Social Policy Dissertation Topics

Example social policy dissertation topic 1:

Coupons for care: An analysis of Coalition proposals for reforming welfare payments.

The announcement in October 2012 by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, that troublesome families might receive their benefits payments in a form of coupon (smart cards) so as to ensure that benefits are not ‘misspent’ on ‘non-priority items’ represents a radical intervention in social policy by the state. It suggests that no longer is central government prepared merely to hand out payments to those who need them but also to direct them as to how such moneys will be spent. Focusing on the reactions of a range of actors – from policy directors, to those who work with vulnerable children (who are often the innocent victims of misspent welfare benefits) and benefits claimants themselves – this is a cutting edge dissertation that seeks to analyse and evaluate the potential effects of this change in government thinking.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Billings, P. (2011). ‘Conditioning social welfare payments: Securing liberty for vulnerable children and adults?’, Indigenous Law Bulletin, Vol. 7(22), pp. 13-17.
  • Hope, C. (2012). ‘120,000 troubled families could be legally banned from spending benefits on alcohol and tobacco’, The Daily Telegraph, 13th October 2012.
  • MacLaren, D., Redman-MacLaren, M. and Clough, A. (2010). ‘Estimating tobacco consumption in remote Aboriginal communities using retail sales data: Some challenges and opportunities’, Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, Vol. 34, pp. S66-S70.

Example social policy dissertation topic 2:

The Social Exclusion Unit: An audit of its work in Doncaster with social housing residents.

With one of the highest rates of both teenage prostitutes and teen pregnancies within the UK, Doncaster received much funding from central government through the initiatives associated with the Social Exclusion Unit. Focusing on issues of community policing, day care services through Sure Start, and the rebuilding of primary schools, this dissertation seeks, through interviewing various stakeholders, to assess the extent to which the policies pursued by the Blair Government have resulted in long term improvements for those who live in social housing. This is a social policy dissertation that combines secondary literature with the collection of primary data and would benefit from both qualitative and quantitative research techniques.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Buck, N. (2001). ‘Identifying neighbourhood effects on social exclusion’, Urban Studies, vol 38(12), pp. 2261-2275.
  • Hobcraft, J. and Kiernan, K. (2001). ‘Childhood poverty, early motherhood and adult social exclusion’, The British Journal of Sociology, Vol. 52, pp. 495-517.
  • Turner, D. and Martin, S. (2004). ‘Managerialism meets community development: Contracting for social inclusion?’, Policy and Politics, Vol. 32(1), pp. 21-32.

Example social policy dissertation topic 3:

Social work best practice, intervention, and child abuse – still no solution?

Though almost 25 years ago, the effects of the Cleveland child abuse scandal still reverberate through the profession, for 121 children were wrongly taken away from their parents. In contrast, social protection agencies were slow to react in Rochdale (2011) where young girls were being systematically groomed. This dissertation evaluates the reports that followed these two failings of social services (as well as that which accompanied the case of Baby P) and asks what can be done to achieve a balanced and appropriate approach in child welfare cases. The paper features a detailed literature review, as well as interviews with social workers and policy directors.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Moran, P., Jacobs, C., Bunn, A. and Bifulco, A. (2007). ‘Multi-agency working: Implications for an early-intervention social work team’, Child & Family Social Work, Vol. 12, pp. 143-151.
  • Scourfield, J. and Welsh, I. (2003). ‘Risk, reflexivity and social control in child protection: New times or same old story?’, Critical Social Policy, Vol. 23(3), pp. 398-420.
  • White, S., Hall, C. and Peckover, S. (2009). ‘The descriptive tyranny of the Common Assessment Framework: Technologies of categorization and professional practice in child welfare’, British Journal of Social Work, Vol. 39(7), pp. 1197-1217.

Example social policy dissertation topic 4:

Solidarity in community-based social policy networks: Time for a new approach.

