Awkward Problems in Social Policy

By Staley, Louise | Review - Institute of Public Affairs, January 2008 | Go to article overview

Awkward Problems in Social Policy


Staley, Louise, Review - Institute of Public Affairs


Women and welfare after Howard

Utopias are easy to imagine.

Far more difficult is the task of imagining what a new liberalism movement would look like if some attention needs to be paid to electability. In the case of social policy (policies about human welfare and behaviour), arguments about electability are often overshadowed by emphatic moral claims.

Part of the challenge for the Liberal Party has been the influence of conservatism on its organisation, but the rise of the conservatives within the Party does not fully explain the difficulties that it experiences in dealing with social issues. With the notable exception of welfare policy, there has been a failure to engage with the complexity of most social policy issues. Advocates of liberalism have failed to develop in social policy the philosophically informed, but evidence-based, ideas seen in education, public management and many other areas.

Social policy is a wide field, encompassing discrimination, childcare, same-sex legal equality, maternity leave, affirmative action, poverty, welfare-as well as the highly controversial and polarising issues of drugs, abortion, euthanasia and stem cell research. Two areas of social policy, welfare and public policy concerning women illustrate the awkward complexities social policy presents for liberalism. In the case of welfare, the liberal virtue of self-reliance informed major policy innovation while women's policy suffered the twin ills of big government conservatism and a failure to draw upon a core principle of liberalism: equality of opportunity.

Welfare

With the introduction by the Keating government of 'Working Nation', the political culture in Australia changed from a consensus that unemployment benefits are there to look after those whom society has failed, to a division into those who believe that welfare is a stepping stone back into societal participation (Labor's rhetoric) and those who believe that welfare is a barrier to social participation (Coalition rhetoric).

In either case, the result has been a change from the situation that prevailed until the 1980s (where all unemployed people were entitled to government support), to one where only those actively trying to obtain work could receive benefits.

Research shows strong support for 'Work for the Dole' across all educational levels. Significantly, support for 'Work for the Dole' programmes is higher in people who have been vocationally trained than all other groups. These tradespeople are the so-called 'Howard Battlers', who, through their own efforts, have achieved a decent income and lifestyle-and think that others should make a similar effort.

In a strong economy, and with unemployment at record lows, it is the ideal time to capitalise on this feeling in the community that anyone who wants a job can get one. To do so, it is important that future movements articulate the case for further reform towards personal income responsibility for those of working age. For example, the contemporary trend to move middle-aged dole-recipients onto disability payments needs to be rejected as a major problem, not just for the welfare system but for the individuals themselves.

Welfare payments to single mothers present particular ideological challenges for both conservatives and liberals. For conservatives, there is the problem of balancing their moral objection to exnuptial births against their desire to see women stay at home and look after their children. Conservatives appear not to recognise any contradiction between forcing sole parents to work and advocating tax breaks or welfare payments for married women who stay at home. On the other hand, liberals have to reconcile their support for individual choices about family structure with the evidence of diminished opportunities for children of sole-parent families.

Under the Howard government, tentative steps were made to limit sole-parent benefits and these reforms were driven by the same concerns as those surrounding unemployment benefits-welfare dependency is bad for the recipient, and especially children. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Awkward Problems in Social Policy
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.