Poverty, Inequality and Social Security - SO575

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2020 to 2021
Spring 6 15 (7.5) DR L Mitton checkmark-circle


The coalition government has argued that following the 2008 financial crisis and the subsequent double-drip recession adoption, the UK has no option but to pursue austerity policies. This has included a huge squeeze on spending on cash transfers often referred to as 'welfare'.

This module focuses on poverty and inequality and how such social security policies impact upon them. Students will analyse the nature, extent and causes of poverty and inequality, with reference to the UK. The module will make students aware of current issues in welfare reform as it relates to groups vulnerable to poverty including: people who are unemployed; people who are sick or disabled; older people; children; lone parents; people from Black or minority ethnic groups. The module also shows how social security policies encompass different principles of need, rights and entitlement for users of welfare services.

It is designed to be of interest to Sociology and Health and Social Care students as well as Social Policy students.


This module appears in the following module collections.

Contact hours

11 weekly lectures and seminars of one hour each

Method of assessment

100% coursework (one 2,500 word essay [50%] and a short answer assessment [50%])

Indicative reading

Alcock, P. (2006). Understanding Poverty. 3rd edition. Palgrave
Ridge, T and Wright, S eds (2008) Understanding Inequality, Poverty and Wealth: Policies and Prospects. Policy Press
Spicker, P (2011) How Social Security Works. Policy Press

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On completion of this module students should:
Understand competing perspectives on poverty, inequality and welfare rights and how these are reflected in social security policies;
Have some knowledge of the historical development of social security
Have a knowledge of social security policy concerns in several substantive areas
Understand the potential and limitations of social security in maintaining income security
Be able to apply this knowledge to analyse and evaluate critically the potential for and constraints on future reform of social security


  1. Credit level 6. Higher level module usually taken in Stage 3 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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