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Assess the Relationship Between Sociology and Social Policy

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Sociology is the study of society and of people and their behaviour. Mills argued that sociology should not be simply the accumulation of facts but it should explain social problems and advice policy solutions. Social policies are the actions of the government, such as laws, which have an impact on the citizens. An example of this would be providing child benefit or pension schemes. Social policies are often created through the research and results of sociological research from looking at social problems. Many sociologists are interested in solving these social problems and their work is often funded by the government, for example when looking it differential achievement in education, poverty or inequality. Townsend is an example of this, he used his findings from a UK based survey looking at the extent and causes of poverty to suggest more progressive taxation to fund more welfare for the poor.

However, when sociologists do conduct research into social problems it is not always guaranteed that policy makers will always consider and use their findings. This is due to a multiple of factors which affects whether sociological research influences government policy for example, the research findings might produce a policy that may be unpopular amongst the electors and so the government won't consider it as it is in their best interests to remain popular. Similarly, the ideological and policy preferences of the government are a key determining factors, this is because if the researchers share a similar value stance to the political ideology of the government, they may stand more of a chance of influencing policies. Another factor which may prevent sociology influencing social policy is the policies which sociologists may want to put forward could be comprised and stopped but their funding agencies. This is because most researchers will not want to threaten or challenge the agencies or institutions which 'feed them'.

Social democratic and left realist's researchers believe that sociologists should be and are actively involved in making social policy recommendations. Townsend puts forward the point that sociologists should be involved in researching social problems such as poverty and should make specific policy recommendations so that social policy can attempt eradicate them. Research to support this idea comes from the Black Report which identified a range of cultural and structural causes of the inequalities in health. The black report strongly argued for solutions to these causes in order to reduce the health divide. They believed that the government's main priority should be tackling poverty and low income. Moreover, sociologists working for the government departments or local government authorities such as the police are often involved in determining or assessing social policy. For example. Researchers at the home office have recently been involved in assessing the successfulness of ASBOs and



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