Social policy in the UK

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Social policy is a very complex area, and this chapter has only offered a brief summary of the most significant recent changes to the UK welfare state. Social policy expenditure has fluctuated over time, with considerable increases through the late 1990s and 2000s, but reductions planned in many areas by the current Coalition Government. The UK welfare state has slowly come to terms with women’s engagement in the labour market, but failed to overcome the persistent inequality between male and female incomes. While competition and choice have been introduced in many areas of the welfare state, their impacts have been varied and contested. Aside from health and education, UK social policy has become increasingly ‘residualised’, with many transfers now means-tested and services like social housing becoming less widely available. At the same time, however, different patterns can be observed across the UK, particularly in the fields of social care and education, where different arrangements apply in different nations. Future developments in social policy are likely to be shaped by the challenge of an ageing population, and the recently hardened public attitude towards particular groups of social policy beneficiaries.

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Publication dateAug 2013
Publication titlePolitics UK
EditorsBill Jones, Philip Norton
Number of pages20
Edition8th ed
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-315-74072-0, 978-1-317-58103-1
ISBN (Print)978-0-415-73537-7
Original languageEnglish


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