Politics and Social Policy in Australia
Social policy are the guidelines used for the changing, maintenance or the creation of living conditions that are perceived to be conducive to the welfare of human beings or people. This is what makes it part of the public policy that deals with social issues (Alcock, Erskine, May, 2003).
Social policy applies to the policies used by governments for welfare and social protection. The main concern under this is the social services and the welfare of the state. Social policy also applies to the ways in which the welfare is developed within a given society where it stands for a range of issues which extend far beyond the governments actions. This includes the ways used to promote the welfare and the social-economic conditions which enable or shape the development of the welfare.
Social Policy can be used to refer to the academic study of the subject.
The main aim of Social Policies is to improve the welfare of human beings by for instance meeting their various needs. It can thus be defined as public policy and practice in the areas of health care, human services, labour, education, inequality and other issues like criminal justice.
Social policy can be influenced by among other things, religion and the politician’s religious beliefs. The conservatives in the political arena prefer a more traditional approach which can be able to favour individual initiative and private enterprise in social policy. Those who are considered to be political liberals are for the idea of guaranteeing equal rights and entitlements to everybody. They prefer using the state regulation or insurance so as to support their ideologies.
Although in some areas Social policy is only known for the regulation and governing of human behaviour as far as sexuality and morality issues are concerned, social policies deal with among other things; the rules surrounding marriage and divorce in most societies, adoption, legal status of recreational drugs, prostitution, euthanasia, abortion and how its practice can be regulated(Alcock, 2003).
Social Policy and administration was developed in the early twentieth century with an aim of complementing the social work studies. The subject has since developed to become an academic subject concerned with the welfare of the state and social services.
It is not a discipline but a subject area which borrows a lot from social science disciplines like sociology, social work, economics, political science, history, philosophy, law among others (Alcock, 2003).
Welfare State is an English term used to refer to the provision of welfare services to people by the government (Titmuss, 1963). This type of provision indicates that the concerned government assumes responsibility for the welfare of its citizens. States which provide the welfare state are referred to as welfare states. In some states, the welfare state is provided by government services which may either be independent or voluntary. The provider of the welfare services can also be the state government or a company or agency sponsored by the state, a private company or organization or a non-profit organization. In such cases, the welfare state changes and it is replaced with other terms like ‘welfare system’ and ‘welfare society’.
Welfare is used to mean ‘well being’. For instance in welfare economics, it is used in terms of the well being and interests of people and the things which they choose to have. Welfare can also be used to refer to various services provided by the state to protect people under different conditions; for instance health, after retirement, childhood etc. In the European Union, this is called Social Protection. In the United States, welfare is the financial aid given to the poor people for instance the Temporary Aid which is given to Needy families in America (Titmuss, 1963).
The welfare state means different things in different countries. In some countries, it may be used to mean the ideal provision model for the citizens whereby the state takes the responsibility to provide comprehensive and universal welfare of its citizens which is basically the welfare provided by the state. In countries where the term means social protection, the provision is undertaken by the combination of independent, voluntary and government services; this is what makes the countries be referred to as welfare states (Holetzky, 2006).
In as much as Welfare is associated with needs of the people, it is aimed to cover beyond what people need and with it to look into wellbeing, to provide people with choices and enable them to choose their personal goals, aims, objectives or ambitions.
Welfare state is therefore a government that completely provides for the welfare of its citizens. This is what makes it involved in the lives of the citizens by providing for their physical, material and social needs instead of the people providing for their own.
The main purpose for this is to create economic equality among the citizens and ensure that the standards of living are equitable for all citizens. Among the things provided by the welfare state are education, housing, sustenance, healthcare, unemployment insurance, pension, supplemental income, and equal wages by controlling price and wages, public transport, childcare among other goods and services. The provisions are paid for through government insurance programs and taxes.
Arguments for welfare.
A number of arguments for collective provision have been put across. Most governments should be in a position to recognize the arguments which support the provision of the welfare (Spicker, 2008). The arguments are however not about whether the welfare should exist but how much provision should be allocated. The arguments supporting welfare are;
Humanitarian, where the major concern is poverty and this makes provision of welfare a key concern in the developments associated with welfare provision.
The other argument is Religious. The major religions in the world advocate for charity as a religious duty and almost all religions require collective responsibility in the community where one lives or what can be referred to as mutual social responsibility.
The third argument for the provision of welfare is Mutual Self-Interest. This is due to the many welfare systems developed from a combination of mutualistic activities as opposed to those from state activities.
The other argument is democratic in that the social protection is put in place hand-in-hand with the existing democratic rights.
