Roy Parker 1931-2017

Roy Parker 1931-2017

Roy Parker, who has died at the age of 85, was the first Professor to be appointed to the Department of Social Work and Administration at the University of Bristol in 1969.Previously he had spent ten years in the Department of Social Administration at the London School of Economics, first as a research officer and then as a lecturer. His first book, based on his PhD, ‘Decision in Child Care’(1965), along with the work of Gordon Trasler and John Triseliotis, was among the first serious studies of foster care – and ahead of its time – used statistical methods to disentangle the factors associated with successful outcomes. He was a member of the Seebohm Committee on Local Government and Allied Social Services whose report (1968) laid the foundations for modern social services. He was also a member of the Milton Keynes New Town Development Corporation and chaired its social development committee.


He inherited established Social Work staff in Bristol but had to build a young Social Administration team from scratch. Notwithstanding their administrative inexperience, he delegated trustingly to his young recruits, supporting them even in robust decisions he would never himself have taken. This freed him to be an ambassador, within the Faculty of Social Science, for his comparatively new discipline – a role he performed so convincingly that, by 1981, when he stepped down as its Head, the department was offering two joint degrees, with Politics or Sociology, and a single honours degree in Social Administration. The department had by then established a national and international reputation for its research and teaching and was attracting able postgraduate students. Social Work had also been strengthened by the creation of the university’s first Chair in Social Work.


Roy Parker was a superb teacher at every level. His lectures were meticulously prepared and, like his writing, were lucid and compelling. He provided a clear framework which students could use to guide their further reading, thoughts and writing. His observations and advice were critical when necessary, but offered in a way that brought the best out of his students and colleagues, amongst whom he had enormous respect. He was a very collegiate and generous head of department, not least in facilitating the opportunities of his recruits to research, present papers and contribute to local and national policy debates. He thus created a lively and sparky department.


At the same time, he was continuing his own research and writing. In 1975, Change, Choice and Conflict in Social Policy was published and became a foundation text for many students of social policy, staying in print over 20 years. He co-authored it with Phoebe Hall, Hilary Land and Adrian Webb (all authors listed alphabetically on his insistence – another sign of his generosity). This study, informed by six case studies of policy change, argued for and demonstrated the need to study social policy within a political science framework, thus taking into account the complexity of history and wider socio-economic forces and ideologies. His case study of the Clean Air Act 1956 was chosen at a time when there was little interest in environmental policies.


This broad approach is developed further in his last major authoritative publication Uprooted: the Shipment of Poor Children to Canada 1867-1917 (2008) which had been 20 years in gestation and was completed after he had joined the Dartington Social Research Unit in 1997, having been elected a fellow of its Centre for Social Policy. By then he had become a leading expert in child care services. His historical overview Change and Continuity in Children’s Services, published in 2015, draws not only on his deep knowledge of the history of child care – including residential care, adoption, fostering and disabled children’s services – but also on his experience as an adviser to various government departments and committees as well as research consultant to numerous research projects. He never lost sight of the individual child and drew upon direct experience: of having a foster-sister and then, in the 1950s, of being a child care officer and a house-father in a residential establishment for vulnerable boys. In the Canadian archives he searched tirelessly and found the voices of some of the 80,000 children who were uprooted. This is important because, as he explained in the Preface, a major purpose of this historical study is ‘to show how the interests of children – and thereby their well-being – can fall victim to prevailing expediencies, fashion or exploitation.’


He not only kept up his research and writing after ‘retirement’ but also his love of sport He had run the first London marathon just after his fiftieth birthday and seven years after a major heart attack. He continued his long-distance running until well into his seventies. His retirement present in 1997 was a pair of racing skis (which he later exchanged for a faster pair!). Even bridge and scrabble brought out his competitive streak and his colleagues considered it no coincidence that the staff scrabble league was mysteriously abandoned the evening Roy dropped to the bottom of it while his wife Jo soared to the top.


He was born in South East London, where his father was a Southern Railways engine driver. He attended the local grammar school before studying sociology at the LSE. There followed National Service in the RAF. He is survived by Jose, whom he married in 1954, sister, his four children and eight grand children.

