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The Evolution of Choice Policies in UK Housing, Education and Health Policy


Scholarship in social policy in recent years has examined how policy positions users in a range of roles, particularly most recently in terms of their roles as ‘choosers’ through the increased use of markets in welfare. This article considers how choice policies have positioned users since the creation of the modern welfare state, presenting a history of choice policies, but also a comparative examination of how they have differed in the UK between housing, education and healthcare. It concludes by suggesting that although approaches to choice vary considerably between the three public services examined, policy-makers often appear unaware of these differences, leading to mistaken assumptions that policies can be transferred or transplanted unproblematically.

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A. Deacon and K. Mann (1999), ‘Agency, modernity and social policy’, Journal of Social Policy, 28: 3, 413–35.

I. Greener (2002), ‘Agency, social theory and social policy’, Critical Social Policy, 22: 73, 688706.

I. Greener (2003), ‘Patient choice in the NHS: the view from economic sociology’, Social Theory and Health, 1: 1, 7289.

J. Le Grand (2003), Motivation, Agency and Public Policy: Of Knights, Knaves, Pawns and Queens, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

D. Wainwright (1998), ‘Disenchantment, ambivalence and the precautionary principle: the becalming of British health policy’, International Journal of Health Services, 28: 3, 407–26

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Journal of Social Policy
  • ISSN: 0047-2794
  • EISSN: 1469-7823
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-social-policy
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