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Unit information: Poverty, Social Exclusion and Social Policy in 2016/17

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Unit name Poverty, Social Exclusion and Social Policy
Unit code SPOL30019
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Gumy
Open unit status Open




School/department School for Policy Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Description including Unit Aims

This unit focuses on poverty, deprivation and exclusion, and income maintenance policy. Thus we look at the distribution of poverty and consider whether state income maintenance policies resolve poverty, or even intend to. The unit begins with a consideration of the role of policy in providing social security. We then look in detail at poverty, deprivation and social exclusion, focusing on definitions and measurements of poverty, deprivation and exclusion, and highlighting issues of age, gender, ethnicity, poverty amongst children and disability. We also explore theories which attempt to explain the persistence of poverty in modern welfare states. The unit then explores income maintenance policies and the ways in which the objectives and outcomes of social security systems have changed in recent years as the balance between using the social security system to reduce inequalities between income groups and different household types, and using it to encourage particular behaviour has altered.


The unit aims to introduce students to the role of social security in the welfare state, to the relationship between social security policies and poverty, deprivation and social exclusion and to different theoretical perspectives in this field.

Intended Learning Outcomes

The key learning outcomes are follows. Students are expected:

  • To be able to discuss different meanings of key terms:poverty, deprivation and social exclusion
  • To understand differences in how these are measured
  • To identify and discuss key differences in the distribution of poverty,deprivation and social exclusion relating in particular to class, sex/gender, disability and ethnicity
  • To have a basic understanding of social security policy in Britain and developments over time
  • To be able to draw on different theoretical perspectives in discussion and critique of poverty, deprivation and social exclusion and of the role of social security

Teaching Information

Lectures and seminars.

Assessment Information

Formative: a one hour 'practice exam' to assess and support the students' preparations for the summative assessment.

Summative (100%): a three hour exam which will enable the students to meet the intended learning outcomes for the unit.

All assessment is marked against the published marking criteria for that level, as stated in the Social Policy Programme handbook.

Reading and References

  • Alcock, P. (2006, 3rd Ed) Understanding Poverty, Hampshire: Palgrave
  • Gordon, D. & Spicker, P. (1998, 1st Ed.) (Eds.) Poverty: An International Glossary, London: Zed Books
  • Millar, J. (2009 (2nd Ed.) Understanding social security, Bristol Policy: Press
  • Lister, R. (2004) Poverty. London: Polity
  • Pantazis., C., D, Gordon., & R, Levitas (2006) (Eds.) Poverty and social exclusion in Britain: the millennium survey, Bristol: The Policy Press
  • Ridge, T. & Wright, S. (2008) Understanding Inequality, Poverty and Wealth, Bristol: The Policy Press
  • Spicker, P. (2007) The idea of poverty, Bristol: The Policy Press.
  • Spicker, P. (2011) How Social Security Works: an introduction to benefits in Britain, Bristol: The Policy Press
  • Walker, A. et al (2010) The Peter Townsend Reader, Bristol: The Policy Press
  • Walker, A., Sinfield, A. & Walker, C. (2011) Fighting poverty, inequality and injustice: a manifesto inspired by Peter Townsend, Bristol: the Policy Press