ABSTRACT

Though these systems form a major part of the welfare state, the social rights provided through our education, health and social care systems are seldom spoken of as ‘welfare’ rights. The reasons for this are partly cultural and partly legal. On the one hand, ‘welfare’ is a term that has come to be associated either generally with the dispensation of cash benefits rather than services in kind, or more particularly (and pejoratively) with services thought to be reserved only for ‘the poor’. This ought not to deflect us from speaking of education, health and social care as ‘welfare’ services, since clearly they are critically important for the welfare of the human subject. On the other hand, there really are surprisingly few legally enforceable rights in relation to such services. The language of rights tends to surface in four ways:

In relation to rights of complaint or redress. It is possible to have a clearly defined right of complaint, even when the nature of one's substantive entitlement is not so clearly defined. I shall be discussing rights of redress separ-ately in Chapter 9.

As a declaratory device for the setting of performance targets for service providers, which do not in practice give rise to justiciable rights for service users (or ‘consumers’). Of significance here are public documents like the Patient's or NHS Charter and the Parent's Charter.

In relation to the special needs of particularly vulnerable groups, such as children with special educational needs and people with mental health problems.

In relation to particular kinds of benefits that are incidental to the substantive provision of educational, health or social care, such as exemption from fees or charges or assistance with associated costs.