The relationship between social policy and public policy is that social policy may be seen as the way societies "allocate resources" to implement government (local, state, federal) public policy as it is expressed through "legislation/laws, local ordinances, regulations, executive orders, court decisions, or decisions of administrators" ("Social and Public Policy," Government Publications Resources made available by San Jose State University).
The relationship between social policy and public policy is also that public policy may represent the formalization of social policy. Together, social and public policy address problems recognized in society.
Formalization into public policy of solutions for society's problems may originate at the social policy level or at the public policy level. Social policy (which includes actions based on laws, customs, or social ideas) may originate in society and filter upward to the public policy level, where it is incorporated into law, or social policy may originate with government and filter downward to be implemented at the social level.
An example of the relationship between social and public policy in which policy filtered upward into federal law is MADD—Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Begun in 1980 by California mother Candace Lightner, MADD was incorporated into federal law in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan when he made 21 years of age the national age for legalized drinking (upheld by the Supreme Court in 1987).
An example of the relationship between social and public policy in which policy filtered downward into society is the National Education Goals reform movement of 2000. Part of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, President George W. Bush's reform movement required standards and standardized testing to be implemented across all sectors of American society in all mandatory education settings.
"Social and Public Policy," Government Publications Resources, San Jose State University, California.
"The 4 Factors That Impact Social Policy," Sol Price School of Public Policy. University of Southern California.
"Policy Matters," Center for the Study of Social Policy. University of Chicago.