This set of web pages offers a brief outline of key topics and issues in Social Policy. The material is of the kind which would be tackled in a university course in the subject.
This website is one of the most widely used sites in the field of social policy internationally. When I started it up, I had originally intended the pages to be for people who are beginning studies in social policy, and those who are thinking about it. Many more people than the original target audience have found the site helpful, and I have received notes from teachers and students across the world. As the range of content, reading and references has increased, the scope of the site has broadened. I have been slowly expanding the references to university-level reading from open access sources - several new links were added in 2013, including material by Jonathan Bradshaw, Peter Townsend and myself. The level of detail is necessarily less than a textbook would include, however, and students should be complementing what they read here with a range of other sources.
The site first came on line in May 2000. It was based at the University of Dundee, and was transferred to the Robert Gordon University in September 2001. There have been some interruptions in the collection of statistics, but its first million page views were recorded in the four years to May 2004, and the second million by October 2006. There had been five million page views by the end of July 2011 and the sixth million was passed in December 2012.
Currently the site is receiving about 440 individual visitors, and 1200 page views, per day. Google Analytics tells me that there were 436,522 page views between 1st January 2013 and 31st December 2013. The most popular page is the one on comparative social policy, accounting for over 10% of views and taking readers 4 minutes on average. Internet domains are increasingly disguising the country of origin, but most identified users are from the UK or US; of the remainder, the principal users are in Canada, Australia, the European Union, South Africa, India and China. In the last year there were at least 365 sessions (or one a day on average) from 46 countries. However, there are users from most countries in the world. No-one used the site in Western Sahara, Congo or the Central African Republic; that is easier than listing all the places where people did use it.
The author of these pages is Paul Spicker. The site is intended as an educational resource, and the pages are meant to be freely accessible, but the author retains copyright. No material in whole or in part from these pages may be modified, copied, reproduced, re-published, uploaded, posted, or distributed in any way. Subject to that, you are granted limited personal non-exclusive use of the materials within these pages, provided appropriate recognition of the origin of the materials is made.
Many relevant graphics are unavailable because of copyright restrictions. Copyright resides in the person who makes the image, not the person represented. This means, for example, that a public domain image is available of Winston Churchill, who died in 1965, but not of John Maynard Keynes, who died in 1946. The rights to use different images are consequently complex. Copyright acknowledgements are given next to the images; images that are out of copyright are generally noted as such in the ALT text, which is visible when the mouse pointer hovers over the picture.
People who want to refer to the pages should cite them in the usual way. Common conventions for internet citations have not been established, but an appropriate reference might be something like this:
P Spicker, 2014, An introduction to social policy, Aberdeen, Scotland: The Robert Gordon University, http://www2.rgu.ac.uk/publicpolicy/introduction .
The format of the site has been revised more than once, mainly to meet the demands of different browsers and the search engines. The site was prepared with Dreamweaver, but as time has gone on more and more has been done by direct editing. In earlier versions, there were some Java-based functions, including a tree-based menu. These took too long to load and run, and they have been stripped out. However, I have used widgets from others, including graphs from Google Public Data Explorer and the Trace Union Congress.
The Internet is an international medium, and although there are several examples given from the UK the material has mainly been selected because of its international interest. The sections have been kept brief, so that they can comfortably be read on a computer screen, and the files are small and mainly text-based to allow rapid access. The main reason for putting several screens together in each file is speed: material can continue to load while people are reading.
The needs of users have been central to the design. A series of marginal changes in the appearance of the site conceal some fairly drastic editing of the source code. Some elements of the layout have been compromised in order to meet accessibility standards, which have also led to a significant reduction in file sizes; the increase in speed should be noticeable. There are minor differences in appearance between browsers, but the style in each should be clear and consistent. The site has been checked in Internet Explorer, Netscape, Mozilla, Chrome, Opera, Amaya and Telnet (for text-only browsers), as well as for mobile-based browsers in Android and Java.
Accessibility for people with disabilities were checked with Bobby, an accessibility programme that is no longer available; it was compatible with their AAA rating. Paul Brown made further checks when the site went on line. Given the range of different users, though, it is difficult to be confident that there are no hidden traps; please report any you find.
The main aim of revision at this stage is to make the site as useful as possible to people studying and working in the field. The coverage is being gradually expanded and refined.
The link to an external blog site began as an experiment in December 2011, but it has worked well. I have been able, for example, to chart the progress of social security in the UK in a way I could not have done within the constraints of the main website. My blog has an Open Access page where readers will find four of my books for free, and more than 50 of my published papers.
Any other comments would be appreciated. Please send suggestions or queries to firstname.lastname@example.org.