An introduction to Social Policy
This set of web pages offers a brief outline of key topics and
issues in Social Policy. The Internet is an international medium, and
although there are several pages about social policy in the UK the
material has mainly been selected because of its international
interest. The topics covered are the sorts of issue which would
be tackled in a university course in the subject.
The entries are short and designed to load quickly. If you would like to know more, there are links to follow, reading lists and a page leading to much longer on-line readings.
The site does not store any personal information from users, or
leave cookies on your systems after the session is finished.
This website is one of the most widely used sites in the field of social policy internationally. When I started it up, I had originally intended the pages to be for people who are beginning studies in Social Policy, and those who are thinking about it. Many more people than the original target audience have found the site helpful, and I have received notes from teachers and students around the world. Beyond that, I think it's true to say that the site has done a great deal to shape people's understanding of what Social Policy is about. My textbook explains, in greater detail, the architecture of the subject; but when I talk to people from different countries about Social Policy as an academic discipline, it's often the website that they're thinking of.
As the range of content, reading and references has increased, the scope of the site has broadened. New sections are being added every so often; the most recent are on populism, India (a contribution by Keerty Nakray) and gender and development. I have also been slowly expanding the references to university-level reading from open access sources. I have added an on-line reading list linked to the subjects covered in Social Policy: Theory and Practice. The level of detail is necessarily less than a textbook would include, however, and students should be complementing what they read here with a range of other sources.
The site first came on line in May 2000. It was originally based at the University of Dundee, and was transferred to the Robert Gordon University in September 2001. Since July 2015 the site has been hosted independently on my own domain.
The site's first million page views were recorded in the four years to May 2004; it passed 3 million by the end of 2007, 5 million in 2010, 7 million in 2014 and 8 million in 2016. The graph shows recent figures for visits, but the menu button can be used to show page views and other stats. The table shows five-year and annual totals.
|Five years: Jan 2014 - Dec 2018||925,580
months: Jan 2018 - Dec 2018
I no longer have a count for the numbers of users, because it cannot be done without cookies, but from previous returns I can estimate the number to be about 2.5 million. The counts are not wonderfully reliable; see the technical notes later on this page.
The most popular page is now the page on social policy. For many years, the page on welfare states was the main entry point, but users now are just as likely to work through one of the top three or four pages on social policy, the UK, history or politics. It is still true that most people 'bounce' - that is, they look at only one page - but they spend a couple of minutes doing it.
There are users around the world. Internet domains often disguise the country of origin, but about a half the users come from the UK. Of the remainder, the principal users are in the USA, Canada, Australia, the European Union, South Africa, India and China.
The author of these pages is Paul Spicker. The site is intended as an educational resource, and the pages are meant to be freely accessible, but the author retains copyright. No material in whole or in part from these pages may be modified, copied, reproduced,re-published, uploaded, posted, or distributed in any way. Subject to that, you are granted limited personal non-exclusive use of the materials within these pages, provided appropriate recognition of the origin of the materials is made.
Teachers are granted permission to make paper copies of text
for use by their students, provided that
Teachers who wish to use material from the site for their students on their own websites are asked to link to the material on this site rather than copying text from it into their own files. Please do not copy material from this site onto other sites with public access. That leads to internet searches sending people to old or outdated files which I cannot correct.
Please consult with the author about other uses.
I have had to put up the copyright message because of abuse. Some "cheat sites" have duplicated text from this website and are offering it for sale. It is unlikely that anyone who has found their way to this website would consider paying anyone for the material they can get here for free. I have no connection with these sites, and I have not endorsed or granted permission for any of the work contained on these pages to appear on such sites. Submission of information contained within these pages to such sites will be treated as an infringement of copyright.
Many relevant graphics are unavailable because of copyright restrictions. Copyright resides in the person who makes the image, not the person represented. This means, for example, that a public domain image is available of Winston Churchill, who died in 1965, but not of John Maynard Keynes, who died in 1946. The rights to use different images are consequently complex. Copyright acknowledgements are given next to the images; images that are out of copyright are generally noted as such in the ALT text, which is visible when the mouse pointer hovers over the picture.
