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Social Policy

Social Policy photo, underage smoking

Social Policy is about understanding how we can improve human wellbeing through tackling intractable social problems and delivering better quality public services. As an applied social science, social policy provides a useful and relevant bridge between politics, sociology and economics and it draws on insights from these to analyse current policy and consider how we can achieve improvements. Accordingly, social policy asks the following kinds of questions: How much responsibility falls to the individual or to society and the state when an individual is homeless, unemployed, poor or ill? Should the welfare state offer care and protection to everyone 'from the cradle to the grave' or should society help those who help themselves? Do people have rights to a basic income, a home, a jobs and education? Or are obligations and duties more important than rights? Why do some people seem to have many more and better opportunities than others? What are the economic and social consequences of a government pursuing one policy over another?

Against a backdrop of social and economic upheaval it is ever more important to understand the effects of government policies on individuals, families and communities, and the practical, political and ideological reasons underlying the formation of specific social policies. The programme concentrates overall on policy in the UK and Ireland, but also takes a comparative perspective that explores, where appropriate, how other nations provide public services. Do they make greater use of the private and voluntary sector? Do they spend more or less on tackling specific social problems, such as poverty or homelessness? What are the reasons for such differences and what, if anything, can we learn from them?

Within the broad remit of social policy are a number of specialisms including (though not limited to) social security, employment and unemployment, health and health care, equality policies, social services, the management of welfare, housing, family policy and the politics of social policy. The programme offers the opportunity to engage with the debates, research and evidence within and across these areas with students taking a range of modules over the three years.

Course content:

Social Policy is available as a Joint Honours or Minor Honours subject.

During year 1 two introductory modules to social policy are taken by students

  • Digital Society
  • Finding out about Social Policy

In year 2 the core social policy modules are

  • Welfare in Theory and Practice
  • Citizenship, Taxes and Benefits

In year 3 students are required to take the core modules

  • Health and Social Care Policy
  • The Policy Briefing Paper (this module provides an opportunity for students to apply their skills by working with a community/ voluntary organisation on a discrete piece of social research the organisation has identified as requiring investigation).

Optional modules in year 3 include

  • Disability and Society
  • Mental Health Policy

The social policy programme is delivered by staff with internationally-recognised expertise and research interests in areas as diverse as mental health and social care policy, labour market policy, tax and benefit reforms and gender, care and the welfare state. Members of the academic team in the school are currently applying their knowledge and skills to examine a range of pressing social policy problems including that nature and extent of poverty and social exclusion in the UK and the implications of this for government and society. The School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work at Queen's offers you a chance to study how government policy and the delivery of public services affects human well being within the context of the relationship between individuals, families, communities and the state.