Roy Parker, born London 12 March 1931; died 18 January 2017, Devon


Hilary Land and David Bull


A memorial event is being held on the morning of March 17th in the Reception Room, Wills Memorial Building, University of Bristol. Details to follow

Donations to Rowcroft Hospice, Avenue Road, Torquay TQ2 5LS


Social Policy & Society first Annual Lecture – 22nd March

The first Annual Lecture of the Journal Social Policy & Society, sponsored by Cambridge University Press in association with the University of Sheffield Social Policy Research Cluster, will be held in the Diamond LT8 at the University of Sheffield on the 22nd of March from 5-6 pm. Everyone is welcome but registration is essential.

The lecture focuses on ‘troubled families’, the subject of a themed section in the January 2016 issue of Social Policy & Society, and will be delivered by Stephen Crossley and Michael Lambert, the themed section editors. The lecture will be followed by a wine reception in the exhibition space at the same venue from 6 – 7 pm to celebrate the first year of Social Policy & Society under the editorship of Liam Foster and Majella Kilkey at the University of Sheffield.


Information about the lecture, consisting of two presentations, can be found below:


Stephen Crossley – Senior Lecturer in Social Policy at Northumbria University

‘Double, double, toil and trouble’: myths, magic and statecraft in the Troubled Families Programme

Given the mysterious, almost perfect, fairy-tale like success of the ‘troubled families’ story, it is appropriate to critically examine the development of the Troubled Families Programme (TFP) by drawing on writing around alchemy, myth, magic and statecraft. This paper draws on Clarke & Newman’s work on ‘the alchemy of austerity’, Cassirer’s writing on ‘political myths’, Bourdieu’s theory of the ‘social magic’ effect of the state and Wacquant’s more recent work on ‘neoliberal statecraft’. The role of the state in the creation of ‘troubled families’ is examined before the attention turns to the performance of ‘troubled families’ via the government’s TFP. The scarcely believable, yet widely acclaimed success, of the TFP is then scrutinized, drawing on the recent publication of the evaluation of the programme. The paper concludes with a discussion of the continuing widespread belief in ‘troubled families’, even amongst practitioners and researchers.


Michael Lambert – Post-Doctoral Teaching Fellow in Early Childhood Studies at Liverpool Hope University

‘“The dragons’ harvest”? Managing “problem families” in post-war Sheffield, 1945-74.’

Louise Casey (2012, p. 1) in Listening to Troubled Families declared that the Troubled Families Programme (TFP) ‘is an opportunity to not repeat the failed attempts of the past’.  Despite being a history graduate, both her comments and the substance of the TFP represented an uncertain grasp on what ‘the failed attempts of the past’ were.  This paper reconstructs what ‘the failed attempts of the past’ actually were by exploring the management of so-called ‘problem families’ in the post-war period.  The city of Sheffield is used as a case study to explore how ‘problem families’ were defined and managed by a host of social, welfare, health and other services during the ‘golden age’ of the welfare state from 1945 to 1974.  What becomes evident is that neither Casey nor the TFP have heeded or learned from the past, and the persistent underlying ‘problem’ or ‘trouble’ of families is poverty, marginalisation and subjection.


If you are interested in attending the event please register early at to avoid disappointment.

2016 SPA Award Winners

**Celebrating the winners of the SPA Awards 2016!**

The SPA is delighted to announce the winners of the 2016 SPA awards.  The awards ceremony, held in the beautiful Ulster Hall, Belfast, on 4 July, recognised four winners in three award categories.

The Special Recognition Award is for those SPA members who have retired, are due to retire within a year of the award, or hold an Emeritus position, and whom judges feel meet at least two of the following criteria:

  • Has made a sustained contribution to research in the field of social policy
  • Has made a sustained contribution to teaching and learning of the subject (through for example, authorship of leading books, innovation and leadership in curriculum development, management and leadership within HEIs etc)
  • Has had a sustained impact on political process/discourse (advisor to government, consultant to voluntary bodies/local government, recognition by journalists, campaigners and lobbyists, activists, user communities etc)
  • Has achieved esteem measured in terms of journal editing/establishing, promotion of social policy within other social sciences, membership of research councils or similar bodies.

