlines a current policy approach to employment activation that is filled with ambiguity, inconsistency and contradiction in its understanding of the subject, the ‘problem’ and the policy ‘solution’.
This article examines categories of deservingness in social policy. It argues that immigrant groups are positioned differently according to their status and perceived ‘value’ for society. On the one hand, most states need several types of migrant labour; on the other hand, they wish to limit other types of migrants. The balance between humanitarian obligations and this urge to control has led to the development of ambiguous policy designs. This tendency can also be found in Denmark. Public policies and the attribution of public goods and rights are increasingly developed within a hierarchical system of civic stratification that legitimises welfare chauvinism, rather than defending the universalist principle embedded in a universal/social-democratic welfare state model. The article investigates welfare chauvinism in relation to unemployment/social security benefits for labour migrants and refugees.
Comparatively slow in adopting any clear activation strategy, post-crisis Ireland crossed the Rubicon and rapidly took steps to implement a work-first labour activation strategy. The article maps and examines the interaction of three variables – ideational influences, political interests and institutional processes – to assess the nature of post-crisis Irish activation policy. Troika imposition of aid conditionality, the ideational role of the OECD and domestic elites worked to shift the focus of Irish activation policy and its implementation. Post-crisis Irish activation is less influenced by social democratic versions of high-road activation than neo-liberal managerial stock management and conservative behavioural controls. These converge into a low-road model of activation. There is some demand for, but little articulation of, an alternative policy that could be centred around less conditionality and more focus on demand-side issues including low pay, quality work, distribution of employment and removal of barriers to employment.
The article scrutinises a version of welfare chauvinism taking shape in Sweden, by concentrating on the concept of folkhem (the [Swedish] people’s home), and examines how it was expressed in the 2010–2014 parliamentary activity of the Sweden Democrats. It offers an analysis of how the welfare chauvinism project is first contextualised in the party documents, and subsequently articulated in the party-endorsed parliamentary motions. The article is an analytical contribution to welfare studies and to analyses of the populist radical right, providing a critical inquiry into welfare chauvinism in Sweden. The article is also an empirical contribution to the study of the populist radical right in Sweden.
Exclusionary policing has been a strong, enduring trend for responding to the presence of marginalised groups in public spaces of Western cities – at times so dominant that it overshadows the existence of alternative rationalities such as public health and social justice. Are such alternatives simply powerless? Are they mere auxiliaries of exclusive strategies? In Montreal, public order, public health and social justice have been embodied by a variety of stakeholders and strategies, thereby offering the chance to explore the intercourse between the three rationalities in a situated way. While public health and social justice have long supported each other, relationships with public order have often presented conflict. The case of Montreal, however, also reflects some shifts towards balanced collaboration under certain circumstances that will be scrutinised.
In this paper I extend the literature on ‘illegal’ migrant workers by connecting the macro-level discussion on policies to the lived experiences of migrant domestic workers (MDWs) in Lebanon. I analyse two seemingly contrasting categories of ‘illegal’ migrant workers. First, the MDWs working illegally and desperate to return home, who are unable to return because of the system of migration in Lebanon. Second, MDWs banned by their state from migrating to Lebanon but who choose devious ways to make the journey. I argue that despite their apparently disparate subject positions, both sets of migrant workers are ‘illegal’ because of an underlying paternalism in the policies of nation-states towards MDWs – the gendered construction of MDWs as workers who need both protection and surveillance. This paternalism, in turn, produces a class of ‘global exiles’ who are working and living in prolonged separation from their home. They are abandoned by their home countries but trapped without any rights as either workers or citizens in the host country.
As part of New Labour’s commitment to reducing social exclusion, their Teenage Pregnancy Strategy (1999–2010) aimed to reduce teenage conceptions in England and Wales and to increase the participation of young parents in education, employment and training. The Coalition government, while discontinuing the Strategy, has increased the focus on early intervention, parenting and targeted support for ‘troubled families’. This article examines teenage pregnancy and parenting policies in the context of an alternative educational setting for pregnant young women and mothers. Young women and staff in this setting held complex attitudes towards the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy and towards parenting interventions and ideas about ‘good’ motherhood. The data demonstrate both resistance to and support for such policy interventions, as well as a contested and unstable notion of the ‘good mother’. The article argues that parenting education needs to be sensitive towards structural inequalities and difficulties rather than purely focusing on behaviour change.
Ireland has gained a reputation for peaceable acceptance of austerity following a European Union/International Monetary Fund bailout in 2010. While proponents of austerity praise Ireland’s stoicism, critics of global capitalism argue that individuals and families are paying for mistakes made by elites. However, little is known about the strategies people adopt to cope with cutbacks to welfare entitlements. Drawing on a study of solidarity between generations living in Ireland in 2011–12, this article explores the lived experience of economic crisis and austerity. One hundred interviews with people of all ages and socio-economic backgrounds are analysed using constructivist grounded theory. Data show how austerity impacts differentially according to socio-economic status. While solidarity between generations leads to re-distribution of resources within families, providing some security for people with access to family resources, it reinforces inequality at societal level. We conclude that reliance on family promotes ‘coping’ rather than ‘protesting’ responses to austerity.
