Social Policy: From the Victorians to the Present Day
Susannah Morris

Seminar Introduction

imagePoverty, social exclusion, lack of education, inadequate housing and poor health are all persistent problems of modern life. In Britain, industrialisation brought wealth and progress to many but its correlate urbanism also brought hazardous by-product such as the creation of overcrowded cities, where people flocked in numbers to find deprivation, slum-dwellings and misery.

In nineteenth century Britain, philanthropists and voluntary organisations struggled to address these new and enlarged social problems. They funded new tenement blocks for people to live in, opened soup kitchens and visited the poor. But money and good will from the voluntary sector could not eliminate these growing social problems. By the mid-twentieth century government had stepped in to create the welfare state and the National Health Service, but in the following decades, social problems did not abate. The continuing struggle to address these fundamental social problems gave rise to an important area of study and of action: social policy. In this seminar, Susannah Morris, lecturer in social policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science, considers the discipline, action and importance of social policy over time. Using the case of housing and regeneration in the East End of London from the Victorian period to the present day as an example, Morris explores the similarities and differences in the roles of state and voluntary organisations into the twenty-first century and the Victorian models of social welfare. She argues that what we think of as social policy problems are in fact constructed from a mixture of economic, social and political circumstances and attitudes, and as such the prescribed solutions to them have fluctuated over time.

Learning Objectives:
  • Describe the remit of social policy as an area of study and as an area of action.
  • Summarise the efficacy of different housing initiatives in the East End from the late nineteenth century.
  • Explain the philosophy and motives behind the erection of tenement buildings such as the Katharine Buildings.
  • Identify and describe the different phases of regeneration witnessed in the East End from the late nineteenth century.
  • Compare and contrast different ways of categorising and addressing social problems in Britain, from the Victorians to the Blairites.
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