Last Updated 12 Jul 2021

Social Policy stigma

Category Social Policy
Essay type Research
Words 1111 (4 pages)
Views 370
Table of contents

In this essay I will discuss what my understanding of the word 'Stigma' is, whether I agree or not if social policies stigmatize certain groups of people and if so, what are the solutions to these stigmas attached to these groups. "Stigma is a mark of disgrace that sets a person apart. When a person is labelled by their illness they are seen as part of a stereotyped group. Negative attitudes create prejudice which leads to negative actions and discrimination" (www. entalhealth. wa. gov. au). In modern society, stigmas are nearly almost of a negative kind. They have a negative effect on those being stigmatized and can cause experiences and feelings such as; shame, blame, hopelessness, and distress. "In every branch of the social services, some provisions are stigmatizing and others are not; but the reasons for the pattern of stigmatization are not immediately clear" (Spicker, Stigma and Social Welfare p. 36). Because stigma is socially onstructed, it varies from setting to setting, there are many different types of groups in society which all react differently to the stigmas which are appointed.

All of these different reactions must be considered when planning social policies. In every different society not everyone is going to be content with policies that are made, some may stigmatize groups of people and the groups who have been victims of certain stigmas will also have feelings of discontent, hopelessness and distress. Erving Goffman, one of the most important sociologists of the twentieth century, efined stigma as "the process by which the reaction of others spoils normal identity'. (Nettleton, 2006: 95).

Types of social stigmas

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Goffman believes that there are three types of social stigmas, including:

  1. Stigma of character traits
  2. Physical Stigma
  3. Stigma of group identity

Goffman considers the stigma of character traits to be "blemishes of individual character perceived as weak will, domineering, or unnatural passions, treacherous and rigid beliefs, and dishonesty, these being inferred from a known record of, for example, mental disorder, imprisonment, addiction, alcoholism, homosexuality, nemployment, suicidal attempts, and radical political behavior. The physical stigmas he refers to are different bodily formalities. When Goffman refers to the 'stigma of group identity he is referring to being of a particular race, nationality, religion etc. whether or not a person understands or agrees with stigmas, they are passed on from one generation to the next, thus there will always be certain stigmas associated with certain groups of people. Stigma nowadays, would be considered a central issue in relation to social welfare and social policy. When discussing stigma, it s important to mention the Poor Law. The stigma of the Poor Law is renowned.

In the past and in many cases still today, people often Judged others who claimed money trom the state in the torm ot benetl ts and there was a policy that mar ed k these people off from others in society. This left us with the debate whether or not welfare should be provided, to whom it should be provided and what kind of welfare? This concept of the "undeserving" and "lazy' public who refused to work was thought to be ethically corruptible by people relying on the state and not seeking to improve their ndependent source of income or by any policy of substantial kindness. The last remnants of the Poor Law were scrapped in 1948. The stigma of pauperism, which had seemed to be the result of a conscious policy, has proved resilient to eradication. " (Spicker, Paul, Stigma and Social Welfare, 1984, p 9) over the past few years, people have begun to move away from the idea of the Poor Law and have begun to accept how social policies deal with groups of people who do not receive adequate independent income, although there will always be slight stigmas attached o these groups. It is hard to understand why this is so, when cautionary policies have been deserted, right to benefits established, and the administration of benefits has significantly changed.

Discredited or discreditable

As Goffman has explained, stigmas can be carried in two different ways; stigmas can be discredited or discreditable. Discredited stigmas are those that a person cannot stop everyone else from knowing, for example stigmas that may be associated with a certain race or the use of a wheelchair whereas, discreditable is when a person believes that the general public do not know about heir stigma, due to the fact that it cannot be seen and is not distinctively obvious, for example, their sexual orientation or their religion. Kennedy, P (2013) Key Themes in Social Policy). I believe that social policies do and do not stigmatize certain groups of people. I think that the majority of the time the social policies that some may say attach stigmas to groups are Just highlighting the stigmas that already exist. I think that the Irish government have created a durable system so as to prevent negative stigmatization. Unemployment benefit in Ireland is very generous, for this reason eople often attach negative stigmas to those who receive it.

Many believe that those who receive unemployment benefit have little motivation to find employment because they are so well funded, this also leads to many of them being stuck in the poverty trap. The government started an initiative to encourage unemployed people to seek work. This initiative is a government-funded agency known as 'F…S'. The government creating this agency and many unemployed people using it to gain training for future employment should reduce the negative stigmas that are attached o those receiving unemployment benefit.

Thus I consider that this initiative is a good solution to the stigmatization of unemployed people in Ireland. People may often feel stigmatized if the way in which they act is different to what are known as 'norms'. This is definitely not fair or Just but it will always exist within society. For example, although our society is changing and gay people are becoming more and more accepted in society, there are most definitely those who see them as different and do not accept them. Whether this is right or not does not take away from the fact that it appens.

As a result, gay people will feel stigmatized because of their sexual orientation. This can be because of social policy because it is not the way in which we are told to behave and is not seen as a 'norm'. As regards to these sort of stigmas, they will always exist within society for the first number of years until it becomes a more regular and frequently occurring thing. Thus I believe that there are not any solutions to these torms ot stigmatizations. For the reasons that I nave discussed, I would agree that some social policies have caused stigmatism.

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Social Policy stigma. (2018, Jun 21). Retrieved from

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