Private Welfare and Public Policy, by Butchart and Hills

Social policy has tended to be dominated by New Right ideas of ‘rolling back the state’ and restoring market forces. In addition social welfare has been characterised by a complex mix of public and private
sector partnerships. The shift from the ‘pure public’ welfare state over the last 20 years provides the focus for the contributors to this book. The book covers the evolution of private welfare, who uses it and why, attitudes towards public provision and the constraints on changing the boundaries between the public and private sectors. It evaluates the impact on efficiency and distribution of private provision, finance, and offers some policy options.
The authors analyse welfare activity using three key measurements: provision, finance and decision making:
• Is the provider a public or private sector body?
• Does the public sector pay for the service either through tax subsidy or indirectly through benefits or tax relief?
• Can individuals choose for themselves the provider used or the amount of services?
The book is essential reading for all those interested in understanding the ways in which welfare needs are met today and how they might change in the future. They state that the Labour government is shifting the emphasis towards efficiency and quality of care. This is because opportunities to shift from public to private finance are limited, and are likely to be costly and therefore unpopular.