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Social policy primarily refers to guidelines and interventions for the changing, maintenance or creation of living conditions that are conducive to human welfare. Thus, social policy is that part of public policy that has to do with social issues. The Malcolm Wiener Center for Social Policy at Harvard Universitymarker describes it as "public policy and practice in the areas of health care, human services, criminal justice, inequality, education, and labor" Social policy often deals with issues which Rittle & Webber (1973) called wicked problems.

Social Policy is also distinct as an academic field which focuses on the systematic evaluation of societies' responses to social need. London School of Economicsmarker professor Richard Titmuss is considered to have established Social Policy (or Social Administration) as an academic subject and many universities offer the subject for undergraduate and postgraduate study.

History of social policy

Early proponents of scientific social planning, such as the sociologist Auguste Comte, and social researchers, such as Charles Booth, contributed to the emergence of social policy. Surveys of poverty that exposed the brutal conditions that existed, such as in the urban slum conurbations of Victorian Britain, pressured changes such as the reform of the Poor Law and welfare reforms by the British Liberal Party. Other significant examples of social policy are the social security policies introduced by the New Deal in the United States between 1933 and 1935 and health reforms in the UK following the Beveridge Report of 1942.

Types of social policy

Social policy aims to improve human welfare and to meet human needs for education, health, housing and social security. Social policies will be approached in vastly different ways depending on the ideological leanings of the governing power. Important areas of social policy are:

The term 'social policy' can also refer to policies which govern human behaviour. 'Social policy' may refer to the following issues:

Examples of social policy

See also

Further Reading

Titmuss, R. M. (1951) Problems of social policy. HM Stationery Off. ISBN ?
Dean, H. (2006). Social Policy. Cambridge: Polity Press. ISBN 9780745634340.


Rittel, H. & Webber, M. (1973). Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning. Policy Sci 4:155-169.
  1. web-page at, retrieved 15th July, 2008.

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