The Role of the Concept of Need and Inequality Social Policy

1527 Words7 Pages
From the inauguration of state organised welfare the concepts of ‘need’ and inequality have been at the centre of discussions and debates on social policy. Since the 19th century it has widely been accepted that the state has some responsibility towards attempting to fulfil some of civil society’s needs and the needs of those most at risk. Changing definitions and attitudes surround the concepts of need and inequality; this means any discussion of these instantly encapsulates the political and ideological debates which affect all aspects of social policy. Titmuss (ed. 1987) writes that ‘collectively provided services are deliberately designed to meet certain socially recognized ‘needs’; they are manifestations’ this means any changes…show more content…
Yet there were many different ideas on what was seen as real ‘need’ and who was seen as deserving of welfare. In the Victorian era people were either deemed as ‘deserving’ or ‘undeserving’ poor; basically meaning that their poverty was either created by their own failings such as alcohol abuse or by eventualities which were out of their control such as job losses or illness (thus making them deserving) (Fraser, 1984). With the expansion of State welfare, and the bureaucracy which came with it, the poor were no longer categorised into deserving or undeserving instead their ‘needs’ were assessed. The introduction of the means test established a way of determining the extent of the needs of people. Although this may appear a fair way of organising welfare it has in fact had detrimental effects; according to Deacon & Bradshaw (1983) the means test is ‘socially divisive’ as it has ‘given rise to gross distortions in the distribution of income amongst poorer families’. This system has also failed to deliver benefits to many people who need them as the means tested service has reflected values approved by society for example marriage, thus leaving those who do not conform to these values in a worse position financially (Deacon & Bradshaw, 1983). Although means testing should essentially redistribute wealth through taxation, evidence has shown that it has done little to combat
Get Access