|Work in progress, expect frequent changes. Help and feedback is welcome. See discussion page.|
Our day to day lives are determined by the various policies that are formulated and implemented. However, social policy has taken the back bench. Access to basic services such as decent shelter, education, health care, clean water and sanitation is not well distributed and in most circumstances is priced beyond the reach of the most needy in society. It can therefore be stated that social policy are courses of action that represent a deliberate attempt to achieve goals aimed at enhancing the well-being of individuals and groups in society. These courses of action have a process outline for policy analysis and proposes a model which is a chronological description of what should happen in policy formulation process. These stages are;
- policy research and analysis
- policy development and structuring
- policy purveyance and implementation
- policy assessment and evaluation
Social Policy Concept
The concept of Social policy is self explanatory and it conveys the same meaning to every reader and requires no explicit definition. Social policy is a lay term, not a technical one. The importance of social policy is appreciated when its noted that the overall quality of life prevailing in a society is shaped by the quality of social policies. This is so because the quality of life may be understood as the aggregate of individual circumstances of living, resulting quality of human relations and the quality of the environment which in turn is the consequence of the interaction of human beings with their natural habitant.
Social policy endeavours to lessen the gap between structural irregularities in wealth and means of production by inaugurating the best available socio-economic conditions, enhancing equality and protecting the most vulnerable groups in society by correcting the short comings of the general market. Social policy is tailored to improve the standards of living of all individuals and equal access to life sustaining structures such are education, health, decent shelter, clean water and sanitation.
Financing Social Policy
Social policy focuses on universal acceptable standards in as far as human rights and development is concerned. However, how can these policy measures be sustained taking into account that the are formulated with an influence whose political calibre varies from other set ups? For instance, most, if not all African policies such as equal access to basic education are formulated with a western influence whose political calibre and economy varies greatly with that of most African nations. How can access to basic education be sustained? How can we protect the rights that have been vested by these policies formulated with a model not ideal for all set ups? Well, some countries have managed to perform beyond their economic potential with the vast exploitation of their natural resources, but this is reversible with regard to depreciation and macro economic and financial imbalances which are highly incompatible with the social performance.
Unless funding is adequate, there will always be conflict between citizens rights as outlined in the fundamental principles of a respective land and the growing impediments in seeing to it that basic rights for the populace are fully met.
What Next for Social Policy?
But is there a next step for social policy development?
Social policy formulation poses a challenge to stakeholders who are expected to append importance to the process that defines the living circumstances of millions of people. The challenge lie in the areas of updating knowledge through research, capacity building, and finding creative and popular entry points for social policy analysis and action.
A systematic analysis of social policy in world over remains to be done. There is significant scope for recovering knowledge on all dimensions of social policy both as a learning tool and for evaluation purposes. Particularly important are the lessons contained in success stories. Education, health, urban development, housing, family planning, nutrition and household food security have all received tremendous attention, while unemployment and occupational health and welfare could stand greater scrutiny. It is vital to examine why certain initiatives succeeded in order to know what approaches are best in various sectors.
Building a knowledge base calls for the human and institutional capacity to effect such a process. There is a need for expertise in research and evaluation but also in policy formulation and management, technical implementation and extension work. The emphasis should not be on building entirely new human resource structures but on rehabilitating existing ones. Another important element is raising awareness of social policy issues and alerting politicians, policy makers, donors and all other stakeholders and the general populace at large.
Infact, these are interesting times for those engaged in the struggle for social policy world over. We are going through a period of harsh economic effects and this is detrimental to our social fabric. Investing in social policy will be bottom on the list as Governments concentrate more on activities that are likely to calm the economic hardships. This will create a gap in social policy effectiveness and it's relevance will be highly questioned. The emphasis should be to help identify the sort of social investment that is emerging by exploring how the concept of social policy is being shaped in the course of key debates.
With two opposing possibilities for social policy, i.e
- One is a high road agenda for social policy that would likely feature strong public provision of social
programmes or atleast provision of a genuine and compassionate approach to human capital investment, and the creation of quality jobs that lead to greater equality and social justice.
- The other is a low road thrust that would entail privitisation of social programmes, a work for welfare or work first approach that is concerned with getting people off welfare and into a job and the creation of poor quality jobs that lead to greater poverty and inequality.
The question is; which road is being preferred at present?
Intervention Entry Points
Social policy issues are often interrelated and inter-sectoral. Thus, cross-cutting issues rather than broad sectors are potentially more rewarding paths for intervention. Rather than health in itself, a focus on urban poverty would include housing, community participation, health and sanitation, basic education and participatory urban management. Attending to household and family health could include maternal health, child development, nutrition and household food security, housing and sanitation. Interventions to promote the welfare of working people could include social security, unemployment and occupational health. The welfare of youth and the aged could address recreation and leisure, ongoing education, health, narcotics and alcoholism, depression, deviance andcrime.
Other entry-points could include broad themes such as:
- democracy and empowerment in the civil society, which encompasses basic
education, human rights and participatory management and development;
- decentralization of social and public services, embracing issues of decentralization,
participation, and education;
- post-crisis social reconstruction involving rehabilitation of services, capacity-building
for sustainable livelihoods, adult education, family health, the strengthening of
social solidarity and cultural integrity; and
- rural poverty and social change including integrated rural development, primary
health care, strengthening capacity for sustainable livelihoods, primary
environmental care and education.
Given the scale of the world's current problems and the urgency of the tasks of social reconstruction ahead, it is only through a dynamic but integrated and multi-faceted approach that effective and representative interventions will be made.
In formulating the conceptual basis of social policy, it should be noted that the development process is multi dimensional. It is characterised by social, economic, political and cultural aspects. The way a policy is formulated is greatly influenced by the aforementioned values.
Any social development is a function of other social, political or cultural variables. All policies; health, education and so on, inevitably impacts on humans and the society. Social development is not an isolated entity. It is a result of decisions taken and these, whether government or private will have an impact on humans and the society at large. This is due to the interactive relationship and its consequences on other political decisions. For example, quality education and satisfactory health care have positive impact on general populace.
As such there is need to
- strike a balance between access to labour market and access to the basic social
needs and services.
- Demonstrate urgency of harmonizing key sectors in order to cut down on poverty
This will promote equal access to:
- social protection
- basic infrastructure i.e. acceptable shelter
- education, including vocational training
- health, including treatment of endemic diseases
- labour market.
However, the above can only be achieved if the following conditions are prevailing:
- peace and security
- good governance
- good economic policy
- sustainable economic growth
- equal redistribution of labour income
In order to get positive feedback from social policy, there is need to also invest in:
- research and development
- technology and appropriate systems
- cultural preservation
- and most importantly, an updated database on economic and social statistics
systems. This is very vital in monitoring growth of programmes initiated under
auspices of particular policies.
|Work in progress, expect frequent changes. Help and feedback is welcome. See discussion page.|