There is hardly a family or individual in the UK whose quality of life is not in some degree affected by the income maintenance system. It accounts for over 30 per cent of government expenditure, and provides the most likely and the most enduring circumstances in which the individual will become engaged with a bureaucracy of the state. This is the broad subject matter of the activity known as welfare rights, which is concerned with the actual ‘welfare rights’ of individuals within this system. For many people it is a central aspect of their lives, because they are not able to work, or cannot earn enough, to keep them out of poverty. This may be because of unemployment, disablement, single parenthood, old age, or poverty wages. Benefits which are related to their low incomes, that is, means-tested benefits, are very important to them. But entitlements to many other types of pensions and benefits also extend, by virtue of national insurance contributions, or through the satisfaction of simple qualifying conditions, to many people who are not poor. However, the clients of social workers will, as a known fact, fall largely in the former category.