This year the Special Recognition Award was awarded to Professor John Clarke (Open University), who unfortunately was unable to attend the ceremony, and also to Professor Gillian Parker (University of York), pictured below.

Gillian PARKER

This year witnessed the birth of a new award, the Special International Recognition Award (SIRA).  The SIRA is the international equivalent of the SRA and is intended to award members of the social policy community in other countries who have made a significant contribution to social policy.  The SIRA is awarded at the discretion of the SPA Executive Committee to individuals who meet at least two of the criteria for the Special Recognition Award.   The winner of the first ever SIRA was Professor Kathryn Edin, Bloomberg Professor at Johns Hopkins University, USA (pictured below).

Kathryn EDIN

The award for Best Post Graduate Paper, presented at the 2015 SPA conference, was Dr Ruth Patrick, PhD student at the University of Liverpool and currently of the University of Leeds.  Ruth won the award for her paper entitled, ‘‘I feel like a bum’; the internalisation and appropriation of the ‘scrounger’ narrative by out-of-work benefit claimants in the UK’.


For a full report see the autumn issue of the SPA newsletter (forthcoming).

(c) Photographs courtesy of Elaine Hill Photography


2016 Grant Awards

Since September 2016, we have funded the following:

Dierdre Duffy (Manchester Metropolitan University) – Mapping youth mental health services in England.

Recognising that youth mental health service pathways in England can be complex and unclear, the SPA grant has funded workshop activities that will be begin to map services and pathways. The workshop is for researchers and practitioners to meet together and develop further collaborative working.


Jenni Brooks (Sheffield Hallam University) – Sheffield City Region Young People’s Precarious and Placeless Labour: connecting research, policy and practice

A collaborative event connecting youth organisations, policy makers, researchers and employers to examine young people’s experiences of precarious working. The goal is to understand challenges faced by young people and engage with employers as a basis for further research and the development of an advisory group.


Keerty Nakray (Indian Social Policy Network) – Comparative and International Social Policy Theories and Methods

The grants will fund delivering workshops for PhD students and researchers to examine the links between social policy and development studies. As well as making links with the Indian Social Policy Network, the workshops will form the basis of a set of published papers.


Michael Orton (Warwick University) – Putting the security back into social security

The grant will support four half-day workshops with academics and key practitioners across Britain to stimulate new thinking about welfare and how best to move away from welfare being seen as ‘toxic’. Whilst the workshops are discussion based, there is a clear goal of creating a community of interest and ongoing dialogue.


Gideon Calder (Swansea University) – Welsh social services policy seminar

Changes in legislation and consultation regarding social services in Wales have prompted a need for dialogue between government, researchers and practitioners. In addition to ‘rapid networking’, participants will arrange future meetings to ensure ongoing dialogue. The event will not only raise the SPA’s profile with policy makers but it will also support important cross sectoral dialogue.



Making the case for social security in an era of welfare state myths and stigma; House of Lords, 13th December 2016

 A collaboration between the SPA, Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) and the Journal of Poverty and Justice, this policy roundtable was timed coincide with the launch of a special issue of the latter on ‘Exploring ‘welfare’ attitudes and experiences’.

The roundtable, which took place at the House of Lords, was chaired by Baroness Lister of Burtersett (also wearing two further hats as SPA President and member of the Journal of Poverty and Social Justice editorial board) and Alison Garnham, Chief Executive of CPAG.

The starting part for the discussion was a summary of the key messages and findings form the special issue, its guest editors  – John Hudson (University of York), Ruth Patrick (University of Liverpool) and Emma Wincup (University of Leeds) – providing an overview. They were joined by two more contributors to the special issue – Neil Lunt (University of York) and Mark Monaghan (Loughborough University).

