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Welfare and society

1. Discuss welfare and social policy.

2. Include in your discussion the perspectives on welfare and social policy (feminist perspectives and sociological perspectives). Thank you.

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1. Discuss welfare and social policy.

The following response is taken from one source, which is listed at the end of this repsonse.

Welfare and society

Social policy draws on sociology to explain the social context of welfare provision. If we are trying to improve people's welfare, it is helpful to try to understand something about the way that people are, and how welfare policies relate to their situation. Some writers have gone further, arguing that because welfare takes place in a social context, it can only be understood in that context. This has been particularly important for 'critical social policy', which begins from a view of social policy as underpinned by social inequality - particularly the inequalities of class, race and gender.

The social structure

Societies are 'structured' in the sense that people's relationships follow consistent patterns. Fiona Williams has argued that social policy is dominated in practice by the dominant values of society - the issues of family, work and nation.

Family A range of policies are built around the idea of the 'family' as a man, woman and children. Examples are child benefits, education and child care. Some countries have policies built on the idea of the man as 'breadwinner', with support based on the idea that the marriage is permanent and the woman will not work. Families which deviate from the norm - for example, poor single mothers - are likely to be penalised, though there may also be anomalies in the organisation of benefits (e.g, when promiscuity is accepted and stable cohabitation is not).

Work Many systems of social protection depend on a stable work record for basic cover in unemployment, ill health and old age. Workers who misbehave - for example, by striking or being dismissed - may be penalised.

Nation Most systems discriminate against non-citizens, and many have residence rules for particular benefits or services. Immigrants are likely to have different, and often second-class, services.

These issues are discussed further in the sections which follow.

Family policy

The normal family

"Normal" does not mean "average"; it means "conforming to social norms". The 'normal' family consists of of two parents with one or more children, but it is increasingly untypical in developed countries. Several factors have contributed to this trend:

- ageing populations, which mean that increasing numbers of households consist of elderly people without children;
- the delay in undertaking childbirth, which means that more households consist of single women or couples without children;
- the growth of single parenthood; and
- household fission - the tendency for households to split, because of divorce and earlier independence for children.

Social policies sometimes seek to reinforce the normal family, by rewarding normal conduct or penalising "deviant" (non-normal) circumstances. Rewards include subsidies for married dependants and children; penalties include requirements to support one's family, and legal and financial deterrents to divorce. At the same time, the assumption that couples live more cheaply than single people may lead to two single people getting greater support: cohabitation rules, treating people living together as if they were married, are used to ensure equity with married couples.

Single parents

The rise in single parenthood is mainly based on three factors:

- Divorce, which has been increasing as women have gained independence in finance and career;
- Unemployment. Unemployment is correlated with divorce, partly because it strains the marriage, and partly, perhaps, because it has undermined the role of the traditional male breadwinner.
- Cohabitation. This effect is a statistical artefact, rather than a real change in parental status.
- There is no reason to attribute the rise to teenage motherhood (which, like other forms of motherhood, has tended to fall).

The position of single parents who receive social benefits has been controversial.

1. The liberal individualist position is that if people choose to have children it's then up to them to look after their family.
2. The collectivist position, and to a large extent the dominant position in continental Europe, is that children are other people's business as well. There is also a strong body of opinion which considers that the interests of the children override any moral concerns about the status of the parents.

Teenage pregnancy

Teenage pregnancy was the norm in previous generations, but it has become more common for women to delay childbearing. The reasons for the delay, and for falling birthrates, include

- the effect of urban society on the cost of having children;
- the changing role of women;
- the economic effect of female employment, which leads to a loss of income if women leave the labour market to have children;
- increasing education and later marriage; and
- the availability of contraception.

Teenage pregnancy is highest when these factors do not apply to the same degree. This accounts for the apparent association ...

Solution Summary

Discusses welfare and social policy and then explaons the two concepts from a feminist and sociological perspectives. References are provided.