Journal of Social Policy


The Evolution of Choice Policies in UK Housing, Education and Health Policy


a1 School of Applied Social Sciences, University of Durham, 32 Old Elvet, Durham DH1 3HN email:

a2 Health Services Management Centre, University of Birmingham, Park House, 40 Edgbaston Park Road, Birmingham B15 2RT email:


Scholarship in social policy in recent years has examined how policy positions users in a range of roles, particularly most recently in terms of their roles as ‘choosers’ through the increased use of markets in welfare. This article considers how choice policies have positioned users since the creation of the modern welfare state, presenting a history of choice policies, but also a comparative examination of how they have differed in the UK between housing, education and healthcare. It concludes by suggesting that although approaches to choice vary considerably between the three public services examined, policy-makers often appear unaware of these differences, leading to mistaken assumptions that policies can be transferred or transplanted unproblematically.