Social policy is about both the intervention of the state in individual lives and the setting of norms about social obligations. In Britain, the starting-point for the analysis of social policy is the idea of contingency — that at certain times of their lives, individuals will face circumstances they are unable to cope with by themselves. In the British tradition of teaching and writing about social policy, this is associated with ‘need’ — the idea of deprivation crying out for treatment in a way to which the average citizen would seek to respond, both individually and through organisations like political parties.
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