New articles on social security

New articles on dignity and social security, TH Marshall.


Two new articles just out!

C Fitzpatrick, G McKeever and M Simpson, ‘Conditionality, discretion and TH Marshall’s ‘“right to welfare”’ (2019) Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law.

In an era of increasing interest in and concern about destitution in the UK, the leading studies place social security problems among the principal causes. This suggests that destitution is a failure of social citizenship, with social protection systems unable or unwilling to underwrite the guarantee of a modicum of economic welfare that, according to Marshall, forms the essence of the citizen’s social rights. This article documents how the establishment of a comprehensive welfare state in the mid-20th century has been eroded by a series of social security reforms that have turned the focus back on local government and the voluntary sector for the support of the ‘undeserving’ migrant and unemployed poor. Empirical findings from a major study of destitution in the UK illustrate how the fulfilment of social ‘rights’ is becoming dependent on knowing where to seek support, having access to the right gatekeeper and enduring social stigma. The authors consider the compatibility of a welfare state characterised by strict conditionality, decision maker discretion and gaps in the safety net with the Marshallian ‘right to welfare’.

R Patrick and M Simpson, ‘Conceptualising dignity in the context of social security: Bottom‐up and top‐down perspectives’ (2019) Social Policy and Administration.

Dignity and social security have been closely associated since at least the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, but there is a lack of clarity around what dignity means in this context. This article explores how two key stakeholders—out‐of‐work benefit recipients and policymakers—understand dignity in the context of social security, drawing on qualitative research with each group. The evidence presented notes a relative absence of direct references to dignity among policymakers, although related issues are nonetheless discussed, whereas benefit recipients commonly articulate experiences of undignified treatment and the negative impact this has on their lives. This article's exploration of dignity is of particular relevance to Scotland, where recent framework legislation includes the principle that their security system should be underpinned by “respect for the dignity of individuals.” The authors propose that a social security system that protects dignity must take account of distributional, relational, and intrinsic aspects of dignity—providing sufficient income, treating users with respect, and avoiding interventions or discourses that are disrespectful and dehumanizing. Further, the authors question whether it is possible for dignity to enjoy meaningful protection within highly disciplinary conditional welfare regimes.