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Social Policy was founded by Professor Richard Titmuss in the 1950s, he was the first professor of social policy and he linked social policy to social work. There is Social policy in every government today, where different social policies are used to address different social situations in different social fields. Ireland as a country is not an exception, because Irish government also uses social policies in governing. This essay will attempt to explain social policy at work in Ireland with relatable examples from abroad. The essay will define and view social policy and ideology from different lenses for a better grasp of the subject matter. The essay will go further to show the relationship between social policy and ideology: why social policy and ideology work hand in hand, the objective and the outcome. The birth of social policy in Ireland what led to it and how it embarked on the process of developing? The journey begets Poor Law, what was Poor Law and how it was implemented. All these are crucial if one wants to know ‘why ideology is central to social policy?’
Platt (n.d.) defined social policy as being “concerned with the ways societies across the world meet human needs for security, education, work, health and wellbeing”. In addition, Social Policy is the academic study of the government responses to the welfare at a given time known as the social services. On the other hand, the social policies of the government are centered on impact of welfare and human wellbeing. Internationally, social policy takes into consideration how developed and developing countries carry out social and public policies. It takes a close look at all the factors of public policy and how welfares are served in different situations such as the family, market, civil society, and the state. A good social policy engages interdisciplinary knowledge like understanding the conditions, institutions and factors of social change with view from anthropology, demography, criminology, economics, sociology, political science and growth. When it comes to application, social policy employs analytical and conceptual skills in finding out social problems, the implementation of social policies and evaluating the possible outcome (positive/negative) across varies situations such as high, middle, low income country context.
McLennan (1991:114) argued that “ideologies are sets of ideas, assumptions and images, by which people make sense of the society, which give a clear social identity, and which serve in some way to legitimize power relation in society”. Therefore, ideologies are the collection of opinions at the Centre of social policy to influence policy making and it presents a lot of benefits thus: There are collection of views that powers social policy making, and the politics of welfare is rooted on it – this is known as Ideologies of Welfare. Ideologies gives people a better perspective of the society and it is used to examine social problems. Ideology create the way one views social policy, this can be seen in two lights: the deserving and undeserving poor. The deserving poor are people that are not able to work because they are disabled, sick or old. The undeserving poor are that group of people that are able bodied, that can work but refused to work. In the 20th century for instance, the British government used the poor tax on householders to create provisions for the poor. The policy was carefully made to deter all except the desperate from partaking, the welfare was made so wretched than the poorest worker just to ensure motivation to work at any jobs. (Herinst.org.2018).
There are ideological elements that facilitates the social policy making in Ireland, these are social values, the constitution, the European Union, Pressure group, and Media. The social policy making takes place in Irish government offices known as the three elements of checks and balances on policy making. These are legislature in the parliament (Dail and Seanad) which is the factory for the creation of the law. The executive which is the elected government, the government is empowered to make decisions on certain policy and implement it. And the third is the Judiciary, where the policy is interpreted and tested for its lawfulness.
The shape of ideology conforms to the situation the policy is set to address and they are named differently in governments. The ideologies that are opposite or parallel in nature in a political sphere are known as dichotomies, for instance: left and right, the secular and the religious, the upper class and the working class, or Patriarchy and the gender equality. The left wing and right wing of ideologies in politics came after the 1798 revolution in the French Parliament, where the right wing believed in free market, limited provision for welfare and individualism. While the left believed on universalism, intervention of state, social right, equality and collective provision. (Considine & Dukelow, 2009). Trichotomies on the other hand, is the existence of three ideologies like the conservative, liberal and the socialist.
The Birth of Irish Social Policy
Social Policy was born in Ireland in the 17th – 18th century, just before the welfare provision in the 19th century. Citizens are categorized into two group, there was the desirable and the undesirable. The desirable are the people that have some control and order one way or the other, while the undesirable are able bodied people that refused to work and were busy moving from place to place. The poor law act in 1703 was the first act enacted, where provisions were made directly to the poor to alleviate the Irish from poverty. Work houses were built to employ, maintain and keep the poor under check in Dublin and Cork, the aim was to control them rather than meeting their needs. Farley (1964) gave an account of nine operational work houses in Ireland by the year 1838. The large number of abandoned children of the poor families at the work house, made it possible for the work house to be converted into Dublin Foundling Hospital in 1720. The condition at the hospital was so bad, hence, 9,786 children died out of 12,768 children between 1790 and 1796. (Raftery and O’Sullivan, 1999). The efforts of the philanthropist in running and funding hospitals, helped immensely in improving the lives of the poor.
The Irish and British politics became one in the 19th century, political decisions were made in London while Irish state welfare became deplorable because it was ignored for a century. (Gilleducation.ie, 2018). The introduction of the Poor law became the most significant event in the Irish history, starting with legislation for dispensaries fund in the rural areas. Yet medical assistance was not available for all, as wealthier areas that raised fund voluntary would be less in need than the poor areas. Ireland later became the first country in Europe to established Public lunatic asylum in 1817, it was an advancement from punishment to the belief that the lunatics could be cured. The asylum house increased to 22 between 1810 and 1869 as admission of the lunatics kept rising. (Malcolm, 1999).