Focusing on the domestic violence sector as a case study, this article examines how the Big Society agenda, coming alongside public spending cuts, is affecting the independence and ability of women’s organizations to engage in progressive policy shaping. By situating the analysis of the Big Society agenda within the broader context of international civil society strengthening programmes, the article considers how the processes currently unfolding in England, share certain similarities to what has happened globally wherever neoliberal policies aimed at instrumentalizing civil society for service delivery have been implemented. It contends that the policies of the Big Society agenda, which are aimed at strengthening the ‘capacity’ of civil society, are instead creating a situation where the independence and ability of civil society organizations to engage in progressive policy making is weakened.
In 2010, the Coalition government announced its plans for adoption reform which included ‘removing barriers’ to transracial adoption. The government has blamed social workers’ looking for ‘perfect ethnic matches’ for denying black and minority ethnic children placements with ‘loving and stable families’. The paper draws upon qualitative research with professionals and parents, which shows that the government has failed to take into account the complex ways in which race and ethnicity matter within adoption. Their wish to deracialize transracial adoption fits with wider concerns about race mixing, families and national belonging in multicultural Britain. While they attempt to minimize the importance of race and ethnicity, they continue to place race at the heart of these debates.
Drawing upon analysis of policy documents and interviews with key policy makers and professionals co-ordinating Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) in various settings, this paper interrogates the socio-political drivers underpinning SRE policy and practice with reference to the contemporary Welsh context. In media output in the UK context and beyond, there have been widespread public concerns about the over-sexualization of young girls, sexual grooming and the increasing commercialization of sex. These issues are also significant in Wales, but a different socio-political culture has led to different public pronouncements and a distinctive SRE approach. In this paper, we outline relatively new Welsh Assembly Government guidance on SRE (March 2010) in the context of a devolved education system. We argue that the characteristics of the Welsh approach to SRE include an emphasis on children’s rights and citizenship values, together with efforts to make SRE delivery more multidisciplinary and integrated. We also identify a different political rhetoric around sexual morality and family values, compared with that of England. This more progressive approach to SRE policy making, implementation and delivery in Wales is contrasted with the more heated pronouncements on the subject emanating from Westminster, particularly in recent years.
Access to justice was central to the post-war Welfare State but this has been under attack, as part of wider neo-liberal challenges. The impacts have been experienced particularly sharply in disadvantaged areas where Law Centres have been providing services to those unable to access welfare rights by other means. The research that underpins this article set out to explore the ways in which these policies have been experienced by those who provide these services, examining their dilemmas as professionals and volunteers in the front-line of welfare provision. The article concludes that whilst there was some evidence that professional ethics and values were being maintained, this was too often at the expense of the staff concerned. Marketization strategies had been undermining public service morale, despite evidence of some continuing resilience and commitment to the provision of access to justice and welfare rights for the most disadvantaged, posing questions about the limits of markets more widely.
This paper examines the ‘ideological grip’ of personalization. It does so empirically, tracking the trajectory of personalization through austerity budgeting in one English local authority. In this case, personalization continued to signify hope and liberation even though the most draconian cuts in the Council’s history effectively rendered personalization a practical impossibility. This requires critical theorization. Two bodies of theory are interrogated. First Boltanski’s sociology of critique, and, in particular, his notion of managerial domination illuminate the way in which change imperatives and crises come to cement ideological formations. Here it is argued that the articulation of personalization with transformation lends itself to managerial domination. It is further argued, though, that while institutional actors may be able to manipulate the symbolic to evade, what Boltanski terms, deconstructionist critique, this cannot entirely explain the hold of this particular discourse. Here, the Lacanian concept of enjoyment is deployed to interrogate its extra-symbolic function and fantasmatic form. Finally, the paper explores the political implications of such affective attachment and, in particular, the guarantee that personalization offers in a period of welfare state decline.
Recent public health policy has emphasized the promotion of behavioural change and the achievement of healthy lifestyles as central to tackling deeply ingrained health inequalities in the UK and beyond. These approaches contrast with more upstream structural strategies that aim to address material determinants of health. A current exemplar of the behaviourist approach is the use of social marketing as a methodology in public health. Social marketing is posited as a strategy for creating ‘social good’ through importing the methods of commercial marketing into health and social policy in a range of settings, in this instance, public health. In contrast to the traditional public health goals of serving society and improving the wellbeing of populations, those of social marketing, as with other recent strategies in health and social policy, start with the management of behaviours and lifestyles, responsibility for which is placed with the individual. It is argued that this reflects a broader ‘behavioural turn’ in public health methodologies that increasingly obviate the significance of social and relational determinants of health. Qualitative data collected with a sample of public health professionals (n = 17) are discussed to examine the adoption of these new methodologies in a specific locality in the UK. The wider implications of these practices for public health strategies both nationally and internationally are considered.
‘Asset-based welfare’ was one of the social policy innovations of the last Labour government in the UK. A recent financialization critique suggests policies such as the Child Trust Fund were aimed at creating subjects for financial markets. This paper argues that the focus on New Labour in Westminster overlooks the way that the Welsh government tried to shape asset-based welfare in different directions. This is emphasized as part of efforts to boost financial inclusion, that is the access that those on low incomes have to mainstream financial services. The Welsh government placed more weight on this alternative financial inclusion agenda by boosting progressive universalism and encouraging the delivery of assets through credit unions. Welsh efforts though were constrained by both the ideology and austerity programme imposed from the centre.