Social Need and Public Services Term Paper

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Social Need & Public Services

Social Citizenship and Welfare

The concepts of social citizenship and welfare are intertwined in terms of their views on basic human needs and the right to the means of meeting these needs. The concept of social citizenship itself is based upon the investigations and writings of T.H. Marshall (Erickson & Matthews 2003). While welfare even in its earliest forms have always been based upon the well-being of citizens within a country, Marshall expanded this idea to include the rights of citizens beyond only legal and political equality. Indeed, this expansion also includes social equality rights such as a minimum level of economic security and social welfare that should be provided by the state (Erickson & Matthews 2003: 1). In its initial form, social citizenship was limited to the above-mentioned rights as based upon class inequality, while its later expansion also included non-class inequalities and proposed remedial action for these.

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As such, Erickson & Matthews (2003:2) distinguish between two sets of rights and guarantees that form the current understanding of social citizenship: the first is what the authors refer to as "conventional" or "old" rights, such pensions and health care provided by the state, entailing that the state provides its citizens with economic security. The second, "new" set entails equal opportunities for groups within society that have been previously advantaged by political and social structures. Such groups include women, ethnic minorities such as Aboriginal people, the disabled, and others. Equal rights for these groups mean that they have the right to fully participate in public and economic life within the country, and that they are entitled to respect and recognition from their fellow citizens.

While "conventional" social citizenship experienced its greatest growth period during the 1940s and 1950s, the liberation movements during the 1960s saw the expansion of these rights as explicated by Marshall.

Term Paper on Social Need and Public Services Assignment

Social citizenship and its relation to the welfare state has received increasing attention from critics over the last decades of the 20th century to date. Indeed, some have gone as far as stating that Marshall's views are no longer relevant for the current welfare state. Mass opinion appears to tend towards a defection from relying upon the state to provide economic and health security, as an increasing number of citizens tend to make private policy provisions for their health and future pension. This appears to indicate a fundamental disillusion with the concept of social citizenship and with the ability of the state to provide its citizens with the level of financial and health security that they need.

On the other hand, Erickson and Matthews (2003:3) hold that the younger generation has increasingly supported the movement away from the class-oriented equality structure of social citizenship towards a more integrative, socially-oriented equality structure. The authors hold that, while the class-oriented structure tended to be mainly materialistically focused, the focus of the "new" social citizenship values is on the quality of life brought about by social equality. In examining these issues, the authors suggest (2003:3) a distinction between state programs such as health care and public pension, provided universally to all citizens and classes, and programs that focus on redistribution, which are more selective in their benefits.

In general, when examining opinions on social citizenship, the matter appears to be at least as complex as humanity itself. The state is therefore under considerable pressure in its responsibility as social citizen to be "everything to everybody." This is particularly the case with the new values of social citizenship that does indeed include every diverse body within the borders of a country.

Furthermore, every country will handle its social citizenship issues in a different manner, according to the specific paradigms applicable to each situation. Below is an examination of the British welfare state and how its development since the 1940s relates to the ideals and concepts within the framework of social citizenship.

The British Welfare State

While Frank Field (1999) begins his history of the British Welfare State in the Victorian Age, the Welfare State as it is known today was founded by William Beveridge during the 1940s. Following an inquiry during 1941, Beveridge proposed reformations to the British welfare state. In its timely publication during 1942, after the first major Allies victory in World War II, the report was seen as part of the peace process.

Specifically, Beveridge suggested that post-war reconstruction should focus on providing security for all the country's citizens at every stage of their lives, from birth to death. To implement his suggestions, Beveridge did not use any new ideas, but instead effectively synthesized ideas already in existence. Specifically, the 1940s were dedicated to implementing Beveridge's ideals in the form of legislation: The 1944 Butler Act, for example, reformed schooling; the 1945 Family Allowance Act and the 1946 National Insurance Act provided financial security and assistance; and the 1948 National Health Act established a national minimum for the first time. During this time, the British National Health Service (NHS) was also brought into being.

Field (1999) notes that, while Beveridge's ideals were both worthy and valid, they were somewhat impractical in terms of future issues such as inflation, financial instability and political upheaval. Hence, while one of the aims was to establish a welfare state to not only reduce, but eliminate "Want" entirely, this was not the case in practice, as the ensuing decades would soon prove.

The first main problem was continued financing for the NHS. Subsequently, low insurance benefits resulted in poverty for an increasing amount of pensioners, and full employment had become problematic by the 1970s. Some critics hold that none of the idealism displayed by Beveridge had been evident in any subsequent political leaderships in British welfare since the 1940s. According to Field (1999), Thatcherism appears to prove the basic failure of the initial ideals of the social citizenship suggested both by Beveridge and Marshall.

From the 1980s, according to Field (1999), problems with the welfare state became increasingly serious. The increase of manufacturing jobs during the recession at the beginning of the decade in combination with exchange rate issues resulted in formally abandoning the goal of full employment. In addition, the NHS budget's continuing increase presented further problems for the goal of poverty reduction. Contributing factors include increasing health consumption as a lifestyle choice, the advance o medical technology, and the increase in life expectancy. In reaction, state retirement pensions were changed to increase with prices and not with earnings, which tended to rise faster.

In turn, the public reaction to this was attempting to take personal responsibility for both their health and their old age in the form of personal pensions, which were individually owned. Although clients were often victimized by being encouraged to leave their occupational schemes in favor of personal schemes, and imposing very high charges, this proved to be a very popular option in the UK. According to Stephen Berry (2004), the reason for this popularity is not as much any money that could currently be saved, but rather to provide a safeguard against the poor service provided by the state. Both medical and pension beneficiaries, observing the poor service from the state, have taken measures for self-protection, as the state appears to be unable to provide what was originally intended.

Berry (2004) refers to State Pension as a "trap" from which citizens needed to flee, because to embrace it is to embrace perpetual poverty in one's old age. According to the author, roughly two thirds of the UK population has some form of private cover. Despite this, welfare bills continued to increase, requiring yet another thinker of Beveridge's caliber.

According to both Field (1999) and Berry (2004), the main problem with the British welfare state is its fundamental misconception of the human character. Because it was assumed that welfare beneficiaries would be fundamentally honest in return for receiving such benefits, the system was poorly monitored since its inception during the 1940s. This conception of human nature however became diluted in political circles during the 1960s, and subsequently, little thought was given to behavior either for better or for worse in the welfare system. Yet, it was clearly time to "think the unthinkable," as Field notes, and to return to a consideration of how behavior was affected by different types of insurance. This was done across five different areas in the welfare state: 1) the size and growth rate of social security expenditure needs to be considered together with the growth of means-tested welfare and the concomitant actions of its beneficiaries; 2) Rather than being a neutral agency, welfare does indeed affect the actions, motivations, and fundamental character of those it benefits; 3) Being one of the most powerful and fundamental of human instincts, welfare reform is to be built around self-interest rather than an idealized version of the human spirit; 4) Welfare policy should provide adequately for its recipients, and redirect its means of doing so by for example partnerships between the mutual and private sectors; 5) Welfare reform is to be seen… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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