An introduction to Social Policy
This set of web pages offers a brief outline of key topics and
issues in Social Policy. The Internet is an international medium, and
although there are several pages about social policy in the UK the
material has mainly been selected because of its international
interest. The topics covered are the sorts of issue which would
be tackled in a university course in the subject.
The entries are short and designed to load quickly. If you would like to know more, there are links to follow, reading lists and a page leading to much longer on-line readings.
The site does not store any personal information from users, or
leave cookies on your systems after the session is finished. Many
users will have been hit by messages from their browsers saying that
this site is unsafe; it isn't. The major browsers have elected to
condemn every site that uses http: instead of
https: That slows everything down. It's a protection for anyone
entering personal details - but
this site doesn't ask you for any personal details, and nor is
there anything in it that you might be ashamed of admitting to your
parents or your partner. I have to renew the certificate every three months; please let me know if that isn't done in time.
This website is one of the most widely used sites in the field of social policy internationally. When I started it up, I had originally intended the pages to be for people who are beginning studies in Social Policy, and those who are thinking about it. Many more people than the original target audience have found the site helpful, and I have received notes from teachers and students around the world. Beyond that, I think it's true to say that the site has done a great deal to shape people's understanding of what Social Policy is about. My textbook explains, in greater detail, the architecture of the subject; but when I talk to people from different countries about Social Policy as an academic discipline, it's often the website that they're thinking of.
As the range of content, reading and references has increased, the scope of the site has broadened. New sections are being added every so often; the most recent are on populism, India (a contribution by Keerty Nakray) and gender and development. I have also been slowly expanding the references to university-level reading from open access sources. I have added an on-line reading list linked to the subjects covered in Social Policy: Theory and Practice. The level of detail is necessarily less than a textbook would include, however, and students should be complementing what they read here with a range of other sources.
The site first came on line in May 2000. It was originally based at the University of Dundee, and was transferred to the Robert Gordon University in September 2001. Since July 2015 the site has been hosted independently on my own domain.
The site's first million page views were recorded in the four years
to May 2004; it passed 3 million by the end of 2007, 5 million in 2010,
7 million in 2014 and 8 million in 2016. I regret to admit it, but I
have now lost count. Matomo,
the counter I was using crashed from May to September 2020 and again
from June to December 2021. I have only 76,000 sessions recorded for
the period of lockdown, but as students round the world have had their
studies interrupted, that is not surprising.. Currently there are about
10,000 page views a month. This is very much less than used to be true,
but it really hasn't been helped by the unecessary security blocks
introduced on phones and browsers.
There are users around the world. Internet domains often disguise the country of origin, but about a half the users come from the UK. Of the remainder, the principal users are in the USA, Canada, Australia, the European Union, South Africa, India and China.
The author of these pages is Paul Spicker. The site is intended as an educational resource, and the pages are meant to be freely accessible, but the author retains copyright. No material in whole or in part from these pages may be modified, copied, reproduced,re-published, uploaded, posted, or distributed in any way. Subject to that, you are granted limited personal non-exclusive use of the materials within these pages, provided appropriate recognition of the origin of the materials is made.
Teachers are granted permission to make paper copies of text
for use by their students, provided that
Teachers who wish to use material from the site for their students on their own websites are asked to link to the material on this site rather than copying text from it into their own files. Please do not copy material from this site onto other sites with public access. That leads to internet searches sending people to old or outdated files which I cannot correct.
Please consult with the author about other uses.
I have had to put up the copyright message because of abuse. Some "cheat sites" have duplicated text from this website and are offering it for sale. It is unlikely that anyone who has found their way to this website would consider paying anyone for the material they can get here for free. I have no connection with these sites, and I have not endorsed or granted permission for any of the work contained on these pages to appear on such sites. Submission of information contained within these pages to such sites will be treated as an infringement of copyright.
