Social policy is the actions, plans and programmes of government bodies and agencies aim to deal with a problem or achieve a goal . e. g preventing crime and reducing poverty. Policies are often based on laws that provide the framework within which these agencies operate. Sociologist’s findings may sometimes influence social policies but many other factors also play a part, such as political ideologies and the availability of resources. This essay will assess the relationship between sociology and social policy.
Social policies are generally introduced in the belief that they will in some way improve society by tackling social problems, particularly affecting the welfare of the population of the country where the policy is being introduced. However, some perspectives, such as the Marxists and Feminists, believe that social policy is not just about improving the welfare of citizens. They believe that the idea of social policy is more about social control, hindering rather than aiding individuals.
Being a democratic society, it is in the Governments best interest to only introduce policy favourable to the electorate; after all, without the electorates backing all that would result is the undesirability of the party and a loss of power. Going forth, each individual party will hold a particular set of ideologies and findings introduced unto them are that do not hold similar are likely not to be accepted. These results can be manipulated to help them be accepted by the government or public. The cost of research and the sources for funding often prove detrimental to the influential effect sociologists have on social policy.
Money affects the likelihood of findings being introduced. Sociological research can produce possible solutions to social problems but because of the often extravagant costs it is often unlikely that the research will take place. Governments, past and present often supply the large quantities of finances necessary to complete these research tasks however with this it is likely governments will only research in order to justify their policy or the results of such research may be influences by the party funding them and findings may be toned down do they fit the governments criteria.
The relationship between sociology and social policy according to Functionalists and Positivists such as Comte and Durkheim is that a rigorous objective and scientific approach should be used in order to generate social facts. These facts can then in turn be used by governments to understand patterns of behaviour within society that can be used to implement policies that benefit it as a whole. Both theorist groups adopt a positive relationship between sociology and social policy.
Although, Marxists and Feminists adopt a negative, conflicting view between sociologists and social policy. As indicated by Marxists, the role of social policy is to give capitalism a “face” that appears to care for the young, poor, and elderly. It essentially masks the legitimacy of the ruling class ideology and ensures the working class are kept physically able to continue in maintaining the capitalist means of production. This is reflected through the Black Report (1970) which indicated ways to resolve social problems like poverty.
However, the conservative government came into power under Margaret Thatcher; hence social policies suggested were not implemented. Sociological research can and has influenced government policy. However there are many factors that affect how influencial their findings will be. Social policy should be based on sound reasoning gained from evidence produced through research. However the results can be manipulated for a number of reasons and can be motivated by personal interest. So if results are in trend at the time they will be accepted and if not they will be ignored.