People who want to refer to the pages should cite them in the usual way. Common conventions for internet citations have not been established, but an appropriate reference might be something like this:
Referencing information, and the date when the file was last updated, can be found at the foot of each page.
Students who are using this site need to understand that it is not acceptable in any academic institution to copy out the material without acknowledging the source, even if you change some of the words. That would give the impression that you had read, selected and ordered the material yourself. Plagiarism takes in more than "copying"; it is the act of passing off other people's work as one's own. This happens
On the site you will also find further guidance on writing essays. It was included in a previous edition of my book Social Policy.
The format of the site has been revised more than once, mainly to meet the demands of different browsers and the search engines. The sections have been kept brief, so that they can comfortably be read on a computer screen, and the files are small and mainly text-based to allow rapid access. The main reason for putting several screens together in each file is speed: material can continue to load while people are reading.
was initially prepared with Dreamweaver, and at times I edit the
text with Kompozer, but most alterations are actually made by direct
editing. I have largely avoided
scripts and more complex coding, because too many things do not work
consistently on different devices or browsers, but on occasion I
widgets from other providers. All the HTML coding has been
checked with HTML
Tidy and there are no errors.
The needs of users have been central to the design. A series of marginal changes in the appearance of the site conceal some fairly drastic editing of the source code. Some elements of the layout have been compromised in order to meet accessibility standards. There are minor differences in appearance between browsers, but the style in each should be clear and consistent.
Things have got more complicated with the rise of tablets and mobile
phone browsers. It's been a challenge making the site accessible
for mobile users, and particularly difficult to get graphics and tables
display well on a four-inch screen. I have cut down file sizes wherever
I could; the increase in
speed should be noticeable. The files are all small, and they should
load rapidly - the largest file, on the Politics of Welfare, is 38Kb -
but any text beyond
a couple of paragraphs can seem lengthy on a phone. Please warn me if
anything isn't as it should be.
The statistics for the website have been maintained through a variety of systems. From 2000-2009, the statistics were collected using my universities' services, but in 2007-08 the university system dropped out repeatedly; after that I used Google Analytics. Different systems count pages differently; beyond that I've redesigned the website more than once, cutting down the number of pages that a user had to load. Google's system is reliable, but it leaves cookies on user's equipment, and I realised only belatedly that this site was not compliant with EU law as a result. I set up a different system on the website server in April 2017, using Matomo (formerly 'Piwik'), which also allows me to display some stats directly. However, an update related to the change of name from Piwik disabled the system while I was working abroad in Poland. I reckon that it has lost records of something like 40,000 page views.
Accessibility for people with disabilities were initially checked with Bobby, an accessibility programme; it was compatible with their AAA rating. Bobby has now been superseded by WAVE, and the site has been checked with that. There are three recurring issues that WAVE raises, but I have decided in each case not to comply with their advice:
Given the range of different users, it is difficult to be confident that there are no hidden traps; please report any you find.
The main aim of revision at this stage is to make the site as
useful as possible to people studying and working in the
field. The coverage is being gradually expanded and
refined. I have put a
on most pages so
that people can see when the most recent revision has been made.Over time I have gradually
range of new material - a page on Poverty
and several new entries,
including those on risk and vulnerability, income and
wealth and the end of the Poor Law. The latest page, Social policy and interpersonal relations,
deals with a number of particularly sensitive and contentious issues; I
have sought both to limit the coverage and to maintain a scrupulous
balance. If I have not succeeded, please let me know and I will
see what I can do to rectify it.
I use my blog on
social policy to chart the fine grain of policy; it has allowed me, for
example, to chart the progress of social security in the UK in a way I
could not have done within the constraints of the main website. I blog
two or three times a week, and the
blog has had more than 700 entries to date. The blog entries are also
mirrored on Twitter and on
You can also follow the blog by receiving emails or on Wordpress.
This website also has an Open Access page where readers will find five of my books for free, and some 90 published papers.
As an Emeritus Professor I maintain the website at my own expense. You can support this work by
Any other comments would be appreciated. Please send complaints, suggestions or queries to firstname.lastname@example.org