Catholic social teaching defines ‘solidarity’ as ‘a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good, that is … the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for each other’ (Coote, 1989, p. 150). Noting the effect of present day welfare programme cuts due to austerity measures, this dissertation, by focusing on community projects in the Blackbird Leys estate in Oxford (one of the ten most deprived areas in the country), asks whether community solidarity and ‘balanced reciprocity’ is the way forward. The paper presents a wide variety of primary sources, including interviews and surveys.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Coote, N. (1989). ‘Catholic social teaching’, Social Policy and Administration, Vol. 23(2), pp. 150-160.
  • Dreze, J. and Sen, A. (1989). Hunger and public action. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Fitzpatrick, T. (2011). Welfare theory. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Example social policy dissertation topic 5:

Alienation of the tax-payers: The dangers of ostracising the middle classes through selectivity.

This dissertation advances the hypothesis that by changing the nature of the distribution of welfare benefits (as can be noted, for example, in the income cap being introduced to Child Benefit from January 2013) from one of universality to selectivity, the state risks, in the medium term, alienating those who presently contribute the majority of tax to pay for such benefits. Though recognising the need for redistribution, this dissertation suggests that as the middle class becomes increasingly financially squeezed and the burden of taxation continues to fall upon them disproportionately, there is a need for government to ensure that this class still feels that they receive ‘something in return’. Accordingly it evaluates the proposals for the removal of universality from Child Benefit and asks whether this is a ‘cut too far’.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Atkinson, A.B. (2012). ‘Public economic after The Idea of Justice’, Journal of Human Development and Capabilities: A Multi-Disciplinary Journal for People-Centered Development, 25th July 2012.
  • Glennerster, H. (2006). ‘Tibor Barna: The redistributive impact of taxes and social policies in the UK: 1937-2005’, London School of Economics Research Paper No. CASE115.
  • Spicker, P. (2008). Social policy: Themes and approaches. Bristol: Policy Press.

Example social policy dissertation topic 6:

Homelessness and welfare dependency: A new role for institutionalism?

This comparative dissertation evaluates two distinct phases in the development of welfare care and dependency within England; the present day and the operation of the reformed Poor Laws within Cheshire in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Drawing upon historic primary sources (in the form of Poor Law records and urban district council minute books) as well as contemporary primary interviews with those who ‘live on the streets’ in Chester, this dissertation asks whether the material benefits of a return to institutionalism (in the form of specially constructed warden controlled social housing complexes) not only outweighs issues of civil freedom but also offers a potential ‘solution’ to the seemingly incurable conundrum of what to do with those who ‘sleep rough’. This is a dissertation that challenges contemporary thinking on issues of welfare dependency and social policy and would benefit from being undertaken by a student with a solid grasp of nineteenth century social policy provisions within England.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Cronley, C. (2010). ‘Unraveling the social construction of homelessness’, Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, Vol. 20(2), pp. 319-333.
  • De Venanzi, A. (2008). ‘The institutional dynamics of homelessness: The United States of America and Japan compared’, International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 28(3/4), pp.129-145.
  • DeVerteuil, G. (2003). ‘Homeless mobility, institutional settings, and the new poverty management’, Environment and Planning A, Vol. 35(2), pp. 361-379.

Example social policy dissertation topic 7:

Bismarck and Lloyd George: Brothers in social policy arms.

Historically overshadowed by academic preoccupation on subsequent issues of empire and World War, this dissertation revisits the creation of central government welfarism within England. In so doing it celebrates not only the work of the last Liberal Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, but suggests that the basis for his government’s social policy programmes and welfare interventions were the reforms advanced twenty years earlier by Otto von Bismarck, Minister President of Prussia 1862-1890 and first Chancellor of the German Empire 1871-1890. In so doing this dissertation offers an academic critique of English measures such as the Health Insurance Bill (1883) and the Accident Insurance Bill (1884), and the Old Age and Disability Act (1889) of Germany. This is a historically based social policy dissertation that offers the writer the opportunity to gain a full understanding of the creation of the British welfare state within a comparative context prior to the Beveridge reforms of the mid-1940s.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Hennock, E.P. (2003). ‘Social policy in the Bismarck era: A progress report’, German History, Vol. 21(2), pp. 229-238.
  • Khoudour-Castéras, D. (2008). ‘Welfare state and labor mobility: The impact of Bismarck’s social legislation on German emigration before World War I’, Journal of Economic History, Vol. 68(1), pp. 211-243.
  • Purcell, H. (2006). Lloyd George. London: Haus.

