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A generation of change, a lifetime of difference?

A generation of change, a lifetime of difference?: Social policy in Britain since 1979

Martin Evans
Lewis Williams
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  • Book Info
    A generation of change, a lifetime of difference?
    Book Description:

    This innovative book addresses the historical development of social and fiscal policies from the late 1970s to the present day by asking what has changed, how these changes have affected the lifecourse and what the potential lifetime impacts of policy change are. This book provides an overview of the development of policy change over the period and uses an innovative and unique lifetime approach from the cradle to the grave to put it into perspective. The authors begin by reviewing the political changes and policy story since the 1970s and demonstrate the economic and social changes that have occurred alongside. The book then takes an innovative approach in looking at specific programmes about crucial aspects of the lifecycle - from maternity and childhood, through to adult events and risks before finally looking at retirement, survivorship and death. Finally, profiles of three hypothetical families - the Meades, who are median earners, the Moores, high earners and the Lowes who are low paid - are developed for 1979, 1997 and 2008 to provide a comprehensive discussion of policy change and make innovative insights for the future. This is the first book to join up the history of policy direction with an analysis of outcomes over the whole period. It will therefore be ideal for students of social policy and attract a wide readership interested in pensions, children's support and related issues.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-306-1
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. List of figures, tables and boxes
    (pp. iv-viii)
  2. ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    The year 2009 marks the historic 30-year anniversary of Margaret Thatcher’s arrival as Prime Minister, universally acknowledged as a radical turning point in the British welfare state. The period of 30 years since 1979 has seen huge changes in both policy and in the British economy and society. This period is what we term ‘the generation of change’.

    But significant anniversaries have been coming thick and fast in recent years and remind us that 1979 was only the half-way point in the post-war welfare state. 2008 was the 60th birthday of the National Health Service (NHS), heralded by ministerial statements...

  3. Part One: A generation of change

    • TWO The changing British welfare state
      (pp. 13-34)

      The spotlight may fall on 1979 as a turning point in social policy but it is notably only the half-way point in the post-war welfare state. This chapter puts the past 30 years of policy change into a longer historical context and broadens the focus to consider a wide range of policy and social policy, and governmental and political change. These wider and longer-term views allow us to concentrate more on programmes of taxes and benefits in later parts of the book. Looking back, how has social policy changed and developed in Britain and how do such changes fit into...

    • THREE Changing lives and a changing economy
      (pp. 35-52)

      Changes in social policy described in the previous chapter have to be seen in the context of the changes in the demographic and economic structures of Britain. Indeed, social and economic policies change to reflect underlying structural changes and sometimes affect wider society and the economy, although mostly in non-measurable ways. This chapter takes a broad view and summarises the main themes of change over time in population, household formation and the economy since the 1970s. We focus on themes that are most relevant to our analysis of the incidence and performance of social policy over the lifetime in the...

  4. Part Two: From the cradle to the grave

    • FOUR Childhood
      (pp. 55-78)

      This chapter looks at childhood, and how programmes to support children have changed since the 1970s. But when does childhood start and end? Policy provision for childhood precedes ‘the cradle’ because programmes for children and childhood begin to operate during pregnancy. Defining the end of childhood is more difficult. If children continue into further education, parents may find their economic obligations to support children continuing into the early twenties – beyond the teenage years that most usually signal the move from childhood into young adulthood. The earliest age at which a child can be considered either as an adult or...

    • FIVE Working age: taxation
      (pp. 79-98)

      This is the first of several chapters that focus on the ‘working age’ portion of the lifetime and that show how policies have developed and changed to influence these years. This period forms the large majority of the lifetime and represents the economic powerhouse of lifetime events based on employment, forming relationships with other adults such as marriage, having children (although such events have been shuffled into the previous chapter to give a clearer lifetime perspective), buying houses or renting them and saving for retirement as well as establishing consumption patterns and lifestyle. It is also the time when we...

    • SIX Working age: safety nets and housing
      (pp. 99-122)

      Adulthood brings financial independence and access to a range of social rights. This chapter considers two of these in tandem: first, the right to a basic income, and second, the need and rights to somewhere to live. Once again, the exact age at which childhood ends and independent living as an adult begins is hazy. The age at which young people gain a right to independent treatment of income and are seen as being in need of a minimum income was 16 for social assistance purposes until 1988, when the Fowler reforms upped the age to 18 on the basis...

    • SEVEN Working age risks: social insurance
      (pp. 123-142)

      We now turn to consider a series of risks that can interrupt or erode earnings during working age. Obviously, there are a significant number of such risks so for the purposes of this chapter we split them into two main groups: risks that have historically been approached through social insurance, namely unemployment, sickness and incapacity for work, and other risks, which we leave to Chapter Eight.

      Unemployment dominated social policy in the 1930s and the post-war commitment to full employment was one of the bedrock assumptions of Beveridge and others when redesigning the welfare state. Unemployment benefits had existed in...

    • EIGHT Working age risks: disability, caring and lone parenthood
      (pp. 143-166)

      Social insurance systems find it difficult to respond to risks that are not directly related to interruptions to work that can be covered by a history of contributions. Disability is covered by social insurance if it arises from serving in the armed forces, or from an industrial accident or occupationally related disease, but health and safety procedures enforced by regulation in all workplaces means that cases falling in the latter two categories are a very small proportion of overall incidences of disability. Other types of transfer have been developed to cover cases that relate to congenital conditions, genetic predisposition or...

    • NINE Old age and retirement
      (pp. 167-194)

      This chapter considers the final portion of the lifetime – old age – and considers the range of tax and benefit support for old age and retirement and death. The core of this chapter focuses on pension funding and outcomes, and this is a true reflection of how much the tax and benefit system is geared to retirement and old age. We follow the structure of the earlier chapters in this section and first look at the policy history before moving on to consider pension and retirement profiles for our model families on low, median and higher earnings.

      The Department...

  5. Part Three: A lifetime of difference?

    • TEN Taxes, benefits and national profiles of inequality and poverty
      (pp. 197-220)

      In this chapter, the discussion shifts from one of descriptive policy formation and design towards one of analysis of outcomes and a comparison of policy between the systems in 1979, 1997 and 2008. This chapter acts as a bridge between the earlier discussion and our model lifetime analysis in Chapters Eleven to Fourteen. We consider the aggregate empirical profiles of policy outcomes over time for the whole of Britain and then illustrate how these will inform our later model lifetime analysis.

      The previous two sections of this book have described how far British social, economic and political life have changed...

    • ELEVEN LOIS and model lifetimes
      (pp. 221-240)

      This chapter outlines the methodology and assumptions that will be used in Chapters Twelve, Thirteen and Fourteen to look at our analysis of the policy systems in 1979, 1997 and 2008 using a model lifetime approach.

      A model lifetime profile captures a very large portion of a policy system, in this case on personal taxation and benefits and other income-related policy areas. The fundamental idea is to be comprehensive in order to profile the synthesised performance of as large a set of policy rules as possible and to show interactions and cumulative effects. This approach is similar to putting policy...

    • TWELVE The Meades
      (pp. 241-266)

      In this and the following two chapters, we finally turn to the results of our hypothetical lifetime simulations. This chapter considers the median-earning Meades. What would a median-earning family experience in taxes and benefits if they lived their whole lives under the 1979, 1997 and 2008 rules? The results for the Meades will be carried forward as a benchmark against which we will consider outcomes for the high-earning Moores and the low-earning Lowes respectively in the following two chapters.

      Our main questions address the following issues:

      How and to what extent do benefits and taxation differ between the three policy...

    • THIRTEEN The Moores
      (pp. 267-282)

      How would the lifetime profiles of the richer Moores compare with those of the Meades in their lifetime experience of the 1979, 1997 and 2008 systems? The Moores have twice the earnings of the Meades and can afford to pay more for childcare alongside their bigger more expensive house and lifestyle. To reflect the lower economic constraints of the Moores, we take a simpler set of assumptions about lifetimes for them and do not vary their lifetime profile between 1979 and later years as we did for the Meades. However, to capture changes in taxation at the top of the...

    • FOURTEEN The Lowes
      (pp. 283-304)

      This chapter considers model lifetime simulations for our low-paid family, the Lowes, whose wage is 50% of median earnings. How far do these profiles differ from those of the median and higher earners, the Meades and the Moores, and what differences arise between the outcomes of the policy systems of 1979, 1997 and 2008? We answer these questions for the Lowes by using the same set of analyses seen in Chapters Twelve and Thirteen.

      The simplified life history that we use to construct a lifetime profile for the Lowes in 2008 is as follows:

      At age 18 Ms Lowe begins...

    • FIFTEEN Conclusion: a generation of change, a lifetime of difference?
      (pp. 305-316)

      It is undeniable that there has been huge change in policy and underlying social and economic life since the 1970s and that our lives today are different in many ways. Clearly, 1979 stands out as a point when a momentous shift in British politics and in its social policy and welfare state occurred. Thirty years on and facing the fourth economic recession since the Second World War, we have tried in this book to look across the period, to put it in context and to measure some of the changes that have occurred in social policy. So much has been...