Finally, the argument for provision of welfare is what is referred to as Practical. The explanation behind this is that welfare provision has social and economic benefits. The countries which have widespread systems of social protection towards the citizens tend to be richer with very low levels of poverty; however it is hard to establish what comes before the other, the welfare or the wealth (Holetzky, 2006).
It is important to give welfare to the poor in any society (Vives, 1999). This can be done by for instance provision of work for those who are able but poor. This will curb idleness among those who are not financially stable provided that the victims are fit for work health wise and age wise. The state can help those living in poverty by ensuring that they have learnt a certain trade which will ensure that they can be able to provide for themselves and any other people who depend on them.
The other group of people who should be given welfare are the dissipated. Much as their fortunes have dissipated through dissolute living, the state should ensure that no one dies of hunger. This group of people should however be given smaller rations and more demanding duties.
In order to ensure that the welfare is not put to the wrong use, the states should ensure that all the institutions dealing with state welfare are corruption free. On the same note, everyone concerned with the welfare should perform their tasks humanely and with a lot of kindness, intimidation should never be put to use since this will be considered abuse of the power bestowed to them.
Welfare should be given to all citizens who cannot access the basic requirements and there are a number of advantages; first, the states without any beggars are honoured since greater peace prevails whenever everyone is provided for. The state also gains in that more citizens become more morally upright, law abiding and useful to a state which sustains them or provides a means of livelihood for them (Vives, 1999).
The second advantage is that there will be fewer incidents of violence and other evils associated with poverty like theft, murders, capital offences etc. The reason for this is that poverty has a way of luring people into bad habits and provoking crime.
Provision of welfare ensures greater concord among people of different classes, which are the poor and the wealthy.
Arguments against welfare.
The radical right are for the objection to the provision of welfare. The reason for this is that welfare violates the freedom of the people, its redistribution according to the radical right is theft and taxation can only be equated to forced labour (Spicker, 2008). Their arguments are based on the assumptions that; everyone has the absolute right to use property as it pleases them. The people in any society are interdependent and the production of property depends on social arrangements, the rights to that property are conventional and the liability to taxation is part of those conventions.
The other assumption is that the people are not for the idea of welfare provision since the redistributive arrangements are based on coercion. However, this is not necessarily true due to the fact that several countries in the world have developed welfare systems on a voluntary or mutualist basis for instance in Denmark, Finland and Sweden.
The other assumption is that the rights of the individual are the supreme factor in the entire process. However, it does not make sense for a person to own all the food in the region while all the others are staving, the others should at least have some moral claim on it. Consequently, much as the property rights are important, not many people would argue that they are more important than other moral values.
The other argument that the radical rights have against the provision of welfare is that welfare state has undesirable effects in practice. Economically, the argument is that economic development is more important for welfare than social provision.
The radical rights also argue that the welfare state tends to undermine economic performance but no evidence has been provided to support this argument.
Socially, the welfare state is accused of boosting dependency and in a way trapping people to in poverty. Proof on the dynamics of poverty indicates that dependency and poverty can not be classified as long-term. Although both tend to affect people at different stages in the course of their lives, the population of those who claim for welfare is always changing and not constant as it might appear (Spicker, 2008).
The radical right argues for a residual system but the result of this is the separation and exclusion of people by the welfare.
Though most of the advanced societies provide for the state welfare, its philosophy is that most of the beneficiaries who are capable of caring for them are not motivated to improve their lives when they have the option of depending on the government. This tends to breed hatred or resentment those who work hard but are forced to pay for the people who are not working through high taxes. This can easily lead to class warfare and prevent equality among citizens (Spicker, 2008).
In Contemporary Australia, the state welfare is justified as a result of their benefits to the nation. According to Saunders (2007), there is an organized welfare lobby in Australia which keeps pushing for higher government spending. They use the poverty statistics to justify their claims that poverty is widespread and threatening to get worse. Australian poverty is a product of joblessness and the solution for these is not to increase welfare payments but to ensure more of those who claim welfare get into work.
The number of those relying on welfare payments as a source of income has risen from three percent in the 1960s to sixteen percent. There is need for the re-examination of how the tax and welfare systems interact since most people pay a lot of income tax to the government only for their money to be tossed back to them through family payments and government welfare services (Saunders, 2007). The reason why it was established that the Australians could be more self-reliant especially if they were allowed to keep more of their earnings in place of the reduction on their level of dependence on the government provisions.
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Vives, J. L. (1999). On Assistance to the Poor. University of Toronto Press: Toronto.