Many relevant graphics are unavailable because of copyright restrictions. Copyright resides in the person who makes the image, not the person represented. This means, for example, that it is easier to find a public domain image of Winston Churchill, who died in 1965, than it is of John Maynard Keynes, who died in 1946. The rights to use different images are consequently complex. Copyright acknowledgements are given next to the images; images that are out of copyright or released with a code from creative commons are generally noted as such in the ALT text, which is visible when the mouse pointer hovers over the picture.
People who want to refer to the pages should cite them in the usual way. Common conventions for internet citations have not been established, but an appropriate reference might be something like this:
Referencing information, and the date when the file was last updated, can be found at the foot of each page.
Students who are using this site need to understand that it is not acceptable in any academic institution to copy out the material without acknowledging the source, even if you change some of the words. That would give the impression that you had read, selected and ordered the material yourself. Plagiarism takes in more than "copying"; it is the act of passing off other people's work as one's own. This happens
On the site you will also find further guidance on writing essays. It was included in a previous edition of my book Social Policy.
The format of the site has been revised more than once, mainly to meet the demands of different browsers and the search engines. The sections have been kept brief, so that they can comfortably be read on a computer screen, and the files are small and mainly text-based to allow rapid access. The main reason for putting several screens together in each file is speed: material can continue to load while people are reading.
Some users will have come across a scary message from their
browsers, telling them that the site is not secure. Ignore it,
and carry on anyway. I do not use SSL (URLs starting with https:)
because it's slower and unnecessary; no personal information is taken
in the process of using the site.
was initially prepared with Dreamweaver, and at times I edit the
text with Kompozer, but most alterations are actually made by direct
editing. I have largely avoided
scripts and more complex coding, because too many things do not work
consistently on different devices or browsers, but on occasion I
widgets from other providers. All the HTML coding has been
checked with HTML
Tidy and there are no errors.
The needs of users have been central to the design. A series of marginal changes in the appearance of the site conceal some fairly drastic editing of the source code. Some elements of the layout have been compromised in order to meet accessibility standards. There are minor differences in appearance between browsers, but the style in each should be clear and consistent.
Things have got more complicated with the rise of tablets and mobile
phone browsers. It's been a challenge making the site accessible
for mobile users, and particularly difficult to get graphics and tables
display well on a four-inch screen. I have cut down file sizes wherever
I could; the increase in
speed should be noticeable. The files are all small, and they should
load rapidly - the largest file, on the Politics of Welfare, is 38Kb -
but any text beyond
a couple of paragraphs can seem lengthy on a phone. Please warn me if
anything isn't as it should be.
Accessibility for people with disabilities were initially checked with Bobby, an accessibility programme; it was compatible with their AAA rating. Bobby has now been superseded by WAVE, and the site has been checked with that. There are two recurring issues that WAVE raises, but I have decided in these cases not to comply with their advice:
Given the range of different users, it is difficult to be confident that there are no hidden traps; please report any you find.
The main aim of revision at this stage is to make the site as
useful as possible to people studying and working in the
field. The coverage is being gradually expanded and
refined. I have put a
on most pages so
that people can see when the most recent revision has been made.Over
time I have gradually
range of new material - for example, a page on Poverty
and several new entries,
including those on risk and vulnerability, income and
wealth and the end of the Poor Law. The most recently added page, Social policy and interpersonal relations,
deals with a number of particularly sensitive and contentious issues; I
have sought both to limit the coverage and to maintain a scrupulous
balance. If I have not succeeded, please let me know and I will
see what I can do to rectify it.
I use my blog on
social policy to chart the fine grain of policy; it has allowed me, for
example, to chart the progress of social security in the UK in a way I
could not have done within the constraints of the main website. I blog
fairly regularly, and the
blog has had more than a thousand entries to date. The blog entries are
mirrored on Twitter, Linkedin and RSS.
You can also follow the blog by receiving emails or on Wordpress.
This website also has an Open Access page where readers will find seven of my books for free, and about a hundred published papers.
As an Emeritus Professor I maintain the website at my own expense. You can support this work by
Any other comments would be appreciated. Please send complaints, suggestions or queries to firstname.lastname@example.org