Picture caption: sadly we cannot include the usual photograph of the SPA Policy Roundtable in full flow because the House of Lords does not permit the use of cameras inside the building! In its place here is a photograph of the roundtable speakers outside of Parliament: from L-R: Neil Lunt (University of York), Ruth Patrick (& baby Nina!, University of Liverpool), John Hudson (University of York), Emma Wincup (University of Leeds), Mark Monaghan (Loughborough University).

A lively discussion followed, with many telling contributions from the invited expert audience. Particular thanks are due to Kelly Smith and Imran Hussain from CPAG for assembling such an outstanding a diverse audience; there was particularly strong representation from the third sector and think tanks, including Britain Thinks, the Children’s Society, the Equality Trust, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the Living Wage Foundation, Shelter, the Westminster Policy Institute, as well as people working in Parliament, central and local government, and the media.

Three themes stood out from the discussion. First, audience members made a number of suggestions for shifting attitudes which go beyond ‘mythbusting’ (which is subject to critical evaluation in the special issue in an article by Baumberg Geiger and Meuleman). These included using individual stories of negotiating social security system or using social media to engage with claimant groups. Linked to this the second theme was to focus on the human costs of reliance on social ‘security’ in its current form; for example, in terms of poor mental health and living in poverty, and increasingly destitution. The final one was moving away from making the case for social security to focus on the reasons why individuals may become reliant on it (for example, significant numbers of people engaged in low paid, precarious work or underlying stigma to groups at high risk of worklessness such as drug users).

John Hudson (University of York), Ruth Patrick (University of Liverpool) and Emma Wincup (University of Leeds)





Indian Social Policy Network


Indian Social Policy Network 

Indian Social Policy Network (ISPN) is a scholarly association of academics and researchers who aim to deepen theory and evidence based research on social policy in the India.  A wide-range of subjects ranging from ageing, work-life balance, health, gender, childhood, adolescence and youth, employment policies, capabilities and well-being and comparative welfare studies will come within the purview of the Network.

The newly established network will aim to facilitate academic and research exchange through conferences, workshops and seminars in India and beyond.  ISPN aims to encourage the study of social policy within India and support early career academics and researchers.

Specific Objectives include:

  • Organize workshops and conferences on Indian and comparative social policy.
  • Establish International, National and Local Academic Alliances and Knowledge Networks.
  • Promote the study of Indian social policy nationally and internationally.
  • Support the development of research skills and knowledge amongst doctoral students and early career researchers in India and beyond on social policy.
  • Develop cutting-edge teaching and research material on social policy.
  • Advance the role of evidence based research in policy making, practice and wider public debates.


  • The first ever workshop in collaboration with the Social Policy Association, Development Studies Association, and Participatory Research in Asia titled “Comparative and International Social Policy Theories & Methods: Lessons for Research and Practice in India – What Does Social Policy Mean in the Indian Context? At the O.P. Jindal Global University, NCR Sonipat, Haryana.


  • A symposium ‘Poverty Reduction and Social Inclusion in a Changing India – Social Policy between Development and Growth?’ at the 2014 Social Policy Association Conference ‘Social Policy Confronting Change: Resistance, Resilience and Radicalism’, University of Sheffield, UK, July 14th-16th 2014 co-hosted by the Indian and Comparative Social Policy Network and members of Social Policy and Social Work, University of York.




Special Issues

  • Positioning Social Policy Between Development and Growth, eds. Devine, J. Kühner, S. and Nakray, K. (2015) Special Issue in Journal of International and Comparative Social Policy
  • Child Poverty in India, Special Section in Journal of South Asian Development, eds. Nakray, K. Iversen, V. and Joshi, S.


Peer-Reviewed Papers


  1. Kühner, S. and Nakray, K. (2016) India’s Emerging Social Policy Paradigm: Productive, Protective or What?, Journal of Asian Public Policy,
  2. Kühner, S. (2015) ‘Analysing the Productive and Protective Dimensions of Welfare in the Asia-Pacific: Pathways Towards Human Development and Income Equality?’, Journal of International and Comparative Social Policy, 31(2), 151-173.


