Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Welfare Law
Academic Year
Semester 2
GF10110/LA10110 or LA14230/GF14230 or LA14720/GF14720 GF30110/LA30110 or LA34230/GF34230 or LA34720/GF34720 or LA15710
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminars / Tutorials 3 Hours. 3 x 1 hour seminars.
Lecture 16 Hours total


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Exam 1.5 Hours   Exam  (Seen). Candidates are not permitted to bring any books, notes or any other materials into the examination.  100%
Supplementary Exam 1.5 Hours   Exam  (Seen). Candidates are not permitted to bring any books, notes or any other materials into the examination.  100%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Use their research skills effectively in finding appropriate material, identifying relevant legal and social policy literature and using statistical evidence in developing arguments.

2. Gain knowledge and understanding of the theories, social welfare and law which shape the social welfare system.

3. Understand the complexities of the relationship between social policy, ethics and law with particular relation to disadvantaged and social excluded sections of society.

4. Analyse the working of social welfare law and identify and critically discuss both the need for, and proposals for reform.

5. Have an insight into the complexities of achieving an appropriate balance between State intervention and autonomy.

6. Understand the central role played by human rights instruments in developing social welfare law nationally and internationally.

7. Recognise the importance of Public Law principles in the daily application of social welfare law.

8. Understand the implications of the devolved system of government within the United Kingdom for social welfare law.

Brief description

Beneath the veneer of our affluent society the scars of social disadvantage are at times obvious, at other times hidden. Government initiatives have failed to adequately meet the legitimate expectations of those who by reasons of age or disability are excluded from society. We are living longer; there will be fewer younger people to provide the expensive social care that people in their eighties and beyond may require. People with disabilities are quite rightly promised equal opportunities to participate in society; however, the level of social care to which they are entitled is regarded by many as being tokenistic and minimal. What rights do such people have in the system? The simple answer to this question is `not many?. Social welfare law consists of many powers on the part of local authorities to provide services, but very few duties. The provision of services is more and more subject to restrictive eligibility criteria, which are designed to deny rather than provide services.

The establishment of the welfare state sought to eradicate disadvantage and its consequences, such as social exclusion. What then has gone wrong? And what safeguards does the law provide for those less able to fend for themselves in our society?

This module examines the rise and fall of the welfare state, by considering the social theories, legislation and policies which have shaped its introduction and decline. The organisation of the course and the manner of its teaching requires students to think critically and appreciate how legislation in this field cannot be separated from its political, economic, and social policy context.

It seeks firstly to introduce students to the underlying philosophy behind the provision of social welfare and to place it in the context of the duty of the State and the autonomy of the individual. It also aims to consider the legislation and case law which has resulted as well as study interdisciplinary research, which has drawn attention to the social consequences of the law. The student must read widely and think critically and independently about the issues raised in the module. It is a subject area which lends itself particularly well to seminar discussions.

The first part of the course concentrates on the history and evolution of social welfare law. The second part of the course builds on the first more theoretical part, and examines some of the different types of social welfare provision, such as community care, adult abuse protection procedures and the mechanisms through which social care is delivered. It will include the ongoing 'contracting out' of state responsibilities to the third sector and commercial undertakings.


To prepare students for a working environment by enhancing their ability to fulfil the requirements of professional bodies To facilitate critical understanding of a complicated area of law and policy. To enhance student's research skills. To enhance student's critical and analytical skills.


The course will be taught by lectures and seminars. The lectures will provide the foundation elements upon which the student can build his or her own knowledge of the subject through additional reading. The seminars will explore, in a more detailed way through the forum of discussion issues (usually topical) chosen from the foundation material. Students will be expected to have done independent reading for seminars and to take part in argument and discussion in the seminars.

Introduction and historical perspective
1. The demography and future population trends of England and Wales
a. What is the current level of demand for social welfare provision?
b. Future predictions
c. Can we/should we afford it?

2. Human rights and social welfare law
a. Paternalism
b. Individualism
c. The use of social care professionals in advocating and promoting human rights.

3. The Welfare State
a. The development of social welfare law within the Welfare State
b. The concept of `social care' as part of the state's welfare provision
c. `privatisation' of social care
d. Health and social care - a real distinction?

4. State responsibility
a. The mechanism for delivering social care
b. The tension between 'individualisation' and 'paternalism'
c. Resources

5. The legal framework
a. Community care
i. Assessment
ii. Allocation of resources
iii. Need v wants v desires
iv. Provision of services
b. Residential care
i. Regulatory framework
ii. Human rights
c. Compulsion
d. Abuse of vulnerable adults

6. Conclusions

Possible textbooks
Brayne and Carr, Law for Social Workers, OUP
Brammer A, Social Work Law, Longman

British Journal of Social Work
Journal of Social Work
Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law
Child and Family Law Quarterly
Community Care
Journal of Medical Ethics
Australian Journal of Social Work
Government White Papers and Guidance issued under s.7 Local Authority Social Services Act 1970

Reading List

General Text
Australian Social Work : The Journal of the Australian Association of Social Workers A.A.S.W. Child and Family Law Quarterly Jordan (1975-) Journal of Medical Ethics [Electronic resource] Society for the Study of Medical Ethics Journal of Social Welfare Law Sweet and Maxwell Primo search (2001-) Journal of Social Work (JSW) Sage Publications (1971-) The British Journal of Social Work British Association of Social Workers Brammer, Alison (2006) Social Work Law 2nd ed. Longman Primo search Brayne, Hugh (2008) Law for Social Workers 10th ed. Oxford University Press Primo search


This module is at CQFW Level 6