Poverty and social security: concepts and principles.
SPICKER, P., 2013. Poverty and social security: concepts and principles.
Author's note, 2013 Poverty and social security was published in November 1992 (though the title page states 1993). First published 1993 by Routledge, ISBN 0-415-05935-6 and 0-415-05936-4. The rights to publish have reverted to me, and I am making it freely available on the internet. The book has dated in some respects, but I have not attempted to update it. Much of what the book had to say about the idea of poverty, the contribution of social security and the methods that can be used is still relevant. After I had written the book, I came to change my views on poverty in particular, under the influence of the multidimensional, multi-faceted views that came to the fore in international organisations. By the time I came to write The idea of poverty (Policy Press, 2007) I was firmly committed to a different normative and analytical framework. I would not now even attempt to combine the treatment of poverty and social security in the same book. One of the arguments I was taken by when I wrote this book has been translated into a different framework. When ‘budget standards’ were first tested, they seemed not to work in the way that I expected - the term came to stand for the kind of normative budgeting that was associated with Rowntree’s household budgets. Subsequently, however, the approach - looking at what people actually do, rather than what experts suppose they might do - has yielded valuable insights into minimum income standards and the nature of a ‘living wage’. See, e.g., D Hirsch, 2013, a Minimum income standard for the UK in 2013, York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation. I have not changed the text in any way. Preface (1992) This book is concerned with the ways in which poverty can be defined and identified, and the responses which have been made to the problems of poverty in the development of financial assistance for people who are poor. The first part of the book is concerned with the idea of poverty, the way it has been operationalised, and the kinds of responses which might be made to it. The second part is concerned with social security: its connection with poor relief, the way in which benefit systems operate, and the extent to which such systems do effectively relieve poverty. On the face of it, this seems straightforward enough as a field for a critical study; on closer examination, though, the focus may seem difficult to justify. The definition of the subject matter depends crucially on a set of conventional interpretations about the ideas of 'poverty' and 'social security'. If the idea of 'poverty' was to be examined adequately, it probably ought to be considered in much wider terms than a consideration of financial assistance would imply; equally, any proper consideration of income maintenance touches on many topics beyond the relief of poverty. The justification for a narrower focus is in large part centred on a particular kind of problem: the discussion of what sort of benefits should be provided for the relief of poverty, and at what level they should be provided. This problem has been dominant historically in the development of services, and continues to be a major concern in the debates about social security now. The debates around this issue have to a large extent affected the way in which the issues of poverty and poor relief are discussed. The purpose of the book is, then, to discuss a set of problems and responses. It does this principally by considering a range of inter-related concepts. For reasons which I explain in the text, the book does not offer any authoritative definition of the problems, an approach which I know might drive some readers to distraction. The method has more to do with social philosophy than with social science. What it does is to outline options and ways and thinking about the issues, in the hope that it will help to establish an understanding of the relationship between poverty and social security, and inform discussion in the future. Part of the focus, too, is comparative. My own experience is from Britain. I have found it useful to draw on that experience for many of the examples, but concentration on Britain alone is not really adequate to understand either the problems of poverty or the methods which are available to respond to them. Many of the arguments made about social security in Britain - like the case for Child Benefit, or arguments against meanstesting - rely on a received wisdom based on a restricted range of policies, and the most effective way to put them into perspective is to draw on material from other countries. The book is intended mainly for an academic audience: it should be of interest to those studying social policy, sociology, politics and public administration, and there are elements which may be useful to students of economics and philosophy. On the principle that a better understanding should make for better policy - though I really ought to know differently by now - it may also be helpful for those who are involved in policy-making and administration for the poor.