Published 22 February 2021
This overview report provides an assessment of social policy developments under the three Conservative Governments that were in power between May 2015 and the eve of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020. The report provides a comprehensive examination of developments in ten major areas of social policy (social security; employment; early childhood; compulsory school age education; higher education; health; social care; physical safety and security; homelessness / complex needs; and social mobility) over this period. In assessing social policies and social inequalities on the eve of the pandemic, we identify five key cross-cutting major weaknesses and structural limitations of the welfare state and public services. In assessing outcomes across different social policy areas, we find there is overwhelming evidence that a break in social progress across multiple critical areas of life had already occurred prior to the public health emergency and the economic and social shocks that it triggered. Across the social policy areas that we examine, many key indicators of social progress had already slowed down, stalled or gone into reverse prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, looking forward, and as an input into broader discussions and debates about what is needed as the country transitions into the recovery phase from COVID-19, we set out five key cross-cutting social policy challenges for the 2020s.
This overview paper was edited by Polly Vizard and John Hills. The full research team are: Glen Bramley, Tania Burchardt, Kerris Cooper, Suzanne Fitzpatrick, John Hills, Jarrod Hughes, Nicola Lacey, Ruth Lupton, Lindsey Macmillan, Abigail McKnight, Polina Obolenskaya, Mary Reader, Mark Stephens, Kitty Stewart, Kritika Treebhoohun, Polly Vizard, and Iona Wainwright.