Aspirations and experiments : a long view of the role of 'community' in social welfare provision in the west of Scotland

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

Communities and their potential contribution to social welfare and public sector reform are a key focus for current policy in Scotland and the UK more generally. This study addresses the extent to which such a focus is new and considers what historical perspectives might bring to the understanding of this agenda.The study develops three new historical accounts of community contribution to social welfare drawn from a period of two centuries in the west of Scotland. Accounts of such activities, particularly in disadvantaged communities, are still limited and the study adds to the literature in this area. Using archival and documentary sources, supplemented with interviews, it develops accounts of the St John’s Experiment, Kinning Park Co-operative Women’s Guild and Paisley Community Development Project. The accounts also provided the basis for engagement with present-day community organisations.While all three accounts are context-specific and instructive individually as products of different historical contexts, social philosophies and strategies for change, they are also of interest for the similarities in the practice models adopted, the issues addressed and the extent of impact. They highlight long-held aspirations for the role that communities might play in relation to social welfare which are often not fully realised. Obstacles to impact are found in those very levels of aspiration, assumptions about the resource requirements and the extent to which power and control remain external to the communities concerned.The study concludes that the current ‘turn’ to community at a time of transition and transformation within social welfare can be seen to have clear parallels in the past. There are practical lessons that might be learned and the value of the three historical accounts may also be found at the level of imagination: in their ability to support a narrative of hope and stimulate ideas about alternatives to the present.
Date of Award1 Oct 2017
LanguageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SponsorsESRC (Economic and Social Research Council)
SupervisorBernard Harris (Supervisor)

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