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2020: The changing nature of welfare

While Policy & Politics has always tracked debates about the changing nature of welfare globally, our need to understand the implications of such changes is proving more crucial than ever during this global pandemic.  In particular, it is clear that this pandemic will have differentiated impacts, with those who are poorer and more vulnerable more likely to be adversely affected. To help think about how these challenges can be tackled, this special collection brings together a range of insights from recent articles that consider the changing nature of welfare and what this means for welfare recipients.

In our first article, Toby Lowe, Jonathan Kimmitt, Rob Wilson, Mike Martin and Jane Gibbon analyse a new policy tool launched in 2010 designed to link the outcomes of social interventions to payments: social impact bonds. One of its main principles is that private investors shoulder the financial risk of these interventions rather than public funds. In one of the first ever detailed analyses of social impact bonds, the authors show evidence of congruence between stakeholders at the planning stage. However, a range of significant tensions subsequently emerge over managing the complexity of the SIB contract and the performance of those delivering social interventions, largely consequent on the contract’s outcome-oriented targets. If such tensions and conflicts are apparent in other SIB programmes then this has serious implications for how well those contracts work and potentially the quality of care received by beneficiaries.

Our second article by Peter Dwyer, Lisa Scullion, Katy Jones and Alisdair Stewart explores how conditionality on EU migrants in the UK restricts social rights, operating at three levels. At the EU level, migrants are only guaranteed rights providing they are actively working. At the national level, the UK and other countries have implemented strict conditionalities for welfare payments that often exclude EU migrants. At the street-level, these policies and general anti-immigration discourses have led to the abolishment of the right to interpreters, and an increase in perceived xenophobia in individual encounters with jobcentre advisers. These findings enhance our understanding of how the conditionality inherent in macro level EU and UK policy has seriously detrimental effects on the everyday lives of EU migrants.

Our third article by Anthony Kevins and Kees van Kerbergen also focusses on how welfare policies affect migrants, and specifically considers how certain approaches to welfare provision can shape the integration of migrants into the national community.  The authors argue that, although universalism is broadly regarded as central to the integrative and solidarity-building potential of welfare states, the traditional approach to understanding the concept is fraught with inconsistencies. Instead, rather than comparing welfare states using the classical universalist-selectivist dichotomy, the authors suggest that they should be thought of as embodying various ‘packages’ of universalist traits – all of which are unified by their connection to a core, self-sustaining logic of solidarity. Through their comparison of Canadian and Danish universalism, the authors then show why ‘classically universalist’ Denmark is facing threats to solidarity and migrant integration that are much more intense than those found in ‘classically selectivist’ Canada.

Our fourth and final article by Peter Taylor-Gooby, Ben Leruth and Heejung Chung presents an interesting range of findings based on the attitudes to welfare held by those who participate in deliberative forums, and the way in which the deliberative process shapes these attitudes. In terms of attitudes, their research shows how the UK’s neoliberal market-centredness fits with enthusiasm for state healthcare and pensions, a desire to close national labour markets to immigrants and approval of government interventions to expand opportunities for those willing to make an effort. Their findings point to the strength of the work ethic and individual responsibility alongside a regret that major and highly valued state services appear unsustainable. Immigrants are constructed as simultaneously a burden on provision and unfair labour-market competitors by way of arguing for the development of a ‘new risk’ welfare state through social investment. The study is important in revealing the complexity of responses to current challenges in an increasingly liberal-leaning welfare state.

All the articles featured in this virtual collection are listed below and are free to download from 1 July until 8 July 2020:

2020: Working with citizens and changing behaviours

In this virtual issue we showcase our latest research on the topic of the state working with citizens and changing behaviours. As governments grapple with the longer-term implications of the COVID-19 pandemic, invoking behavioural change will be a key measure in the easing of lockdowns and the maintenance of social distancing,  Against this backdrop, the articles below provide a series of instructive lessons. The following articles are free to access until 10 June 2020.

In our first article, Activating citizens in Dutch care reforms: framing new co-production roles and competences for citizens and professionals, José Nederhand and Ingmar Van Meerkerk explore the growing interest of governments in co-production and self-organisation. They do this by analysing the framing of roles and responsibilities of citizens and professionals involved in care reforms in Holland. They find that, as in many other Western countries, caring responsibilities are being shifted back onto societies. Interestingly though, they observe that newer roles, such as citizen-as-co-producer, are not a direct substitute for more traditional roles such as citizen-as-client. Instead, they find an expansion and diversification of roles for professionals, for whom supporting and partnering with citizens are becoming new professional competencies.

In our second article, Matching policy tools and their targets: beyond nudges and utility maximisation in policy design, Michael Howlett argues that studies of policy tools have not devoted enough attention to the behavioural characteristics of the targets of policy interventions. Instead, they have assumed them to act rationally as ‘utility maximisers’ who can be manipulated by incentives and disincentives in a simple, straightforward way. To address this, Howlett proposes a new research agenda focused on understanding and matching behaviours with the most appropriate policy tools. It argues that targets are often complex entities and that a range of different target behaviours will often be present in any particular context, requiring a range of policy tools to be used.

Finally, in Brokering Behaviour Change: The Work of Behavioural Insights Experts in Government, Joram Feitsma aims to dispel the myths foregrounding the recent surge of interest by Western governments in behavioural insights into citizens’ actions. He argues that the assumptions underpinning the behavioural science approach to policy-making are fundamentally flawed and based on an unrealistic,  instrumental, apolitical view of the science-policy relationship.  Based on an ethnographic study of behavioural experts in the Dutch central government, he concludes that the work of behavioural insight experts might more accurately be understood as knowledge brokerage; and that translating behavioural policy practice in this way may help behavioural experts to overcome knowledge broker-related challenges.

