The implementation of English social policy.

Essay by AtheneUniversity, Master'sB, May 2003

download word file, 13 pages 3.0

The evaluation of social policy began in the USA in the 1950s and 1960s, and reached the UK by the early 1970s (Everitt and Hardiker 1996:42-43) by which time British social policy was focused on Beveridge's 'Welfare State' (Jones 1991:134). The term 'evaluation' has many definitions (Alkin 1990:81-3), but for the purposes of this essay, I will use Patton's broad definition of evaluation as 'any effort to increase human effectiveness through systematic data-based inquiry' (1990:11). Evaluation research differs from traditional research because it doesn't just collect data to increase knowledge, but also to support recommendations for action (Patton 1986:14).

The quantitative approach to evaluating social policy emphasises the neutrality and objectivity of the researcher; conceptualises practice in terms of a clearly defined positivist model; seeks causal relationships between inputs and outputs; and applies different interventions to control and experimental groups so that different outcomes can be measured and compared (Everitt and Hardiker 1996:46).

The qualitative approach rejects the notion of the neutrality and objectivity of the researcher. Instead it seeks to identify participants' understandings of the meanings of processes, situations and effects; treats values as fundamental to participants' understandings; and recognises that a reflexive approach to the practice of evaluation is important for the creation of knowledge (ibid:87). The qualitative approach recognises evaluation as a political activity taking place within a political context, and therefore uses researchers who are independent inasmuch as they have no direct interest in the work being evaluated (Tilley 1999: 92,97). Within the qualitative approach, evaluation is divided into 'formative' evaluation which assesses process, and 'summative' evaluation which assesses outcomes (Reith 1984, in Everitt and Hardiker 1996:88).

The quantitative approach uses quantitative data, e.g. census data, test scores, and surveys requiring the answers to closed-ended or scaled questions (Torres, Preskill and Piontek 1996:97), which are...