Social Security Policy and Adjudication
THE importance of social security in Britain can scarcely be overstated. The budget devoted to it represents the largest single departmental programme, and accounts for nearly one-third of all public expenditure. Over four million households rely on income support and a similar number receive housing benefit. The state retirement pension is paid to approximately ten million people and child benefit is paid to nearly seven million families.1 Each week the Government spends more than £1 billion on benefits and their administration.2 Social security, in short, is big business.
Today social security benefits in Britain, as in most other developed countries, fall into two broad categories. The first consists of means-tested benefits designed to relieve poverty, the primary form being income support, a lineal descendant of the old Poor Law. Its previous incarnations were as national assistance ( 1948- 66) and supplementary benefit ( 1966-88). The second category is comprised of benefits which are designed to meet particular risks or needs irrespective of income levels. This group includes the national insurance benefits, which aim to guarantee a minimum level of income over the life cycle by the collective spreading of risks. This is typified by unemployment benefit, entitlement to which requires a certain level of contributions to have been paid on past earnings.
The central concern of this book is the adjudication of claims for social security benefits. We examine both the initial determination of claims in the offices of the Department of Social Security____________________