What are the differences between social policy and social welfare policy?

The difference between social policy and social welfare policy is subtle but significant. Social policy refers to a broader area that impacts people. For example, a government might have a social policy about healthcare. However, that social policy might exclude some citizens. That's where social welfare policy comes in. In America, not everyone can afford health insurance, so there is the existence of social welfare policy like Medicaid, where the government helps people pay for insurance and treatment.

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There are many differencesboth big and smallbetween social policy and social welfare policy. We might think of social policy as the broad and more general term under which social welfare policy lives.

For example, professor Peter Taylor-Gooby says social policy "focuses on human need and what governments and other bodies can do to meet it." He also says, "Social policy is concerned with welfare."

So we can say that social policy and social welfare are linked. But how can we separate them?

Again, let's think of social policy as the more abstract, general term. A government might have certain social policies concerning education, healthcare, employment standards, and so on.

Let's look at one specific example: the United States' healthcare policies. In America, through your job or through yourself, you are supposed to pay for health insurance so that if you get sick and have to go to a hospital you have someone to help you pay your bill.

Of course, this social policy leaves people out. For people who can't afford to buy health insurance or whose job doesn't offer them health insurance, you might be able to get Medicaid, which is a government welfare program that helps its citizens pay for healthcare.

So healthcare is the broader social policy, while welfare steps in when that social policy leaves people out. You might ask why the government just doesn't change its social policy to include those it left out, but that's probably a question for another topic.

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"Social policy" is a phrase often used to describe policy that is related to society as a whole. It is usually intended to address some need or advance a societal priority. Education policy, for example, is social policy. So are policies such as affirmative action, which was instituted in the United States in the wake of the civil rights movement to promote employment opportunities for minorities. Title IX, the legislation that required equal access to educational programs for women, is another example of social policy.

"Social welfare policy" is usually used to refer to policy aimed at addressing people's material circumstances. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Medicaid, and Social Security are examples of social welfare policies. They support people who struggle, due to their circumstances, to provide for their families through public funds. SNAP, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is another example. It provides financial support for families to purchase nutritious food. It is an example of a direct aid program that attempts to benefit society by providing funds to help people who need them the most. These programs, then, are a specific kind of social policy.

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Although the terms are often used interchangeably, social welfare policy is theoretically a subset of social policy. In other words, all social welfare policies are social policies but not all social policies are social welfare policies. The difference though is more theoretical than practical as it is rare to have social policies that are not believed to contribute to the well-being of society.

One set of social policies that one could argue are not necessarily social welfare policies are those regulating gender and sexuality. For example, whether restrooms are unisex or single gender and whether biology or gender identification should determine use of single-gender bathrooms a matter of social policy, as are gay marriage, the legal age of marriage, whether women are compelled to take their husbands last names, whether married couples hold property in common or can still hold property as individuals, or whether polygamy is legal. Various laws and policies vary across different regions and countries are intended to promote different ideals of sexual conduct, but while these are social policies, they are not necessarily social welfare policies but instead efforts to sustain local cultural norms. Racial segregation would be an example of a social policy informed by racism that did not enhance social welfare but actually harmed many United States citizens.

On the other hand, social policies that aim to reduce child hunger, provide prenatal care, reduce crime, or promote universal education all would be considered social welfare policies.

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There is a difference between social policy and social welfare policy. A reference to social policy includes both the goals of collective responsibilities and the services that are needed to carry out these responsibilities. Social policies include the rules and the laws that define what public social welfare is and that authorizes groups to try to achieve the purpose of the social policies. An example of a social policy would be a tax credit to help families pay for the cost of child daycare or the cost of higher education.

Social welfare policy refers to the responsibilities that the government and the society have to each other. It includes the structures and measures that allow for these responsibilities to occur. These responsibilities could be carried out by either informal organizations or by formal organizations. These could be public organizations, for-profit organizations, or private nonprofit organizations. Examples of social welfare policies would include Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

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