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Developmental Social Policy (DSP) for Social Work Services

The theory of developmental social policy (Midgley, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996

1999, 2001, 2003, 2008) has developed independently from the theory of societal human capabilities (Aspalter, 2004, 2007a–c, 2010). Yet, the normative strategies of both have been very synergetic if not overlapping. Social capabilities have been proposed as a cornerstone of social policies and social services alike by both theories. Midgley and Aspalter (forthcoming) have simply extended the realm of developmental social policy to include cultural capabilities, and a new focus on the importance of the physical and natural environment in achieving the goals of social policy and social services at hand, while also focusing on marketing techniques to deliver social development and other social policy goals (e.g., for DSP's application in the area of active aging, cf. Aspalter, 2014).

Developmental social policy was championed by the United Nations in the 1950s, especially under the umbrella of development aid, for so-called third world countries. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, this idea was heavily promoted with policies focusing on people's basic needs for water, food, shelter, and education (Midgley, 2008: 16).


The Need for Progressive Social Change

In the developmental social policy approach, the need for progressive social change is pivotal to achieving the goals of social development. Representatives of the developmental social policy approach stress the negative effects of 'merely transferring resources to the poor [by way of assetand means-testing!]' (Midgley: 2008: 21).

The reason for this are the twin evils of the 'poverty trap' and the 'savings trap' that are inherent to any attempt to condition social benefits and social services to a certain income, or wealth/savings criteria – that is, the unfortunately widespread practice of asset-and means-testing of social transfer payments and social services in general (Midgley and Aspalter, forthcoming).

Asset and mean-tests (AMTs) simply cause the poverty trap and the savings trap. Once people cross a certain income or savings threshold, they get penalized for doing the right thing.

Benefit recipients and service recipients, here, simply act as rational people that are responsible for their families and who try to make ends meet, to feed their family, and to pay their bills – and it is not them who are 'lazy', it is the policymakers and experts who look the other way or who simply have not realized that the rising number of poor people, ever since the War on Poverty, is caused by the War on Poverty itself as it chiefly uses the AMT method, that is, assetand means-testing.

Proponents of developmental social policy try to ensure better outcomes, and to learn from empirical evidence. Some people may call it pragmatism, others may simply call it science. Empirical evidence guides and strengthens theory. No theory can stand alone for long, sooner or later it has to integrate empirical evidence. The developmental social policy approach, from its very beginning, is firmly rooted in empirical evidence – that is, pragmatic programs – and yielded tangible outcomes (Midgley, 2008: 16).

The theory of developmental social policy, therefore, strongly rejects the longterm tradition of AMT (assetand means-testing) in the provision of social transfer payments and social services of all kinds due to the very harmful, and over time strengthening, effects of AMT benefits and services, that cause poverty to increase in the long run.

AMT need, therefore, to be replaced with (1) universal and/or (2) noneconomically targeted (NET) cash transfer and social service programs. NET, such as geographically targeted social welfare benefits and services, fulfil the promise of poverty reduction, without the twin effects of the poverty trap and savings trap.

 
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