Davies, J. (2012) Changes and challenges in UK social services: social services of general interest or 'welfare' services of general economic interest? In: Neergaard, U. B., Szyszczak, E., van de Gronden, J. and Krajewski, M. (eds.) Social Services of General Interest in the EU. The Hague: TMC Asser Press. pp. 513-540.
This chapter provides a synopsis of social service provision in the United Kingdom. It discusses the individualisation of service provision and the rhetoric of consumer choice that is a developing characteristic of many of the main sectors of the welfare model. At the sectoral level, attention is drawn to the different models for social service provision that are, in general, shaped by neoliberal economic theory. The development of this UK welfare model is framed against its Poor Law antecedents dating from the sixteenth century and the welfare reforms of the mid-twentieth century. Where virtually continuous reform of service provision and procurement is a characteristic of social welfare organisation,devolution has added to its complexity: with degrees of national autonomy, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland now bring a quasi-federal diversity to the welfare model. An overview of universal health service provision, local authority obligations and social housing provides a range of examples from the UK social services. Private law, and private remedy, now exists in what were once public spaces: public law obligations remain, but for social services, as SSGIs or social welfare SGEIs, both public law and private law find challenges in human rights norms. Ongoing modernisation and private sector involvement in social services provision has been accompanied by the appearance of structural and organisational characteristics that, for a growing number of UK social service sectors, would be likely to see them categorised as SGEIs at the EU level.