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Introducing social work: a starter kit
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3.2 The policy context

This is a photograph of a person in a wheelchair with a dog.
Figure 12

Governments of all political persuasions devise and enact policies that reflect and express the primary discourses of the day about the distribution of wealth in society. Broadly speaking, in the period of 1997 to 2010, the Labour government’s policies were said to be based on the ‘redistributive’ discourse, attempting to address both the structural and the behavioural explanations of community ‘breakdown’ (Cunningham and Cunningham, 2014). On the other hand, the 2010–2015 coalition government’s approach to community policy appears to have contained a ‘moral underclass’ overtone, supported by statements which reflect concern about the ‘morally corrupting nature of welfare’.

To build stronger communities, the redistributive discourse argues for greater income distribution, improved employment opportunities welfare benefits, and for encouraging community spirit rather than fostering individualism. Alternatively, the moral underclass discourse seeks to reduce the de-motivating dependency of welfare, promoting self-help and volunteerism.