Example social policy dissertation topic 8:

Faith-based welfare organisations: Part of the ‘Big Society’ or manipulating the vulnerable?

This dissertation explores in detail four faith-based welfare organisations: the Salvation Army, the Trussell Trust, Bochasanwasi Shri Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha, and Norwood. It examines the extent to which faith-based organisations currently do, or are likely to receive, funding from local authorities and national government, and whether such funding implies a deterioration in the maxim of the division of church and state. Additionally, the thesis investigates the degree to which discrimination is evident, both in the employment policies of faith-based organisations (for example, the Trussell Trust states that job applicants must be ‘sympathetic to the Christian ethos of the Trust), and in the selection of those whom they help. Finally, the paper considers the role of proselytising in the distribution of welfare to the most vulnerable in society.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Evans, S. (2012). ‘Faith based welfare looms as local authorities ask ‘Big Society’ to feed the poor’, National Secular Society, 29th August 2012.
  • Furness, S. and Gilligan, P. (2012). ‘Faith-based organisations and UK welfare services: Exploring some ongoing dilemmas’, Social Policy and Society, Vol. 11, pp. 601-612.
  • Jochum, V., Pratten, B. and Wilding, K. (2007). Faith and voluntary action: An overview of current evidence and debates. London: National Council for Voluntary Organisations.

Example social policy dissertation topic 9:

Dementia: A comprehensive and comparative evaluation of the UK’s national policy for care.

With an ageing population, dementia is an increasing problem to the long term health of the nation. As working families become more and more unable to undertake care for relatives with dementia, and the life span of sufferers is extended through health interventions, a comprehensive national policy is needed. This dissertation, primarily composed using secondary sources, considers whether the framework currently in place is sufficient, evaluates whether the reluctance of general practitioners to make specialist referrals for early treatment of dementia-sufferers, and examines the policies established in Sweden and Spain. Finally, the paper makes recommendations for the improvement of care policies and standards in the UK.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • McDonald, A. and Dening, T. (2002). ‘Dementia is being avoided in NHS and social care’, British Medical Journal, 324:548.2.
  • Moise, P., Schwarzinger, M., Um, M-Y. and the OECD Dementia Experts Group (2004). Dementia care in 9 OECD countries: A comparative analysis. Paris: OECD.
  • Nolan, M.R., Davies, S., Brown, J., Keady, J. and Nolan, J. (2004). ‘Beyond ‘person-centred’ care: A new vision for gerontological nursing’, Journal of Clinical Nursing, Vol. 13, pp. 45-53.

Example social policy dissertation topic 10:

The inclusion of Traveller children in education to age eighteen: An assessment of policy assets and deficiencies.

Precise numbers of children from Traveller families attending school in the UK are difficult to ascertain, and estimates range wildly from 15,000 to 300,000. Many such children report discrimination from other children, teachers, administrative staff and local authorities; this paper assesses the extent to which this is a perception rather than a reality. Additionally, it presents the benefits and disadvantages of present policy in achieving higher numbers of Traveller children in education to – and past – GCSE level, acknowledging the government targets for full-time education for children aged up to eighteen years. Including extensive primary research among Traveller families and educators, as well as a thorough literature review, the paper finally offers recommendations to maximise inclusion in education for Traveller children.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Bhopal, K. (2004). ‘Gypsy Travellers and education: Changing needs and changing perceptions’, British Journal of Educational Studies, Vol. 52, pp. 47-64.
  • Cudworth, D. (2008). ‘There is a little bit more than just delivering the stuff: Policy, pedagogy and the education of Gypsy/Traveller children’, Critical Social Policy, Vol. 28(3), pp. 361-377.
  • Milbourne, L. (2002). ‘Unspoken exclusion: Experiences of continued marginalisation from education among ‘hard to reach’ groups of adults and children in the UK’, British Journal of Sociology of Education, Vol. 23(2), pp. 287-305.

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