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The Development of the Irish Social Policy Essay

Social policies are widely embraced by countries to support their cause for economic development. This is considered vital in the progress of the country because it concerns itself with the interventions that concerns living conditions of the people and other factors that promote human welfare. It is described as “public policy and practice in the areas of health care, human services, criminal justice, inequality, education, and labor” (Webber, 1969). European countries have been instrumental in making necessary social policies that promotes equality and access to opportunities to its people.

In fact, it is stated in the Law of the European Union, particularly in the Social Chapter, to promote the implementation of the principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women in matters of employment and occupation. As compared to the social policies in the United States and Canada that focuses on morality issues, European social policies take into consideration access to different arrays of factors that affect social conditions: health care, housing, pension and many others. However, social policy itself has experienced much change through the years.

This made possible by the different calls of development through generations. Much story can be seen in the evolution of social policy in Ireland. Like any abovementioned causes of social policy, Ireland has also responded on the call of providing human welfare to its population. The development of social policy in Ireland has been much affected by its own development in history. The turn of social policy has been mostly attributed on the shift of Ireland to a Free State and Republic status after major economic downturns in the 1920s.

The remnants of the civil war have brought about high unemployment in the country. Maura Adshead mentioned in her book, the Roman Catholic Church was a catalyst in controlling the social policy issues that time. It employed a very conservative approach, mostly focusing on morality issues. At the same time, the Church has control over the provision of social services like schools and hospitals. But much has even changed in Ireland’s social policy from the time it declared to be a republic in 1949 till it sought admission to the European Union community in the 1960s.

Much economic restructuring has been focused on the economy. One of the major turns in social policy is the introduction of free secondary education in 1968. As the Irish economy continues to recuperate with the help of investments from the European Union, Ireland then began to embrace more liberal social policies, like legalizing divorce. It has drawn criticism from the dominant Roman Catholic Church. Despite the liberal move to social policies, one of the considered distinct turns of social policy in Ireland was the inclusion of partnerships in the strategy of social policy.

As social exclusions has been a pressing problem in the European countries, including Ireland, local partnerships with public, private and community organizations has been strengthened to combat problems of poverty and unemployment. Earlier, the concept of poverty was a financial responsibility of people. Frederick Powell states in his book, The Politics of Social Policy, if a certain population is on the state of poverty, they are branded to be “socially or economically useless”. But much has changed when the concept of partnerships in social policies has emerged.

It has given a multi-dimensional view, on poverty for example. Poverty now is perceived as both subjective and objective. Individuals, families and groups in the population can be said to be in poverty when they lack the resources to obtain the types of diet, participate in the activities and have the living conditions and amenities which are customary, or at least widely encouraged or approved, in the societies to which they belong (Townsend, 1979). However, this perception is not only limited to poverty. Social exclusion may also be applied to the lack of access to social services that are vital to the human welfare.

During the time that Ireland separated to the United Kingdom, the theme was into survival rather providing the social services that are needed by the people. This is brought about the lack of funds to institute services like health care and insurance. However, the first “beneficiaries” of the social provisions were the retired or unemployed workers. The Old Age Pension Act of 1908 and the National Insurance Act of 1911 gave minimal amount to social protection, however it all focused only on the monetary aspect of poverty (Stokes, 2009).

Progressing on its republic state, Ireland began to explore on other social services like health and maternal care. However, almost of these provisions became ill-fated because of some opposition to the views of the Church. For instance, Keeley Stokes also mentioned in her paper that the Mother and Child Service of 1950 has not been successful in providing free maternal health care for mothers and children of 16 years and above because the Church perceived this as a pathway to abortion and birth control rights.

The rest of other social policy provisions have been a reason for political opportunities as well, so the development of these interventions became incremental. Towards the 20th century, when poverty before was believed to be a factor of ineptitude in the part of the people, the Irish social policy has geared itself to be promoting to a holistic and responsible citizenship. Ireland’s inclusion to the European Union made it reflect on understanding the real score of poverty. Institutionalizing the solution of poverty was gone, rather incorporating a broader perspective in solving it was the new strategy.

This meant focusing on health care and equal opportunities for all. Poverty was not only mainly monetary, but it involves other different supporting factors. At present, health care is a public entity in Ireland, in which people are entitled to all child health and maternity services for free. The major drawback of the social policy in Ireland is on the issue of equality. Most of the criticisms underlie on the high level of unemployment in Ireland. Income determination has been still a root of inequality.

The people with their own interests will still dominate most of the problems of unemployment (O’Donnell, 1997). Nevertheless, under the social partnership structure, Ireland’s social policy must overcome the politics surrounding it so it can better deliver social provisions to its people. Bibliography Adshead, M. , & Tonge, J. (2009). Politics in Ireland: Convergence and Divergence in a Two-Polity Island (Comparative Government and Politics). New York: Palgrave Macmillan. O’Donnell, R. (1993). Ireland and Europe: Challenges for a New Century (Policy research).

New York: Economic & Social Research Institute. Powell, F. (1992). The Politics of Irish Social Policy 1600-1900. New York: The Edwin Mellen Press. Stokes, K. W. , (2009, April 2) A Historical Analysis of Social Policy in Ireland: Punctuated Equilibrium and the Role of Ideas. Retrieved from http://www. allacademic. com/meta/p362730_index. html. Townsend, P. (1979). Poverty in the United Kingdom: A Survey of Household Resources and Standards of Living. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. Webber, M. M. (1969). The social context for transport policy. Washington: U. S. G. P. O.


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