Module Identifier LA34810  
Module Title WELFARE LAW  
Academic Year 2003/2004  
Co-ordinator Miss Katherine S Williams  
Semester Semester 1  
Other staff Ms Anne E Barlow  
Pre-Requisite LA10110 or LA30110 and LA11010 or LA31010 or LA15710  
Course delivery Seminars / Tutorials   4 Hours Seminar.  
  Lecture   20 Hours  
Assessment TypeAssessment Length/DetailsProportion
Semester Assessment Two assessed essays of 2000 words each, (Required in weeks 7 & 11) Each essay forms 50% of the total mark100%
Supplementary Assessment By means of coursework   
Professional Exemptions Not required for professional purposes  

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:
To develop an ability to locate relevant materials and to sift useful information from a range of data. To gain knowledge and understanding of the theories, social policy and law which shape the welfare benefit justice system. To study the application of law in this field in the context of empirical research into poverty. To appreciate how legislation in this field cannot be separated from its political and social policy content.

Brief description

"Beneath the veneer of our affluent society the scars of poverty are at times obvious, at other times hidden. Restaurant owners on the Strand in London plan to employ a cleaning firm to flood out, like so much rubbish, homeless young people who have had to make the pavements their home. The restaurant-goer will no longer have to step over the sleeping bodies of the young homeless. In the railway and tube stations, beggars of all ages and backgrounds have become the norm rather than the exception." Oppenheim, Poverty: The Facts, 1990, p.1.

Although you may be forgiven for attributing the above quote to Charles Dickens, it is, in fact an accurate description of late twentieth century London. Yet, the establishment of the welfare state sought to eradicate poverty and its consequences, such as homelessness. What then has gone wrong? And what safeguards does the law provide for those less able to fend for themselves in our society?

In this course, we examine 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 aims to encourage students to think critically and appreciate how legislation in this field cannot be separated from its political and social policy context.

It seeks firstly to introduce law students to critical theories of social policy and economics which have influenced law and policy making in this field. It also aims to consider the legislation and case law which has resulted as well as study academic research (for example that of Professor Townsend) which has drawn attention to the social consequences of the law. The student is encouraged to read widely and to think critically and independently about the issues raised in the course. It is a subject area which lends itself particularly well to seminar discussions.

The first part of the course therefore concentrates on the history and evolution of the welfare state, theories of poverty and ideologies of welfare and welfare provision. The second part of the course builds on the first more theoretical part, and examines some of the different types of welfare provision, such as state benefits and the law relating to these. In particular, the post 1979 era which aimed to revolutionise the role of the state in welfare provision will be studied.


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. Seminars are normally taken by the member of staff lecturing in the appropriate area of the course and aim to promote structured, persuasive and logical argument supported by appropriate material or examples.

1. Theories of Welfare Provision by States

2. The Concept of Poverty - Absolute or Relative?

3. Ideologies of Welfare

3.1 Laissez-Faire 3.2 New Liberalism 3.3 Welfarism and consensus 3.4 The New Right 3.5 Feminism

4. History of the Welfare State -

4.1 From the old Poor Laws to the Liberal Reforms. 4.2 The early twentieth century through the application of Beveridge. 4.3 The beginning of the retreat from the Beveridge ideals. 4.4 The welfare state and poverty. 4.5 Women and poverty.

5. Law as a Social Construct and the welfare state

6. The Introduction of a System of Welfare Benefits - To means-test or not to means-test?

6.1 The redefinition of poverty in accordance with "minimum needs"

6.2 The modern system of benefits prior to 1979 in outline and changes introduced before 1986

6.3 The Ideological Shift and the Social Security Review of 1985 - its political and theoretical heritage (e.g. Monetarism and Raynerism) and its policy implications (e.g. the pursuit of the "scrounger").

6.4 Today's scheme of welfare benefits in outline: The legacy of Beveridge and Thatcher.

6.5 The Law and those who depend on the stats: A close look at Jobseekers Allowance; Income Support; Family Credit and the Social Fund

6.6 New Labour: New Deal: Can Welfare to work succeed

Reading Lists

** Recommended Text
N Harris (1999) Social Security in Context Oxford University Press
N J Wikeley, A I Ogus and Barendt (2002) The law of Social Security 5th. Butterworths
M Freeman Child Welfare and the Law 1998.
Titmuss (1958) Essays on the Welfare State 5th.
Fraser (1984) The Evolution of the British Welfare State
Cranston (1985) The Legal Foundation of the Welfare State 2nd.
(1985) Who's to Benefit? A Radical Review of the Social Security System 6th.
Oppenheim (1996) Poverty: The Facts
C Philne (1995) Off the Map
Freeman (ed) (1990) Critical Essays in Welfare Law
Townsend (1979) Poverty in the UK
Hughes and Lowe (1995) Social Housing Law and Policy

Law Reports
(1994) The Borrie Report on Social Justice - Strategies for National Review


This module is at CQFW Level 6