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Welfare, crime and society

This module examines the relationships between the worlds of social welfare and crime control. It focuses on policy interventions and responses in the UK and around the world to issues such as anti-social behaviour, poverty, discrimination, hate crimes, child labour, health and disease, families, slums, ghettos and gated communities. Using multi-media teaching materials, the module is organised by four conceptual themes – surveillance, social justice, security and community. It will equip you with the skills you need to select and evaluate evidence in relation to social science arguments and social policy.

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OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate-level module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module code
Study level
2 8 5
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
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Entry requirements
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What you will study

Is it possible to detect a punitive approach to social policy, and a welfarist approach to crime control? Are there some core ideas, such as personal responsibility and punishment, which apply to both welfare and crime control policies? Are these new approaches or were they always evident in policy responses? Are these approaches evident only in the UK, or are they also visible in other countries?

How does a focus on the links between social welfare and crime control help us understand important issues of social concern, such as antisocial behaviour, corporate crime, community safety, environmental degradation, child welfare, warfare and poverty?

In a globalising world of rapid social change and interconnectedness what are the effects of social regulation, surveillance and penalisation on people’s lives? Do these policies impact on some social groups and populations more than others? Do they enhance our sense of security and well-being or do they undermine it?

Does looking at historical responses to these questions, in our own and other societies, help us make sense of what’s going on currently? Are ideas of responsibility, conditionality, punitivity and ‘dangerous populations’ ‘new’ – or have they always been present in public policies addressing social problems of unmet need, crime and disorder in one way or another?

What kinds of evidence can best help us understand these trends and evaluate their effects? How is evidence variously mobilised in the course of research, evaluation and policy making? And how do different kinds of evidence reflect – or challenge – the worldview of those involved in making policy and delivering services?

To help us answer these questions, this module looks critically at a wide range of social issues, drawing on experiences of the UK and countries in Western Europe, Africa, North America and South America. It looks at the policies of national governments and the involvement of international organisations, such as the World Bank and the International Labour Organisation in the making of welfare and crime control policy, as well as the social campaigns of non-governmental organisations, social movements and community organisations. The module looks to the present, as well as the past, in making sense of contemporary strategies and responses across the social welfare and crime control domains.

These kinds of concerns, questions and themes are explored across the module. It is organised into five parts, which collectively explore the entanglements between social welfare provision and crime control strategies.


Part one provides a gentle introduction (‘taster’) to the module questions and themes. It is presented through an online video on surveillance made specifically for this module. Through a focus on childcare, gated communities and borders, this film explores how forms and practices of surveillance reveal the everyday entanglements of welfare provision and crime control in the UK and further afield.

Social justice

Part two examines the relationship between social welfare and crime control through the lens of social justice. This book-led unit is concerned with changing ideas about, and struggles over, social justice at different points in time and in different contexts and settings. It explores issues of social inequality, poverty, well-being and harm in relation to diverse issues relating to paid and unpaid work, the provision of health and welfare services, housing and environmental degradation.


Part three focuses on the concept of security to investigate the emergence of widespread insecurity and fear around economic, social and cultural change. It asks why security has become such an important idea and how the notion of security links the different domains of social, personal and political life, and especially the worlds of crime control and welfare. It seeks to make sense of the changing nature of the relationship between security and insecurity and explores some of the consequences and implications of policies and practices aimed at creating security. It explores debates about social fears and responses to those fears in relation to topics such as housing, families and transport, and the regulation of social behaviour, war and disease.


Part four explores the social welfare-crime control relationships through a focus on community. It examines the contradictions of the appeal of community in terms of its identification both as a site of social ‘good’, care and stability and as a source of social problems, exclusion and order. It considers the difficulties of defining what community means; looks at the ways in which community has become a central feature of both social welfare and crime control policies; and examines a range of debates around social regulation and social capital, and issues of community safety, ‘disorder’ and mobilisations.

Review and revision

Part five returns to the online video used in part one of the module and uses additional material to revisit the key module concepts, themes and questions. There is also revision guidance tailored to support students through their preparation for the end-of-module exam.

Across each of the five study units you will learn about evidence, social science argument and policy – and the relationship between them. This involves a focus on different forms and sources of evidence, the ways in which different kinds of evidence are mobilised in the policy-making process and in social science debates about those policies. You will use evidence to explore the questions raised in the module and will think about the part that evidence plays in the policy-making processes. You will be encouraged to apply their learning to the analysis of non-module situations and examples.

