Module and Programme Catalogue

Search site

Find information on

2020/21 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

SLSP1220 Social Policy: Poor Laws to the Present

20 creditsClass Size: 100

Module manager: Dr Daniel Edmiston

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2020/21

Module replaces

SLSP1120 Central Debates in Welfare and SLSP1130 Social Welfare and Social Change

This module is approved as a discovery module

Module summary

This module explores some of the social, political, economic and cultural influences that have shaped the United Kingdom’s welfare state over time. It considers how the Poor Laws laid the foundations for the ‘Classic Welfare State’ established in the 1940s, and how the post-war welfare settlement rested upon false assumptions about the nature of family, of work and of nationhood. Besides examining the policy-making process, theories related to poverty, inequality and social exclusion are introduced to demonstrate how social policy has developed over the years and delimited the redistributive and integrative functions of UK welfare state. The module also examines how the UK welfare state has been reformulated through popular deference to professional authority and, crucially, by ideological critiques of the post-war welfare settlement. For example, differences and commonalities between the so-called ‘Thatcherite’, ‘New Labour’ and ‘Permanent Austerity’ welfare regimes are examined to consider their political manifestations and policy implications. In this respect, the module explores ideologies of welfare and principles of organisation, provision and entitlement that inform the social outcomes and opportunities of citizens. More specifically, students are introduced to key debates and developments within welfare politics to explore how these have impacted on questions of gender, race and ethnicity, disability, poverty and inequality.


By exploring key themes and classic and contemporary debates in the history of social policy up to the present, on completing the module students will be better able to:

- Demonstrate their understanding of the main theoretical and policy perspectives relating to the nature of welfare provision in contemporary society
- Contribute to informed debate in relation to issues surrounding key developments in social policy formulation over time;
- Critically evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the various theories and perspectives on these issues

Learning outcomes
On successful completion of this module students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate knowledge of key events in the development of welfare provision in Britain since the Poor Laws and 1945 in particular.
2. Understand the impact upon welfare provision of changing political ideologies, of changes in family structure and patterns of partnering and parenting, of changes in the nature of work and the level of poverty, of social exclusion, of unemployment, of changing understandings of national identity, and of changes in the authority and status of welfare professionals.
3. Understand the policy making process.
4. Begin to evaluate the role of political and social movements, and of popular and political attitudes towards welfare and welfare claimants.
5. Make written and oral presentations on topics in these fields of study which are cogent, coherent, and logically structured
6. Undertake independent research within the structure of a guided and indicative reading list.


Throughout the module, teaching and learning will be clustered around the following indicative themes and topics:

Block 1: Core Themes Through the Ages
- The 'Deserving' vs. the 'Undeserving'
- From Poverty to Social Exclusion to Inequality
- The 'Underclass' Debate
- Social Divisions of Welfare

Block 2: Theoretical and Ideological Influences on Welfare Politics
- Universalism and Socialism
- Paternalism and Philanthropy
- Neo-liberalism and the Third Way
- 'Permanent Austerity' & Welfare Recalibration

Block 3: Citizenship, Disability, Gender and Ethnicity
- The 'Good' Citizen and Welfare
- Disability Policy: Policing the 'Deserving Poor'?
- Gendered Assumptions Underpinning Welfare Provision
- Race, Ethnicity and Welfare

Block 4: Political Manifestations and Policy Implications
- From the Cradle to the Grave?
- Balancing Rights with Responsibilities
- Poverty, Inequality and (Re-) Distributive Justice

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Independent online learning hours12.00
Private study hours156.00
Total Contact hours32.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Independent reading is essential to the successful completion of the module. For each week, students are expected to undertake 12 hours of private study or independent learning (total of 132 hours for the module). This will mainly entail keeping up to date with the relevant readings for the week, but also keeping on top of media debates and commentaries. Students will have the opportunity to blog and use social media throughout the module as part of this 12 hour independent study. The remainder of the time should be spent preparing for the assessment around 36 hours in total.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Contribution at tutorials – this will typically take the form of verbal presentations and discussions. Students will also have the opportunity to gain practice in assessment by taking in part in formative exercises or by going through essay writing techniques.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay2,500 words100.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 05/08/2020 09:58:09


Browse Other Catalogues

Errors, omissions, failed links etc should be notified to the Catalogue Team.PROD

© Copyright Leeds 2019