All the articles featured in this blog are listed below and are free to download from 3 June until 10 June 2020

2020: Evidence in policymaking and the role of experts

The importance of using evidence in policymaking and debates over the role of experts has never been more crucial than during the current coronavirus pandemic and ensuing public health crisis. From prevailing, long-standing debates over both topics in Policy & Politics, we bring you a collection of our best and most recent articles. The following articles are free to access until 13 April 2020.

Firstly, Rethinking the role of experts and expertise in behavioural public policy by Peter John and Gerry Stoker who argue that, from virtually nowhere, behaviour change policy interventions – commonly referred to as ‘nudge’ – have become an established practice of governments across the globe. However, there are many cynics who are sceptical of nudge, predominantly because it emerged from experts in welfare policy and economics who argued that the public needs to be ‘helped’ to act in its own best interests. Offering a comprehensive reorientation of the concept, they move well beyond its narrow assumption that citizen’s intuitive reasoning is flawed and expert advice is always preferable. Instead, they call for experts to get alongside citizens and see them not as cognitive misers but as potential investors in a shared dynamic of change.

In our second article on the Expertise of politicians and their role in epistemic communities, the authors, Anne Skevik Grødem and Jon M Hippe ask whether it matters or not if politicians know what they are doing? Through an analysis of pension reform in Norway, they examine the interplay between technical expertise and political know-how in politicians, arguing that when politicians possess both, it can be extremely valuable in driving through reform policies. They demonstrate how a politician who has can act as both “an expert” and as “a politician” is most likely to be effective in realising their policy objectives.

In our third article: Is it time to give up on evidence-based policy?, author Richard French provides a state-of-the-art systematic review of the evidence-based policy (EBP) literature, categorising its different schools of thought. In conclusion he argues that, in order to survive, future EBP research needs to take more account of the complexity and specificities of the task environment in which it operates, rather than making generalised assumptions about the analytical rationality of decision making in policy environments.

In our fourth article on Can experience be evidence? Craft knowledge and evidence-based policing Jenny Fleming and Rod Rhodes explore the use of evidence in the form of varieties of knowledge used in police decision making. Acknowledging EBP as the dominant policy-making paradigm in the UK, they discuss its limitations and, as a variant, propose a model that includes four types of experience, drawing on data from UK police forces. They conclude that the use of experience as a form of evidence is crucial to EBP because it plays a critical role in weaving together the various types of knowledge brought to bear on decisions.

Our final article A new epistemology of evidence-based policy by Philip Sayer offers an incisive and forensic analysis of the basic assumptions underpinning EBP which it argues are flawed in a number of ways. His premise is that critiques to date of EBP have been limited by imprecise accounts of its assumptions such as positivism. Drawing on an existing epistemological framework, which Sayer brings to bear on his analysis, he proposes a new approach to EBP focusing on the principle of avoiding error rather than seeking truth. Importantly, he concludes that EBP might rest on firmer foundations if framed as an important quality check on evidence claims, rather than the basis for decisions on which types of evidence should be produced and taken into account.

I hope you have enjoyed reading these articles. Look out for our next virtual issue publishing in June!

All of the articles featured in this virtual collection are listed below and are free to download until 13 April 2020.

2019: Europe in crisis

Europe is experiencing various forms of crises in governance, policy and politics at the continental, national and local levels. Whilst many of these have been brewing for some time, the sense of political crisis is increasing with EU policies challenged by national political actors, growth of populist parties, political fragmentation, weak governments and increasing poverty and inequality in many countries across the continent. Here at Policy & Politics we have recently published several articles that can help us make sense of these crises and contribute to the policy debates to help resolve them. The articles were free to access throughout March 2019. Although the papers may no longer available for free, you can still access them online either through your institution's subscription or by using pay-per-view. 

2018: Improving policy-making by engaging with evidence

To celebrate APPAM’s 2018 Fall Research Conference which looked at improving policy-making by engaging with evidence throughout the policy process, Policy & Politics developed a virtual issue of recent research articles based on the conference theme. The articles were free to access throughout November 2018. Although the papers are no longer available for free, you can still access them online either through your institution's subscription or by using pay-per-view. 

2018: Public Participation

To celebrate the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) 2018 Conference, Policy & Politics selected the following three research articles to form a virtual issue which aims to enhance our understanding of the importance of public participation. The articles were free to access from 20 August-20 September 2018. Although the papers are no longer available for free, you can still access them online either through your institution's subscription or by using pay-per-view. 


2017: Evidence-Based Policy; Public Services & Reform; Welfare State
To celebrate APPAM’s 2017 Fall Research Conference, which focused on the importance of measurement in evaluating policy and performance, Policy & Politics developed a virtual issue of recent research articles based on the conference theme, along with two other themed collections which were free to access from 1-30 November 2017.  Although the papers are no longer available for free, you can still access them online either through your institution's subscription or by using pay-per-view. 

Evidence-Based Policy

Public Services & Reform

Welfare State

2016: Human Rights, Equality and Sexuality

To celebrate the 2016 Annual Lecture on Same Sex Marriage and the Church by Rev. Richard Coles, Policy & Politics was pleased to offer a collection of related papers from the journal for free. Although the papers are no longer available for free, you can still access them online either through your institution's subscription or by using pay-per-view. 


2015: The Environment

To celebrate the 2015 Annual Lecture on the Politics of Climate Change by Lord Anthony Giddens, Policy & Politics took great pleasure in making articles from the journal on similar themes free for a week in April 2015. Although the papers are no longer freely available, you can still access them online either through your institution's subscription or by using pay-per-view. We hope you enjoy.