Whatever happened to Social Policy?

It’s the shortest day, the bleak midwinter, and a note from WordPress tells me that I’ve now been writing this blog for five years. It’s also just over a year since I left my university post; I’ve managed in that time to complete a couple of books and I’ve attended about 25 sessions relating mainly to the development of social security issues.

While I was sorting through papers, I came across a copy of a rhyme I wrote for the Social Policy Association.  When I gave one of the talks in the plenary session of the SPA conference in 2004, I argued that  University departments in Social Policy had gone astray by abandoning its commitment to practice and the study of social administration, where so many exciting things were and are happening.  A short version of the paper appeared in Policy World.  I knew this message wouldn’t be popular (and it wasn’t), so I wrote it in verse to make the message more palatable.  Here it is.

I have a cautionary tale,
Which some may think beyond the pale:
It starts out as a fairy story
But ends up nasty, grim and gory.
A group of children lost their way
And, dreadful as it is to say
While they were out and having fun
Were slowly eaten one by one.
When first they set off through the wood
All were intent on Doing Good,
But those who strayed from off the track
Disappeared, and ne’er came back.
Sadly these kids met their fate
Where Funding Councils lay in wait.
Some strayed into a sorry fix
With Departments of Politics.
Hidden in the distant mists
were bears and Sociologists.
Blithely tripping, these young fools
Were unaware of Business Schools.
Some ran away, and some got lost;
Some compromised, at quite a cost.
Their numbers gradually diminished
Until the little band was finished.
(I don’t know if they tasted good
But they shouldn’t have run off into the wood.)
The moral of this sorry tale
Is, if we don’t want this group to fail,
We have to choose the path that’s best
Or we’ll be swallowed, like the rest.



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