SPA Annual Conference 7 – 9th July 2021

Image of person using laptop
By Cytonn Photography from

In light of the current pandemic, we will be moving our 2021 Social Policy Association Annual Conference, originally planned for Swansea, online. The conference will take place from the 7th-9th July. This year’s theme is ‘Global challenges – national social policy responses?’.  The conference invites participants to reflect on local, national and international responses to global challenges such as the Covid-19 pandemic and particularly welcomes contributions which reflect on gendered, ethnic, socioeconomic, and geographical differences.

Global challenges – national social policy responses?

In the wake of a global pandemic, the place of social policy grows ever more prominent.  The experience of COVID-19 has laid bare inequalities, unfairnesses and structural problems within societies of diverse kinds.  These sit alongside longer-standing global challenges – such as the climate emergency, and economic iniquities between the global north and south – and current social trends and political events: from rising income inequality to the rise of right-wing populism, and from Brexit to crises of social care.  These factors can be viewed panoramically, across nations – but their implications are felt locally, in everyday lives.

On top of the global health crisis, the pandemic poses important challenges to policy makers in mitigating the far-reaching economic and social consequences of COVID-19. Fiscal and welfare responses to the global pandemic have already exposed the huge strain on health and care systems, with local and national variation in terms of provision available exposing the importance of welfare institutions for containing and mitigating the effects of the pandemic. The stakes of social policy interventions at national and regional levels are high, and their implications can seem increasingly urgent. For example, containment policies, such as social distancing and working from home revealed the importance of education and caring, as key sites for social reproduction, enabling or constraining workers ability to re-enter the labour market. These transitions remain largely conditioned by gender, race and class. Similar inequalities apply to workers in jobs requiring high levels of physical proximity while for others, transforming their personal space and housing into a distanced workplace remains challenging.  And meanwhile, the pandemic and responses to it may obscure or exacerbate existing problems facing the planet, across and within nations.

Plenary speakers
Photograph of Mark Drakeford MS

We are delighted to confirm our first plenary speaker. Rt Hon Mark Drakeford MS, is currently serving as the First Minister of Wales, having previously held the position of Professor of Social Policy and Applied Social Sciences at Cardiff University, and before that lecturing at Swansea University.  A former probation officer and youth justice worker, his many publications have addressed a wide range of issues and themes in social policy, from child abuse to devolution, and from privatisation to institutional scandals.  He has been at the forefront of Wales’ response to COVID-19.

Our second plenary speaker is Professor Sue Yeandle, Professor of Sociology at the University of Sheffield, where she is Director of CIRCLE (Centre for International Research on Care, Labour and Equalities); Principal Investigator, Sustainable Care: connecting people and systems programme, and Editor-in-Chief, International Journal of Care and Caring.  Sue’s research focuses on the relationship between work and care, how policies affect how people manage caring roles throughout the life course, and the role of technology in supporting carers. She also specialises in international analysis of care arrangements and in evaluating the impact of carer support initiatives.

Our third plenary speaker is Professor Shahra Razavi, Director of the Social Protection Department at the International Labour Organization (since February 2020). Before joining the ILO she was Chief of the Research and Data Section at UN Women (2013-2020), and prior to that Senior Researcher at the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, UNRISD (1993-2013), working at the interface of gender, social policy, social protection and the care economy. She has published extensively on social policy, social protection and gender in a development context.

The programme and abstracts booklet can now be downloaded here.

Rates and registration information available here.

Please direct any conference queries to: