The key aim of this book is to critically explore the options for the future of welfare under New Labour.
The 1997 election marked the prospect of a new era in social welfare - the possibility of establishing a third phase in the post-war history of the welfare state (the first being the creation of the Keynesian welfare state, the second the Thatcher/Major neo-liberal reforms). The welfare state that the government inherited from the Conservatives is widely believed to be in a critical condition. At the same time, there is evidence of widening social inequality in Britain which existing social policy measures fail to address.
Whilst acknowledging that future welfare strategies are likely to operate within a market paradigm, the key argument of this book is that welfare providers should operate within a more accountable and democratic environment where service-users have the right to participate in decision-making processes affecting their welfare - regardless of the ability to pay. The book concludes that the dominant discourse shaping social policy in Britain must be recognized and should not be accepted uncritically and that there are very real economic (as well as social) benefits from taking measures to address social disadvantage.