chapter  2
2Needs, rights and welfare
Pages 13

The concept of need is absolutely fundamental to the understanding of contemporary

social policy and the welfare state. In the view of some commentators, the recognition

and satisfaction of need marks the welfare function of the modern state from its other

functions, and at the same time the relationship between needs and rights is at the heart of

the much discussed problem of stigma on the part of the recipients of welfare benefits. Some theorists have argued that it is the concept of need that differentiates the social

services from other types of institutions in the modern state. Forder, for example, in

‘Concepts in Social Administration’, argues that: ‘The definition of need presents a central problem for the social services, since this defines the objectives of the services’ (1974, p. 39), and much the same view is to be found in Jonathan Bradshaw’s ‘New

Society’ article, The Concept of Social Need (1972, p. 640):

The concept of social need is inherent in the idea of social service. The history

of the social services is the history of the recognition of social needs and the

organisation of society to meet them. The Seebohm Report was deeply

concerned with the concept of need, though it never succeeded in defining it. It saw that the personal social services are large scale experiments in ways of

helping those in need.