|It is useful to ask why it is necessary to analyse social policy. There are several answers to this question. Firstly, social policies affect how people live, and they can be studied to find out what way is the best way to deal with social problems. Secondly, understanding social policy is an important part of professional preparation and could contribute to the policy-making process. Thirdly, social policy study can help change the way people think about society and public policy (Spicker, 1995: pp 7).
There is the appropriate definition of social policy given by Donnison in a National Economic and Social Council document:
Those actions of government which deliberately or accidentally affect the distribution of resources, status, opportunities and life chances among social groups and categories of people within the country and thus help to shape the general character and equity of its social relations (Donnison, in NESC 1975).
The Deaf community in Ireland is the specifically chosen “social group” for this thesis. The subtext of the definition - “thus help the general character and equity of its social relations” - is being explored in this thesis about the status of Deaf people in Irish society.
Additionally, a 1981 document from the NESC outlines several social policy aims: the reduction of income and wealth inequalities, the elimination of inequalities of opportunities based on social and economic differences and the enhancement of responsible citizenship (NESC 1981). However, Curry (1998) acknowledges that these social policy aims were not successfully achieved or fully realised in an Irish context.
Although previous studies of Irish social policy are frequently focused on the general population, some specific studies are based on certain perspectives such as feminist, anti-racist, pro-family, and disability. Even within disability studies, there are occasional references to a Deaf perspective. Furthermore, generally, there is little literature or discussion of social policies that affect Deaf people directly in Ireland.
It must be mentioned that general social policies do affect Deaf people in many ways. Still, when it comes to specific policy responses to the perceived needs of Deaf people, practical responses are often influenced by ad hoc or ideologically driven decisions. There is plenty of evidence that ad hoc or ideologically driven decisions were often made to meet the perceived needs of Deaf people. For instance, educational policies for Deaf children were often decided at the local level (Griffey 1994, Crean 1997, Burns 1998). Despite several specific social policy responses made about Deaf people, such policies have not been closely analysed.