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Responding to social problems

One of the key difficulties in solving a social problem is identifying it, watch this video led by Dan to engage in discussing this issue.
One of the key difficulties in solving a social problem is identifying it – or at least reaching a wide enough consensus that something is an issue. Take for example free school meals out of term time. How do people know that children are going hungry once they are in their own home? What happens behind closed doors has long been considered private. Through the work of those who support families in poverty, the issue began to receive some attention. Charities, politicians, and eventually sports stars pressed the issue, raising it to national attention. Even when debate began however, not all were convinced of the scale of the issue. Nor was everybody in agreement as to whether something should be done.
For many, the responsibility to feed children is a private issue, not a public one. Even amongst those who felt something should be done, there was disagreement as to what. Should cash be given to families? Food vouchers? Food parcels? Who should decide who gets these? Who is responsible for administering vouchers or cash, or even delivering food parcels. In some areas families received an electronic voucher that they used at the supermarket. In other areas, school teachers were delivering food parcels. Responding to social problems needs first and foremost for knowledge about such problems. Research is important. Making sure we are truly capturing the real issue. Then we need to consider all the possible options at our disposal. What has worked before?
What has failed before? What works elsewhere and what doesn’t? There is no ‘one-size fits all’ formula. Some issues require a big-picture approach and national policy. Others might be best led by local teams with knowledge of those local intricacies and existing relationships with those affected. Almost all approaches require resources though – time and money. How do we decide where to spend our time and money? How do we prioritise? How do we strike a balance between supporting people and enabling them to support themselves? These are tough questions. We find that it isn’t always the best policy or solution that is adopted. Sometimes this is for political reasons, sometimes for economic reasons, often because of a lack of knowledge or unintended consequences.
Usually it is a mixture of all. We can however continually monitor, evaluate, and improve policy. And importantly, ensure that it is genuinely useful to those who it is intended to support.

One of the key difficulties in solving a social problem is identifying it.

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Understanding and Solving Poverty and Inequality

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