Making Social Policy Work
John Hills, Julian Le Grand, David Piachaud
Policy Press, 2007
Star rating: 4/5
This is a tribute to the social scientist Howard Glennerster, marking his 70th birthday, and is dominated by contributions from his colleagues at the LSE.
As a guide to the latest ideas on just about every aspect of social policy from the government’s favourite university “think tank”, it can have few rivals.
Many of the 12 chapters are written by leading thinkers in their respective fields: Julian LeGrand on quasi-markets in
health care; John Hills on pensions; and Jane Lewis on the implications of family change.
If it all sounds terribly on-message with the government, it is because these writers helped to create the message in the
first place. Social workers will find Martin Knapp’s chapter on choice and control in social care a useful summary of recent developments and many will agree with his cautious assessment that the next two or three years will tell us what is “feasible, effective and affordable”.
Most provocative, perhaps, is José Harris’s revisionist treatment of the Victorian poor law, conventionally viewed
as discriminating against the “undeserving” poor and justly scrapped in favour of the welfare state during the 1940s. Not so, says Harris, who argues that the roots of enlightened universalism go back to the poor law and even to the common law which preceded it. Hopefully, this is one message the government won’t take to heart.
Mark Ivory is executive editor, Community Care