National schools were established in 1831, education was a means of enhancing industrial and economic growth. But the Irish viewed it differently, they saw it as a means for cultural empowerment. The Board of Commission for National Education was headed by both Protestants and Catholics in 1831, they were supervising and funding the schools. The aim of the commission was to achieve Multi-denomination schools, aim was not achieved as the religious groups did not buy the idea.
Ireland was not largely affected by industrial revolution, as it did in Britain and some other countries. The Irish National earning then was farming, Ireland supplied both local and international demand. The agricultural produce was taken to Britain, due to rise in demand in response to industrial revolution. The Irish migrated to Britain during this era, in search of better jobs. The local textile industry had set backs from labour and textile products from Britain that flooded the market in Ireland. The economic meltdown in 1800s did not help matters, there was decline in demand for Irish produce due to industrial boom in Britain. Lands were owned by landlord, who allowed tenants to rent the land to farm. The austerity got so bad that the tenants could not afford labour, as such income dropped. Payment to landlords was not consistent, Landlords had to partitioned land into smaller bits to rent out. It resulted into smaller produce, not enough for survival or settling bills. The relationship between farmers and landlords was tensed, inequality and poverty were on the rise. Poor law Inquiry Commission acknowledged all these happening in the findings but failed to define how poverty was to be measured.
The Poor Law
The movement between Britain and Ireland was not easy, yet there are a lot of Irish people in Britain under the Poor law. The Irish people that went with their families became destitute, the rise in Irish poor in Britain was a problem to wages and social peace. Hence the creation of the 1838 Poor Law Act, which was a barrier to Irish policy enhancement regarding rules, administration, services and attitude. The ‘Act for the relief of the poor’ in 1601, was an outdoor service where clothes and food are given to the poor in their homes unlike the work house. This idea was gentle and exorbitant for centuries, a New Poor Law emerged 1834. It was “An Act for the Amendment and Betterment Administration of the Laws relating to the Poor in Britain and Wales” with less eligibility as its new principles. The Poor Law was taken to Ireland, after the refusal of several proposals of the Royal Commission of Inquiry on the poorer classes in Ireland. The Protestant Arch- Bishop Dr. Whately was the Head of the Commission, he discarded the principle of less eligibility. He argued that the labour force wants to work, but jobs were not given to them because it was not meant for them. So, it was not the fault of the labour force that they are not working. This view did not sit well with the dominant ideologies in Britain. One of the poor law commissioners George Nicholl who was fully behind the new poor law, was sent to examine the situation in Ireland. He gave a report and recommended after six weeks, that there should be no relief right and that relief should only be given in the work-house.
Implementation of the Poor Law
The implementation of the Irish Poor law was sluggish as the relief was not automatic in nature and life within the work house was governed. No right to relief and admission into work houses depended on the guardians and priority as there were few houses. Priority takes the children, old folks and women over able men. Life inside the house was classified, for a good control and management of the house. This process failed however, due to indiscipline, dilapidation and crisis at the wake of 1845 famine.
The people that were reluctant to enter the work house, were so interested during the famine 1845 – 1847. The standard of the work house dropped, the house was now over crowded. State intervention was relief in the work house, which had 110,000 capacity. A million Irish lost their lives this period, potato crops failed, government assistance was low until voluntary assistance made way. Quakers, a voluntary charity organization volunteered soup kitchen. O’Connor (1995) argued that Irish famine was printed in the British media, this led to the creation of more soup kitchen, to support those that could not gain access to the work-house in 1847. The situation was so critical that a new act emerged, ‘Irish Poor Relief Extension Act’, the act came with relief right and relief were given to Irish victims outside in food form by the relieving officers. There was a scale of preference to this relief, it was accorded to the sick, aged, widows and children. The able-bodied men get little relief outside, they are referred to the house just to discourage them from idleness. The poor law commissioners decided to display the names of partakers, the aim was to deter participants and to check fraud. The emergence of the Relief Distress Act 1880 came with a generous relief provision, with outside provision to all and this led to the Supplementary Welfare Allowance of the present day. The Guardians played the important role of engaging in emigration of the Irish to Britain and other countries, where labour and women are needed. Emigration decongested and reduced funding for the work-houses. The famine was so severe that there was an increase in disease and sickness, the poor law unions were then given the role to build hospitals in the work-houses and land to serve as a graveyard by the legislation in 1846. The board of guardian started managing dispensaries in 1851, they supply drugs and pay the attached doctors.
The above essay has attempted to define and explain the relationship between social policy and ideology, viewed it from different perspective for clarity sake. It elaborates the beginning of social policy in Ireland, factors that led to it and how it fared. The emergence of the poor law, what was and how it was implementation.
- Considine, M. And Dukelow, F. (2009) Irish Social Policy. Ireland. MPG Books Group.
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- Pahl,J.(n.d.) The family and welfare: Baldock J. Mitton L. Manning N. Vickerstaff S. (2012) Social Policy. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Ch. 6.
- Platt, L. (2018). What is social policy? [online] London School of Economics and Political Science. Available at: http://www.lse.ac.uk/social-policy/about-us/What-is-social-policy [Accessed 15 Nov. 2018].
- Taylor, S. (2018) PowerPoint presentation accessed through Moodle. SP151: Ideologies and social policy making. Maynooth University (Accessed 16 November 2018).
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