To join the ISPN:

Founding Chair: Dr Keerty Nakray, Jindal Global Law School, O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, NCR Delhi 131001 (




Workshop on Comparative and International Social Policy Theories and Methods, New Delhi

Workshop on Comparative and International Social Policy Theories and Methods

Advances in Research and Practice in International Development Studies and Social Policy

Three Day PhD and Early Career Academic Workshop on Social Policy in Developing Contexts

24th -26th May 2017

The workshop aims to encapsulate some of the most recent cutting-edge discussions emerging in the fields of international development studies and social policy. Traditionally, international development studies and social policy have been seen as distinct disciplines.  The major thrust of international development studies was on issues of poverty, social exclusion and social problems in developing countries whereas much of the social policy concentrated on the relative measures of poverty and social exclusion in advanced capitalist countries. Improved economic growth rates, changes in global politics, and social policy innovations found throughout the world have facilitated greater intersections between these two disciplines. Primarily, this workshop will be aimed at doctoral students and early career academics working in the fields of international development studies and social policy and will seek to create avenues for mutual engagement.


The aim is to provide participants with the opportunity to consider key issues such as ‘what is the meaning of Social Policy in a development context?’, ‘how can the disciplines of Social Policy and International Development learn from each other?’, and ‘how can both contribute to social sciences responses to global challenges?’ It will do so by:


  1. Discussing key emerging social issues in developing countries, such as human well-being, welfare, equality, capabilities, freedom and inclusive growth;
  2. Considering the relationship between newly emerging poverty reduction and welfare programmes and real-life social issues. Some relevant programmes include India’s Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Guarantee Act 2005; Brazil’s Bolsa Escola (‘school bag’) and South Africa’s Child Support Grant (CSG).

Other objectives of the workshop are to:

  1. Discuss the applicability of social policy theory and research methodology in developing countries;
  2. Examine specific concepts and issues such as child poverty, social exclusion, gender equality and civil society mobilization, in contemporary Social Policy and International Development S
  3. Introduce key methodological approaches in contemporary Social Policy and International Development Studies including debates about the merits of qualitative, quantitative and systematic mixed methods approaches.
  4. Provide an innovative theoretical and practical framework to ensure participants’ own research findings can be better used to inform policy decision-making.


The workshop has received sponsorship from the Social Policy Association and the Centre for Development Studies, University of Bath


The number of participants is restricted to 20 please secure your place early. 


Last Date for Submission of Abstracts: February 28 2017


Submission of Abstracts:


  • Abstracts should not exceed more than 1000 words.
  • It should contain details of the participant’s ongoing PhD or research details.
  • It should include the details on institutional affiliation of the author.


Please submit your abstracts for review to


Venue: Willow, Habitat World, at India Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road, New Delhi-110003 (Entry from gate number 3 on Vardhman Marg)


The Registration Fee has been waivered. Participants are required to make arrangements for their own accommodation and transportation to the venue.


For communication with the local organizer and for general inquiries on how to join the Indian Social Policy Network please contact:


Organising Team:

Joe Devine is the Head of Department, Department of Social and Policy Sciences, University of Bath (UK).

Keerty Nakray is an Associate Professor at Jindal Global Law School, NCR New Delhi and a Visiting Fellow at the Feinstein International Centre, Tufts University (US).

Nick Ellison is the Head of Department of Social Policy and Social Work at University of York (UK).

Stefan Kühner obtained his Ph.D. from the Department of Social Policy and Social Work, University of York, United Kingdom. He joined Lingnan University in August 2016.

2017 Conference

Social Policy Association Annual Conference 2017

10th – 12th July 2017

Conference Theme: Social Inequalities: Research, Theory and Policy

The School of Applied Social Sciences at Durham University welcomes SPA Conferences in 2017 and 2018.

The theme for 2017: at a time when income inequality is rising in most countries, and differences between countries remain huge, the social significance of these inequalities is of fundamental importance to societies and therefore research. Following the referendum results, debates on inequalities in the UK and Europe will have implications for a wide range of theoretical debates such as citizenship, migration, social cohesion, gender, ethnicity and equality of opportunity to name a few, while inequalities also cut across all policy areas from housing to health and education to crime.

