What are the differences between public policy and social policy?

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Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Not only are these interesting definitions to research but also they could eventually serve as a perfect subject for a comparison and contrast paper.

Let's begin with public policy as the governmental policy most usually associated with the administrative branch of the justice system.  The polices are put into place through Constitutions, judicial interpretations, and regulations. They are enforced by authorized legislation. 

Public policy has four main components: setting agenda, formulation, implementation, and evaluation. Public policy is essentially the making and assessing of governmental policies. There are many individuals, groups, and political action committees who attempt to influence Public Policy. Ultimately, the government officials set the policy, hopefully utilizing their constituents requests and needs. Public policy relies heavily on a feed-back system which is a means of checking and balancing the legislation that has been put into effect. 

Next, let us take a look at social policy.  Social policy is a term referring to the policies and procedures which govern the welfare of the people in a certain area. Social Policy utilizes different social sciences in order to assess and address social welfare or well-being. These social sciences include economics, sociology, psychology, geography, history, law, philosophy and political science.

Social policy is generally concerned with human services and education. It is policy which affects the prosperity, health, and happiness of constituents. Healthcare, recreational drug use, abortion, and gun laws are examples of social policy. Social policy tends to deal with what are considered moral issues and are largely influenced by religion, race, and philosophies. Further, when looking at social policies, it is important to look at concrete examples.

In conclusion (and as further explanation), if you look at Roosevelt’s New Deal, you will see that it is a groundbreaking example of social policy. Why? It was a program that focused on economic growth through divvying out work to the people. This, of course, was a response to the Great Depression that hit America in the 1930s and is considered one of the most successful social policies of the last century.