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  • Author or Editor: Andrew Wallace x
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The role of geographical area or place has long been central to some social policy strategies, initiatives and tensions. This chapter examines the enduring behaviourism which underpins much recent welfare and communities policy. It begins by briefly situating governmental discipline of individuals and communities within a broader agenda of neoliberal regulation, before proceeding to analyse the approaches of New Labour and the Coalition, and identifying the fresh agendas through which behaviour-shaping has been authorised and textured. Drawing on some primary research conducted within a recently ‘empowered’ residential community, the chapter then offers critical perspectives on these agendas and their weakness both as wider projects of societal discipline and as theories and practices of civic governance.

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This chapter investigates ‘the turn to the local’ in UK social policy, drawing on the concept of ‘governance’. It regards this move towards the self-governance of local neighbourhoods as a genuine, yet contradictory, process. It observes that for New Labour, this process of ‘localisation’ is driven by communitarian ideas that posit the neighbourhood as the unit within which democracy can be revitalised and individuals motivated to act responsibly. It shows how the desire to devolve power to local citizens may fail as a result of particular assumptions about the nature of local space and a lack of understanding of how those citizens may wish to utilise opportunities for local governance, or of the structural contexts that help to shape their lives.

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Housing has often been regarded as a ‘wobbly pillar’ of the welfare state due to its disjointed position between the public and private realms and the intractability of some problems to policy solutions. Indeed, we can ask whether a ‘housing sector’ exists at all, due to complex systems of governance, financialisation, policy divergence and overall fragmentation of housing-related social policy throughout the UK. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of housing policy, putting ‘the home’ and neighbourhoods into the spotlight. This chapter looks at some of the key emerging and re-emerging issues for housing policy in the UK through the lens of the COVID-19 pandemic. The chapter firstly outlines why housing was considered the ‘wobbly pillar’ going into 2019, including issues surrounding the financialisation of housing. Key COVID-19 housing-related policy responses are then examined in the context of emerging evidence that the pandemic is reinforcing inequalities in housing. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated underlying housing issues faced by more vulnerable groups, yet it has also created an opportunity to showcase radical policy options and highlight the importance of future-proofing housing to be more flexible, dynamic and better quality.

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