What is the role for policy? How can it be used to reduce, or at least limit, the effects of inequalities? Is this even a desirable strategy given the very real inequities that exist within and between nations within a seemingly increasingly fragile status quo? How inequalities are viewed tells us a lot about different political, ideological and critical standpoints. We look forward to unpacking these issues in Durham in 2017 with you.

Call for Papers (now closed)

50th Anniversary Conference of the Social Policy Association

Durham University, Monday 10th to Wednesday 12th July, 2017

For more information, including the details of the keynote speakers, see the Conference website

Submit an Abstract or Proposal for a Symposium: Please note that this year, once again, we will be using the Easychair conference system for abstract submissions. The Easychair website for the SPA 2017 conference is where you will be asked to register with a valid email address and a password. The final deadline for submissions will be Tuesday 28th February 2017.

Conference Title: Social Inequalities: Research, Theory, and Policy

In this the 50th year of the Social Policy Association we are drawing upon the ongoing analysis, challenges and opportunities for social policy research and education. At a time when income inequality is rising in most countries, and differences between countries remain huge, the social significance of these inequalities is of fundamental importance to societies and therefore research. We welcome proposals for papers and symposia which address this topic through the themes below and consider these with reference to teaching and research.

  • Inequality and social justice; national, local and global perspectives
  • Political landscapes; regions and nations
  • Race, ethnicity and migration
  • Women, social policy and the mixed economy of welfare and work
  • Learning and teaching; representing and recruiting to social policy courses and degrees
  • Change, challenge and continuity in health and social care
  • Open stream for papers not covered in the themes above

Monday 10th July, 50th Anniversary AGM, Awards and Drinks Reception at Durham Castle sponsored by Policy Press.

Tuesday 11th July, 50th Anniversary Dinner and Local Entertainment, Durham University.

Policy Roundtable at the Scottish Parliament on Poverty Stigma – 29th September


The stigma of poverty: challenges, interventions and possibilities


Over recent years there has been an intensification of stigma around poverty and benefit receipt. This has arguably been fuelled by media reporting of poverty and the popularity of highly controversial programmes such as Benefits Street. There has also been an intensification of political rhetoric that individualises the causes and consequences of poverty. These narratives are often articulated through easily digested soundbites, such as ‘shirkers and strivers’ and through the regular deployment of divisive myths around ‘welfare dependency’.

A growing body of research has highlighted the extent and consequences of the stigma around poverty and benefit receipt. Poverty stigma has implications for the sorts of support people are able to access, how they are viewed and treated by professionals and the wider public, and how those experiencing poverty see themselves. Yet there have also been efforts to counter this stigma. In Scotland, Poverty Alliance has led a campaign against poverty stigma – Stick Your Labels – that has worked closely with policy makers, employers and local authorities to encourage actors to adopt language and practices that mitigate against poverty stigma.

On the 29th of September, over 50 people gathered at in the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh to share the latest research evidence on poverty stigma and discuss recent campaigns and possible strategies to address this. The event was organised by Ruth Patrick (University of Liverpool), Tracy Shildrick and Kim Allen (University of Leeds) in association with anti-poverty charity Poverty Alliance, and sponsored by the Social Policy Association. The key questions that framed the event were:

  • What is the impact of poverty stigma?
  • How have campaigns such as Scotland’s own Stick Your Labels campaign sought to address and reduce poverty stigma?
  • What role can policy makers, employers and academics take here?
  • What more can and should be done?

Keen to encourage debate and discussion about what policy learnings can be learnt from campaigns such as Stick Your Labels the roundtable was structured around four very short introductory presentations before being opened up to the floor.


