Social Policy: Theory and Practice

Social Policy: Theory and practice (Policy Press, 2014)Social Policy: Theory and Practice is the third edition of Paul Spicker’s key textbook, published by the Policy Press. The book lays out the architecture of social policy as a field of study, binding the discussion of theory to the understanding of social policy in practice. It aims to provide students and
practitioners with a sense of the scope, range and purpose of the subject while developing critical awareness of problems, issues and
common fallacies. It explains

  • what social policy is and why it matters;
  • looks at social policy in its social context;
  • considers policy, the role of the state and the social services;
  • explores issues in social administration and service delivery; and
  • focuses on the methods and approaches of the subject.

For practitioners, there are discussions of the techniques and approaches used to apply social policy in practice. The third edition incorporates major sections from Policy Analysis for Practice
(Policy Press, 2006)

The book has been extensively reworked and adapted to meet the needs of its international readership. For students, there are boxes raising issues and reviewing case studies, questions for discussion and a detailed glossary. The book’s distinctive, path–breaking approach makes it invaluable for students
studying social policy at a range levels, professionals and practitioners in the field of social policy.


Introduction: the nature of social policy

Part 1: Social policy and society

Welfare in society
Problems and responses
Needs and welfare
Indicators – quantifying social issues

Part 2: Policy

Public policy
Welfare states
Principles and values
Strategies for welfare
Policy in practice

Part 3: Social administration: the
organisation and delivery of welfare

Welfare sectors
The organisation of public services
Value for money
Service delivery
Receiving welfare
The administrative process

Part 4: The methods and approaches of
social policy

Research for policy
Evidence and policy
Social policy for practice.

The book can be ordered from the Policy Press’s website.

Lecturers teaching relevant courses of more than 12 students can order an inspection copy here.


First edition

“The best book of its kind on the market
… brings together the institutional, theoretical and methodological aspects of the subject in an original and illuminating way.”
Robert Pinker, Emeritus Professor of Public Administration, London
School of Economics and Political Science

“A highly informative, readable and
authoritative introduction to the study of social issues … It is thoroughly recommended for all those with an interest in the social
policy field.”
Health and Social Care in the Community

Second edition

“Provides a comprehensive overview of
the field of social policy. This is not a usual textbook which just gives an overview of the subject, it invites and encourages readers to
think and ask questions about studying and understanding social policy”
Faiz Rasool, Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology

“There is more food for thought here
than in most introductory texts. It captures the very particular approach to the study of social issues that is British ‘social policy’, which is gaining ground internationally.”
Howard Glennerster, Emeritus Professor of Social Policy, London School of Economics and Political Science

Third edition

Social Policy: Theory and practice comes highly recommended as a thorough and stimulating introduction to the field. ”
Citizens Income Trust

“Five stars. This book is a “must have” for students of social policy!”
“Brilliant book, covers everything that I need for social studies …”
Amazon customer reviews

Readings to accompany Social Policy: Theory and Practice

The page of Readings in social policy
has links to writing about Social Policy issues in much greater depth.  The readings have been selected to complement the text of Social Policy and are freely available online  Most of the links download PDF files.

Notes for students

The second edition of Social Policy included guidance to students on writing about social policy. The advice
for students
is available here, along with an adapted version of the guide to sources given on pp 450-452 of the third edition.