Social Policy meaning and definition

Social Policy meaning and definition


This subject, formerly known as Social Administration (now changed to Social Policy), has its origins in nineteenth-century Britain. The name change from social administration to social policy was intended to represent a dramatic shift, as administration was thought to focus too closely on the analysis of how welfare services operated, whereas policy would encompass a more broad understanding and holistic analysis of the political and ideological bases of welfare provisions. The history of social policy is closely related to Fabian Politics, in which a critical analysis of existing socioeconomic problems in Britain resulted in the introduction of social protection through the state.


An attempt to define social policy is fraught with practical difficulties. Is there a single social policy with capital S and P, or are there multiple social policies with small s and small p? This question is important because our social policies are divided into policies for scheduled castes, policies for backward classes, policies for weaker sections, policies for women, policies for children, and so on. Is it possible to combine these policies to form a "whole" social policy? We have Directive Principles of State Policy, Fundamental Rights, and the Preamble to the Constitution. Do these constitute a social policy? In light of the preceding quandaries, the following section attempts to define social policy:

The term 'policy' refers to the principles that govern action directed toward any given goal, and can thus imply change. As a result, policy can be described as action-oriented.


As a result, social policy can be viewed as a positive tool for change and as part of a political process. However, it is important to recognize that social policies are not always associated with altruism and are not always positive, because a social policy that benefits one group may actually harm another. As a result, a critical approach to social policy is necessary.

Some define social policy as "action taken to ensure that every member of society is provided with a certain minimum standard of living as well as opportunities."

Social policy can be used in both the plural and singular form. When used in the plural, it refers to a comprehensive and integrated set of policies in the social sectors such as health, social welfare, education, social security, and so on. When used in the singular, it refers to a specific governmental policy such as the policy towards SCs and STs, the policy for providing universal education, and so on.

Here are some definitions of social policy:

  1. David Gill asserts that social policies are principles or courses of action intended to affect:
  2. The general standard of living in a society;
  3. The conditions under which individuals and groups in that society live, and 
  4. The character of intra-societal connections between people, groups, and society at large.

"Social policy is the strategy of action indicating means and methods to be followed in successive phases to achieve the declared social objectives," claims Kulkarni

According to Marshall, the term "social policy" refers to a government's strategy for taking actions that directly affect citizens' welfare by giving them access to resources like services or income.

Prof. Titmuss claims that social policy is the culmination of governmental actions that are specifically intended to increase human welfare.

In summarizing the entire discussion, it can be said that social policy is a deliberate action taken by people, groups, and governments to organise services, opportunities, and social action in order to influence people's lifestyles and start a process to prevent, delay, initiate, and manage change.

So, it can be said that social policy has three main characteristics:

·        It aims to be beneficial by directing welfare for its citizens.

·         It includes both economic and non-economic goals.

·        It entails a certain amount of progressive redistribution in the control of resources from the wealthy to the less fortunate.

Objectives of Social policy

Social policies are frequently said to be intended to affect social change. According to Marshall and Boulding, all social policies are ultimately government policies. Social policy cannot hope to change society fundamentally as part of governmental operations because doing so would mean undermining the foundation upon which governmental authority is based. Social policy cannot bring about a fundamental structural change, whether in socialist or capitalist nations.

·        It can only produce a moderate level of social change, reducing social tension by addressing some undesirable conditions in a section or sections of society.

·         According to Pinker, the goal of social policy should be to minimise suffering and maximise welfare.

·        Improving people's quality of life is another goal of social policy. It is important to consider whose quality of life we are trying to improve. This is a relevant question in developing nations like India where the majority of the populace lives in extreme poverty and cannot access even the most basic necessities for survival. It is claimed that they are living in utter poverty or at or below the poverty line.

Models of Social Policy

Residual Welfare Model of Social Policy

The laissez-faire position is closely associated with this formulation. With the concurrent social changes brought about by industrialization and urbanisation, there has been a grudging acceptance that, in rare instances, family or market malfunctions may call for a temporary supplement to social provisions. However, this approach views the family and the market as the only mechanisms for addressing human needs from the perspective of policy. Less emphasis is placed on eligibility and more on "means-testing."

Such a policy framework is inherently selective, and only the poor who meet the means test are chosen to receive benefits. This is based on the idea that there are only two ways for an individual's needs to be met: through the private market and through their family. Social welfare should only be offered, and then only temporarily, when both of these systems fail.

Some people defend this by claiming that the Welfare State's true goal is to teach people how to survive without it. This model's theoretical underpinnings date back to the era of English Poor Law.

Industrial Achievement- Performance Model of Social Policy

This includes a significant part for organizations that provide social welfare. According to this viewpoint, social needs should be met in accordance with merit, productivity, and work performance. It is derived from various economic and psychological theories that address rewards for effort, the formation of class and group loyalties, and incentives. According to this model, social welfare occupies a significant role and serves as an economic supplement. The underlying principle is still that social needs must be satisfied based on merit, performance at work, and productivity. Its theoretical foundations are found in theories that examined rewards for effort, incentives, and class loyalty formation. It is additionally called the "Handmaiden Model."

Institutional Redistributive Model of Social Policy

In order to cope with the stresses of contemporary complex industrial-urban life, this envisions built-in institutional social provision. According to this theory, social welfare is a significant institution that provides Universalist services outside of the market based on need. It is essentially a command-over-resources-through-time model that incorporates systems of redistribution. According to this theory, social welfare is a crucial social institution that offers universalist services outside of the market based on need. It is intended to include systems of resource redistribution over time and is partially based on the principle of social equality.


Modern concept of social policy is inextricably bound with social justice. Mere equalization of opportunities in an inequalitarian socio-economic system reduces social justice just to absurdity. Thus in the modern concept of social policy, concepts of positive discrimination and equity find prominent place. India follows this model while envisaging social policies. These three models are, of course, only very broad approximations to the theories and ideas of economists, philosophers, political scientists and sociologists. Many variants could be developed of a more sophisticated kind.


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