The first presentation came from John McKendrick of Glasgow Caledonian University who opened his presentation with a declaration of both optimism and frustration. John stated that poverty is not inevitable and can be tackled but that at present policy responses have not been sufficient. John proceeded to provide an incisive overview of poverty levels and disadvantage in Scotland and introduce the many policy interventions and initiatives developed to address this, showing that there was no shortage of interest and commitment to tackle poverty across the political spectrum. John then presented data from the most recent British Social Attitudes survey to examine public perceptions of poverty in Scotland. One positive finding was that the general public in Scotland are keenly aware of child poverty as a key social issue that needs addressing, more so than in other parts of the country. However, the survey also illustrates that when it comes to explaining poverty, the general public in Scotland tend to draw on individualising explanations (namely parental drug and alcohol addiction). John’s presentation emphasised how engaging in discussion about the complex causes of poverty is a necessary and fundamental step in reducing poverty stigma.


Next to speak were Ruth Patrick (University of Liverpool) and Tracy Shildrick (University of Leeds) who between them have conducted research on people’s experiences of poverty, low paid and precarious work, and on the lived experiences of welfare reform. Their presentation began to unpick how poverty stigma is generated by politicians and the media through the circulation of virulent and damaging myths about poverty and welfare: what Tracy termed ‘poverty propaganda’. Ruth then presented data from her research participants which demonstrated vividly the lived effects of poverty stigma, as she recounted how labels such as ‘scrounger’ contributed to feelings of worthlessness and shame among those she interviewed.


Having clearly outlined the scale and significance of poverty stigma, the next two presentations focused on how stigma can be challenged through practical strategies. We heard first from Carla McCormack of the Poverty Alliance who described how and why their Stick Your Labels campaign came about. Carla emphasised the importance of the kinds of language used by politicians, the media and service providers when they talk about poverty. What seems like relatively innocuous and well-meaning statements can have problematic consequences on how poverty is understood, and all too often this poverty talk shifts the focus from structural causes of poverty to explanations that lay the blame firmly at the door of the individual. Carla also emphasised how poverty stigma is produced powerfully not just through words but via images. Flashing up the familiar image of a discarded trolley on a housing estate which we regularly see in media reports around poverty and welfare, Carla reminded us of the need for journalists to think carefully about the kinds of photos they use when communicating with the public about these issues. The Stick your Labels campaign has sought to challenge these through engaging over 30 organisations in Scotland who have committed to the Poverty Alliances ‘Pledges’.


Finally, we got to hear about the experiences and motivations of one such organisation who had signed up to the campaign. Gerald McLaughlin, Chief Executive of NHS Health Scotland, discussed how and why they became involved, explaining how addressing poverty stigma within NHS Health Scotland was not simply about their relationship with service users but also with staff within the organisation who themselves experience poverty.


A lively discussion followed. Some of the key issues that were raised were as follows. There was much debate about how Scotland is different to England and in particular how attitudes to poverty are sometimes less stigmatising and more understanding in Scotland. It was also suggested that Scottish policy was sometimes less punitive than the policies coming out of Westminster, with the current consultation on Scottish Social Security – foregrounding issues of dignity and respect – being identified as an exemplar. Discussion moved on to consider how we might better engage other employers in the debate – including those outside of the public sector such as those working in the media – but also how we must recognise and promote the good practice that some employers are already demonstrating. It was also highlighted that we each, as individuals, can play a role in challenging myths – with evidence – when we hear them being repeated. There was consensus that there is a strong need to join up research to challenge dominant myths around poverty. The event ended with time for networking.


You can read a Storify of the tweets from the event here

Welcome to the new SPA Executive Members

Congratulations to new elected members of SPA Executive. Elections took place in July at this year’s SPA conference in Belfast, for the editorial boards of the Journal of Social Policy, and Social Policy & Society, and for the Social Policy Association Executive Committee.

Journal of Social Policy:

Nasar Meer, University of Strathclyde

Nicola Moran, University of York

Ruth Patrick, University of Liverpool

Kitty Stewart, London School of Economics


Social Policy and Society:

Anya Ahmed, University of Salford 

Lee Gregory, University of Birmingham

Lisa Scullion, University of Salford  

Christine Skinner, University of York

Social Policy Association Executive Committee:

Anya Ahmed, University of Salford 

Steve Iafrati, University of Wolverhampton 

Markus Ketola, Ulster University