This module reflects The Open University’s commitment to developing modules that span and integrate a range of learning outcomes across the areas of knowledge and understanding; cognitive (analytical) skills; key skills of communication and information literacy and lifelong learning; and practical and professional skills. The development of these skills is embedded within every stage of the module, so that students will be supported in progressively developing these skills.

Vocational relevance

Welfare, crime and society is relevant to a wide range of jobs in the public, voluntary, community and commercial sectors. The areas and themes the module looks at are directly relevant to a variety of jobs in public administration, health, education, social welfare services and criminal justice services, amongst others. The analytical and key skills you will develop are relevant to any job context. Amongst the ‘transferable’ skills you will develop are: the ability to identify, gather, analyse and assess evidence; present reasoned and coherent arguments; write clearly in a range of styles such as essays, reports and policy reviews; apply learning to non-module provided examples and situations; and plan and reflect on your own work and learning.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will be assigned a tutor who will provide advice and guidance relating to all aspects of the module. They will also mark and provide feedback on your assignments. We may also be able to offer group tutorials or day schools that you are encouraged, but not obliged, to attend. The location of tutorials depends on the geographical distribution of students taking the module.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You must use the online eTMA system to submit some of your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs).

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in October 2015. We expect it to be available once a year, in October.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

Course work includes:

6 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
No residential school

Course satisfaction survey

See the satisfaction survey results for this course.


This is an OU level 2 module and you need to have a good knowledge of the subject area, obtained either through level 1 study with the OU, or by doing equivalent work at another university. 

Our key introductory level 1 module Introducing the social sciences (DD102) gives an excellent grounding for this module.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.

Preparatory work

There is no requirement for prospective students to have undertaken any specific preparatory work prior to starting this module. However, for those who wish to begin thinking about some of the possible ways in which social welfare and crime control policies intersect with one another, the module team would direct you to read Naomi Klein’s No Logo (Flamingo, 2001). This work of non-fiction examines the harmful practices of global corporations and the ways in which individuals and communities are mobilising to oppose them in the name of social justice. Ian Rankin’s Fleshmarket Close (Orion, 2005) is a detective novel dealing with the plight of asylum seekers in a detention centre in Scotland. Alternatively, we recommend students watch Sweet Sixteen, directed by Ken Loach (2000). This film explores how the efforts of a teenager to improve his ‘lot’ while living in a deprived housing estate lead him into a world of criminality.


Start End England fee Register
03 Oct 2015 Jun 2016 £2700.00

Registration closes 10/09/15 (places subject to availability)


You may need to apply for some payment or funding options earlier. Please check the Fees and Funding information or contact us for information.

This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2017.

Additional Costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a laptop, travel to tutorials, set books and internet access.

If you're on a low income you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after you register.

Ways to pay for this module

Open University Student Budget Account

The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

  • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
  • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

Employer sponsorship

Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU qualifications are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to achieve one. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the qualification you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

  • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
  • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your modules.  

Credit/debit card

You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

We accept American Express, Maestro (UK only), Mastercard, Visa/Delta and Visa Electron. 

Mixed payments

We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).

For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser or book a call back at a time that is convenient to you.

Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2016. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees. 

This information was provided on 03/08/2015.

What's included

Module books and website.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module as the study materials and activities are accessible via a web browser. Any other computer-based activities you will need to carry out, such as word processing, using spreadsheets, taking part in online forums, and submitting files to the university for assessment, are specified in the module materials. If any additional software is needed for these tasks it will either be provided or is freely available.

We recommend either of the following:

  • Windows desktop or laptop computer running Windows 7 or later operating system
  • Macintosh desktop or laptop computer running OS X 10.7 or later operating system.

A netbook, tablet, smartphone or Linux computer that supports one of the browsers listed below may be suitable. The screen size should be at least 1024 (H) x 768 (W) pixels. If you intend to use one of these devices please ensure you have access to a suitable desktop or laptop computer in case you are unable to carry out all the module activities on your mobile device.

We recommend a minimum 1 Mbps internet connection and any of the following browsers:

  • Internet Explorer 9 and above
  • Apple Safari 7 and above
  • Google Chrome 31 and above
  • Mozilla Firefox 31 and above.

Note: using the latest version for your browser will maximise security when accessing the internet. Using company or library computers may prevent you accessing some internet materials or installing additional software.

See our Skills for OU study website for further information about computing skills for study and educational deals for buying Microsoft Office software.

If you have a disability

Written transcripts of audio and audiovisual components are available. The online video features subtitles. Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) versions of printed material are also available. Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader. Other alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future. 

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.