This paper shows that policy failure is particularly acute where the
concerns of the chronically poor, marginalised and vulnerable are
concerned. Fracture points, or areas of weakness and failure, are
examined in social policy formation - from agenda setting through to
policy formation and its legitimisation. Social policies have been
selected as the focus of this study because they are generally weakly
addressed by the development and poverty policies of both donors and
developing country governments.
Five illustrative case studies in the paper identify the political
economy and administrative barriers to policy innovation and
implementation in Uganda and India, and from this analysis we draw
conclusions of broader application. The selected issues are disability;
mental illness; alcohol dependency; inheritance systems that privilege
inheritance through the male line, and dispossess women as a result; and
the near destitution of older people without support.
The fracture points in the formation of social policies identified in
this paper will have differential levels of importance in different
countries and also within the same country in relation different issues.
However, what is likely to be true across sectors and countries is that
for relevant policies to be formed, legitimised and effectively
implemented policy discourses need to be shifted so that the needs of
the chronically poor and marginalised and vulnerable groups are
identified as valid. This may be through a process that identifies needs
and then designs policy focusing on these rather than on particular
groups of people. So, for example, policy attention could focus on
increasing school enrolment and retention and improving the relevance of
school curricula for all students. A component of such a set of policies
could identify and respond to the access problems and education quality
failures experienced by children with physical or cognitive impairments.
This problem-focused approach would challenge the sometimes unuseful and
undifferentiated characterisation of 'vulnerable groups'.
Throughout this paper, it is emphasised that governments find it
difficult to prioritise marginal groups and the chronically poor. They
are unlikely to develop and implement policies favouring these groups
over larger and more powerful groups, as they would have little to gain
and much to lose as a result. To move beyond this impasse requires an
attitudinal change which can support processes of social change. These
changes in attitudes and socio-cultural behaviour depend on the
development of effective lobbies in areas where they are currently
absent or weak. It also depends on the creation of fora for debate and
the emergence of strong political leadership. Such leadership is
unlikely where governments do not have sufficiently grounded experience
in tackling the multiple deprivation experienced by the chronically poor
or in dealing with complex social problems. It is also unlikely if the
international community fails to challenge the current international
poverty and development discourses and support the development of
pro-poor social and political movements.
Fracture Points in Social Policies for Chronic Poverty Reduction, CPRC Working Paper No. 47, ODI Working Paper No. 242, Overseas Development Institute (ODI), London, UK/Chronic Poverty Research Centre (CPRC), Manchester, UK, ISBN 1-904049-46-X, xii +37 pp.
Fracture Points in Social Policies for Chronic Poverty Reduction, CPRC Working Paper No. 47, ODI Working Paper No. 242