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Welfare reform on the Web (September 2006): Welfare state - UK

The business-social policy nexus: corporate power and corporate inputs into social policy

K. Farnsworth and C. Holden

Journal of Social Policy, vol.35, 2006, p.473-494

This article maps out the various forms of business input into social policy under the key headings of political engagement, institutional participation and provision and production. The structural power and influence of corporations has increased in recent years, primarily as a result of the greater mobility of capital as a result of economic globalisation. The UK government has responded to these new conditions by attempting to shape social policy to meet the perceived needs of business, and by embedding business within the welfare state. This has been done through its increased participation in the management structures of welfare services and by widening the opportunities for private companies to deliver services previously provided directly by the state. In doing so, government has sometimes led businesses in creating openings for their increased input into social policy, and sometimes responded to pressure from businesses and their associations. Political processes at the international level have facilitated this, as a result of both the dominance of neo-liberal ideas and international corporate lobbying. International processes such as the GATS negotiations are also likely to facilitate the internationalisation of business inputs into social policy, as international markets in welfare services begin to emerge.

Creating “opportunity for all”?  New Labour, new localism and the opportunity society

N. Ellison and S. Ellison

Social Policy and Society, vol.5, 2006, p.337-348

The New Labour government that came to power in the UK in 1997 claims to be committed to the promotion of social inclusion and equality of opportunity. In order to achieve these aims it has relied on targeted policies such as local regeneration initiatives. Although a strategy of this kind can produce some benefits for some disadvantaged groups in some areas, it cannot lead to genuine equality of opportunity for all in the absence of a stronger commitment to wealth redistribution than this government has shown. If they are allowed to retain the fruits of very high earnings and to retain large concentrations of wealth, better-off groups will always enjoy greater opportunities than poorer sections of society.

Credit where it’s due?

T. Shifrin

Public Finance, July 14th-20th 2006, p.20-23

Since the appointment of Gordon Brown as Chancellor in 1997, the Treasury has become active in social policy. This article presents expert comment on its three main initiatives, tax credits, the Sure Start programme for children in deprived areas, and child trust funds (baby bonds).

The indeterminacy of choice: political, policy and organisational implications

J. Clarke, N. Smith and E. Vidler

Social Policy and Society, vol.5, 2006, p.327-336

The New Labour government in the UK is committed to the promotion of user choice in public services. However, the term choice is ambiguous. It has the capacity to “speak for” a range of concerns, including a desire for greater control, an aspiration to define one’s own needs and a wish to shape outcomes, processes, relationships and patterns of interaction. There is also some calculation of political advantage behind New Labour’s championing of the choice agenda. Promising to extend choice from the privileged few to the many garners popular support and votes at election time. Offering choice in public services  may also prevent the middle classes from abandoning them in favour of the private sector. The choice agenda also facilitates and legitimises the introduction of competition and privatisation into the public sector. Finally, consumer choice may be used as a lever to destabilise existing institutions and facilitate reform.

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