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The impact of devolution on social policy

The impact of devolution on social policy

Derek Birrell
Copyright Date: 2009
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  • Book Info
    The impact of devolution on social policy
    Book Description:

    With new devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, this book makes a comprehensive assessment of the impact of devolution on social policy. It provides a study of developments in the major areas of social policy and a full comparison between Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. To what extent is it valid to speak of agendas for government driven by social policy? With new governments in each country, has a fresh dynamic been given to the emergence of distinct social policies? The impact of devolution on social policy uses a framework of analysis based on the nature and scope of social policies, ranging from major innovations and policy distinctiveness, to differences in implementation, policy convergence and areas of overlap with UK policies. This framework facilitates an integrated analysis and comparison of social policy developments and outcomes between the four UK nations. An assessment is also made of the ideas and values which have driven the direction of social policy under devolution. With devolution becoming increasingly important in the study of social policy, the book will be of key interest to academics and students in social policy, public policy and politics, and will also be a valuable resource for practitioners involved in policy making.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-227-9
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Detailed contents
    (pp. vi-viii)
  4. List of tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. List of abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  7. ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    As devolution in the United Kingdom moves into its second decade and is fully operational in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland it is an appropriate time to undertake a comprehensive analysis of the impact of devolution on social policy, based on the experience of all three countries.¹ Earlier perspectives emphasised the importance of the relationship between devolution and social policy. The view was extensively promulgated that social policy formed the core of devolved powers and even that the devolved parliament and assemblies could best be regarded as social policy parliaments. Social policy has a key role in the powers devolved...

  8. TWO The salience of social policy in devolved policy, governance and expenditure
    (pp. 7-34)

    The significance of social policy for the operation of devolution can be assessed by examining the nature and scope of devolved powers, the substance of programmes for government and the content of legislation, and also by considering to what extent the implementation and delivery capacity of the devolved administrations is configured around social policy. The key elements of the mechanisms for delivering social policy are described as the central bureaucracy in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast; the contribution of quangos and local government. The capacity to deliver social policies is also determined by availability of financial resources and expenditure allocations.


  9. THREE Innovations, flagship policies and distinctiveness
    (pp. 35-54)

    Much of the analysis of social policy in Scotland and Wales has been dominated by the identification of flagship policies. The term ‘flagship’ tends to cover a number of different policy characteristics:

    innovative, as policies that have not existed previously in the UK, at least in key respects, for example, children’s commissioners;

    distinctive as universal provision or in not having been universally provided in recent times in the UK, for example, free personal and nursing care in Scotland;

    unique to Scotland or Wales or Northern Ireland, for example, Welsh voluntary sector scheme;

    self-identified as flagship policies by the devolved governments,...

  10. FOUR Divergence in social policy
    (pp. 55-74)

    Policy divergence is defined as a category of policies and strategies where significant differences can be identified between Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England as a consequence of decisions by the devolved administrations. These policies fall short of major innovations or totally distinct policies, but diverge in significant ways. The main examples in this category fall into the health category plus other examples from social care, education and equal opportunities.

    In the early years of devolution the organisation of the NHS was a key matter of debate for the devolved administrations – WAG’s first request for Wales-only legislation related to...

  11. FIVE Incremental change and low-level differences
    (pp. 75-104)

    There is a substantial policy area where the basic principles of policies have largely remained the same throughout the UK. With devolution, however, some lower-level differences have emerged during the implementation of the policies. These more subtle differences are often identifiable in administrative structures, strategies and action plans, and reflect differences in local needs, priorities or well-established practices. Quite significant policy areas can be seen as falling into this category, including the voluntary sector, housing, aspects of health and children’s services. Also in this category are components of policy areas and examples discussed are direct payments, anti-poverty, child poverty and...

  12. SIX Convergence in social policy
    (pp. 105-122)

    The convergence of social policies throughout the UK has usually arisen for two main reasons: first, because the policy area falls within policies reserved to the UK Government, leading to parity in legislation, policy and provision or, second, through a decision by all four governments to adopt or endorse the same policies. Under the convergence heading the most important social policy area is social security, which rather dominates the issue. In practice there are a number of other dimensions to convergence and a range of factors that promote convergence in social policy.

    Before devolution in 1999 social security was organised...

  13. SEVEN Interfaces and overlaps
    (pp. 123-142)

    In theory, there should be no actual overlaps or shared functions between the devolved administrations and the UK government. In practice, however, it is not always easy to draw a neat distinction between reserved and devolved functions. Even if there is a clear distinction in constitutional responsibilities, interfaces exist between services that closely relate to each other, but are the responsibility of the different administrations, and this generates a need for coordination and collaboration. As devolution has progressed, interfaces and overlaps in social policy areas have become more of a feature of its operation and have had to be addressed....

  14. EIGHT Underpinning values and principles
    (pp. 143-158)

    The operation of devolution, the formulation and implementation of policies and the production of policy strategies and rationales has highlighted the commitment of devolved governments, particularly in Scotland and Wales, to a set of values and principles closely related to social policy. Writing of Wales, Chaney and Drakeford (2004, p 121) referred to an explicit set of articulated ideological principles underlying social policy. For the purposes of this analysis, values and principles are categorised under four headings: social and political values, principles for service delivery, nation-building values and principles of social policy.

    A number of social and political values have...

  15. NINE Comparison of outcomes by country
    (pp. 159-180)

    To what extent has devolution delivered better services, increased provision, greater expenditure, improved well-being and care? Is there statistical data and evidence to back up the rhetoric and claims, and have targets been achieved? Are there any significant differences in performance between the devolved administrations and between the four countries? It is possible to examine available statistical evidence relevant to the achievements of devolution and compare statistics between the different countries. A number of different types of evidence are available based mainly on national statistics analysed on a regional basis, public expenditure data, specific analysis by the devolved administrations and...

  16. TEN Conclusion
    (pp. 181-196)

    This conclusion, while acknowledging some difficulties with comparative evidence, examines the impact of devolution on social policy from four different perspectives as well. The concluding comments address some wider consequences of devolution and social policy: the UK citizenship debate, devolved models of social policy and finally the future development of devolution and the future of devolved social policy.

    A number of factors can be identified as constraining the evaluation of the impact of devolution on social policy. First, some believe that it is too early to make a judgement. Fawcett (2003), for example, thought it too early to answer whether...

  17. References
    (pp. 197-222)
  18. Index
    (pp. 223-234)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 235-235)