Originally published in 1973, the aim of this book was to consider the relationship of a vital element in our social security system, the Supplementary Benefits Commission, to the personal social services, in particular to social work. Notions of ‘entitlement’ and ‘rights’ in means-tested benefit schemes are examined in relation to those claimants, including unsupported mothers and the so-called ‘voluntary unemployed’, who present particular difficulties to those administering the scheme. For many who claim supplementary benefit their only need is prompt, efficient financial service. For a few, their financial need is inextricably bound up with complex social and psychological difficulties. For such cases, the civil servants who administer the British Supplementary Benefits scheme need skill beyond that normally expected of such persons and their relationship with the social workers who are, or should be, in touch with such claimants becomes crucial.
The book considers some of the underlying ethical issues, in particular the tension between equitable and individualised justice, involved in the exercise of discretion. It describes the structure and organisation of the Supplementary Benefits scheme and analyses the roles of officials that bear on welfare. It also examines the current situation with regard to the selection and training of officials and discusses the attitudes of social workers to officials.
This work, drawing on the unique experience of the author as the first Social Work Adviser to the Supplementary Benefits Commission, was the first study of its kind to be published in this country and would be of great value to all students and teachers of social work at the time as well as to a wide readership of social scientists.