Is This How You Break A Society?

Social Policy Association reports on implications of ‘historic’ welfare reforms

‘In Defence of Welfare’, a wide-ranging analysis of the coalition government’s 2010 Spending Review is published today by the Social Policy Association (SPA), which promotes the study of social policy and advances the role of social policy research within policy making, practice and wider public debates.

Social Policy Association Logo

Social Policy Association Logo

Comprising 24 short pieces by leading social policy commentators, ‘In Defence of Welfare’ explores the likely impacts of reforms across a range of policy areas and advances arguments and evidence for alternative approaches.  Copies of the report have today (9 February 2011) been delivered to all MPs, Peers, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland elected members; to senior civil servants; and to pressure groups, voluntary organisations and think tanks from across the political spectrum.  

In his Foreword, SPA President and Financial Times Public Policy Editor Nicholas Timmins observes “there is no doubt that what is happening is historic given the coalition’s announcement of the biggest single set of spending cuts since at least the Second World War”, even though he stresses that only time and events will confirm the effects. The rise in tuition fees for higher education, he says, is “a watershed”, as is “the ending of child benefit as a universal payment.” He notes that cuts to housing benefit have led to fears that the least well off will be forced out of city centres – potentially “changing the shape and nature of British society.”

‘In Defence of Welfare’ sees contributors discuss these and other changes and suggest alternatives in papers that range from the technical and analytic to the polemical – the latter including the judgement by one that “This is how you break a society”.

SPA Chair Caroline Glendinning explains: “The government’s approach is welcomed by particular contributors, although not uncritically – those championing older and disabled people, overseas development aid and compulsory education have cautiously welcomed at least some of the reforms.

“However, there are wider concerns that moves towards increasing conditionality in eligibility for welfare support, regional imbalances, and settlements which impact most on the poor and women betray a regressive approach that contradicts the government’s rhetoric. For many contributors, ‘fairness’ in an increasingly unequal society means that the well-off should contribute more than this government is currently asking of them.”

‘In Defence of Welfare’, can be downloaded free of charge from the SPA website ( 

Caroline Glendinning (chair) and Nicola Yeates (vice-chair) of the Social Policy Association are both available for comment/interview.

Media enquiries:
Chris Blunkell
(t.) 01227 772747 (m.) 07941 831341

Notes to editors

The Social Policy Association

The Social Policy Association (SPA) promotes the study of social policy and advances the role of social policy research within policy making, practice and wider public debates. It is a professional association which links academics who teach and research in higher education, postgraduate researchers, policy makers and others.

Most of the Association’s 500 members are active teachers and researchers in social policy and applied social science within UK higher education, although a significant and growing number of members come from other European, Asian and Australasian countries.

The SPA actively promotes communication and learning between members and with the wider policy and public. Key activities include:

  • an academic conference each summer, regularly attracting up to 250 delegates from the UK and overseas

  • support for the two leading international academic social policy journals – Journal of Social Policy and Social Policy and Society

  • an active network and regular seminars and conferences for social policy post-graduate students

  • a newsletter – Policy World – published three times a year

  • regular engagement with UK higher education funding bodies, other learned societies in the humanities and social sciences, and policy makers.

Members’ Directory
SPA members regularly provide useful content to the media. The SPA’s on-line members’ directory allows journalists and others to search members by research interests and areas of expertise (, and provides contact details.  Alternatively, contact Chris Blunkell with specific media requests (

SPA Annual Conference 2011
The SPA Annual Conference 2011 ‘Bigger Societies, Smaller Governments?’ will take place from 4-6 July 2011 at the University Of Lincoln. Plenary sessions so far confirmed include Dr Sarah Cook of the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, Professor Jan Pahl of the University of Kent, and a session on ‘The Big Society: A new direction for third sector policy in England?’ with Professor Pete Alcock of the University of Birmingham, Karl Wilding of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and Ruchir Shah of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations. More information at:

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