Introduction require resources to be implemented. Griggs and


The social security system in the UK has undergone a series of changes in the recent past. Some of these changes touch on the issues of rights and responsibility.

Historically, this has been a thorny issue and thus the need to deliberately address it from the perspective of the effects of the changes to the social security system and how these changes reflect upon the rights and responsibilities. Throughout history the rights and responsibility in the Britain’s social security has been referred to as passive due to the inactivity of the labor laws in the country. However, after the 1997 social security reforms, the terms rights and responsibility have adopted new meaning as well as implications.

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Changes brought by the new policies in the social security also meant that the way the security system was governed had to change. The change was intended to ensure efficiency is implemented in to the system. This paper thus looks at how these changes reflect on the implication of the terms right and responsibility as well as governance on the social security systems in the UK.

This paper will be structured in a systematic manner that will begin by giving a historical perspective of the social security in the UK. The focus on the rights and responsibilities begin with the Poor’s Law of the early 1900s where there was the initial reference of the rights of the claimants as well as the responsibility of the employer. This possibly was the foundation of the welfare state, which was realised about 50 years later.

The paper briefly focuses on how social security improved the rights and the responsibility immediately after the World War II and the effects of the changes on citizen’s contributions, marriage as well as benefits during off working days. The paper also puts emphasis on the onset of the Rights Movement in 1960 and attempts to show how this impacted up on social security issues. There is also discussion on the successive percentage increase on contribution for employed people by successive UK governments in Britain to date.

The paper also focuses on the rights and responsibilities that concern the unemployed and if their rights as well as their responsibilities and contributions differ from those of the employed colleagues. Lastly, there is the issue of governance concerning the social security in the UK especially after the reforms that were instituted in 1997.

The laws involved a series of policy changes as well as developments that ushered new realizations. New polices also meant a change in how the terms rights and responsibility were applied in the UK’s social security agenda. The roles of UK’s treasury as well as other governments departments in the implementation of the new social security policies are also be analysed in light of these new changes.

The paper is organized systematically from highlighting the emergence of the social security idea in the pre-1900 Britain and how the idea of rights and responsibilities has evolved with time.

This will be preceded by a detailed albeit brief review of the main literature concerned with the issue of social security in UK. This includes the definition of the terms rights and responsibility in relations to social security. The changes that occurred especially during and after World War II and how this altered the new meanings of the terms rights and responsibility are reflected.

The paper then highlights the gradual changes in the social security in UK, the issue of the unemployed and how their social welfare differed if at all with the social welfare of the formally employed Britons. The paper lastly elaborates on the new governance issues that have emerged as a result of the eventual developments made in the social welfare and specifically the changes instituted in 1997.

Literature Review

Griggs and Bennett (4) in their efforts to make definitions of the terms rights and responsibility understandable separate the two terms and claim that there are two types of rights: negative and positive and also claim that social rights fall under the negative rights as they require resources to be implemented.

Griggs and Bennett (6) further adds that every individual has the right to social benefits which includes access to such benefits and also see the citizens as possessing the responsibility to exercise the right to social security, the institutions that guarantee that citizens enjoy social security are protected as well as the responsibility that comes with it. Griggs and Bennett (8) conclude that thus rights and responsibility are inseparable in regard to the issue of social security.

Concerning the history of the social security issue, Griggs and Bennett (Viii) argue that UK started to develop the idea of social welfare in the late 1800 when the governments saw the need to address the issue of poverty amongst its citizens and see this as the foundation for the Britain’s social security system as well as what set the pace for subsequent changes that has taken place in history up to date.

These changes have had far and widespread implications up on the meaning of the terms rights and responsibilities in regard to social welfare. The arrival of welfare rights in the1960s was important.

According to Koning, Layard, Nickell and Westergaard-Nielsen (16), introduction of allowances for the unemployed in 1997 reforms was a significant way in which social security changed. Carmel and Papadopoulos (1) adds that the 1997 social security reforms heralded far reaching effect on how the system was governed in Britain while Bennett and Cooke (ii) argue that the new changes meant a variance in the rights and responsibilities between the employed and the unemployed.

Data Analysis

The majority of data in this report is borrowed from “Social Security Advisory Committee Occasional Paper by Julia Griggs and Fran Bennett of March 2009 that was written to complement and supplement the guidance and suggestions presented to the Secretary of State in harmony with the Committee’s work of reviewing the UK’s social security.

The paper was prepared by a series of non-aligned researchers for University of Oxford and presents the deliberations arrived at during the annual Stakeholder Seminar which was held in 2008. It also highlights the emerging issues in UK’s social security especially the rights and responsibility concerns.

The paper also borrows data from Allan Deacon (2000) report “Learning from the US? The Influence of American Ideas Upon “New Labour” Thinking On Welfare Reform” which reflected heavily on how politics especially the politics of activism and human rights that emerged in the USA have influenced social security especially in UK.

An important report of March 2004 titled “Policies for Full Employment” by J. de Koning, R. Layard, S. Nickell and N. Westergaard-Nielsen highlights the manner in which full time employees enjoy employment benefits as well as how introduction of benefits for the unemployed altered the management of UK’s social security agenda.

Carmel and Papadopoulos (1) work describe the issue of governance as a result of the 1997 social security reforms as well as increased government involvement in regard to its responsibility in the issues of social security.

While Bennett and Cooke report (2007) titled “It’s All About You: Citizen-centered welfare, centers” its focus on emphasizing the need to educate the citizens on involvement in the social welfare activities as well as the varying rights and responsibilities of the employed and the unemployed.

Rights and responsibility in the UK social security system

United Kingdoms’ social security system has had an interest in the rights and responsibilities issues especially regarding the nature of claims made by individuals and groups. Efforts directed towards dealing with workers’ welfare started well before 1900 with the legislation of New Poor’s Law.

This required that workers receive assistance but under certain conditions, most of which required them to forego their rights to citizenship and free movement. However, New Poor Law increased poverty and as such there was an increased need for Britons to deal with the rising poverty.

Because of this, the community was mobilised to make contributions which were supplemented by additional contributions from the state. However, if the claimant had to leave the employment without any just cause they forfeited any right to claim. The immediate post World War II periods saw improved conditions in the UK’s social security with married and working women having the rights to subsidised contributions as well as enjoying entitlements to maternity leaves.

Non working married women were entitled to benefits only as dependants if their husbands were full time employees and made regular contributions. The emergence of the rights movement in the 1960 fundamentally changed the way the issue of rights of claimants was addressed in the UK’s social security. It ushered in the welfare rights proper (Deacon 7-9).

More fundamentally, it introduced the issue of rights where claimants knew and were entitled to all the benefits due to them (Griggs and Bennett 10-14). The 1980s saw the introduction of tax credits for contributors as well as responsibilities over unemployed Britons (Koning, Layard, Nickell and Watergard-Nielsen 9; Bennett and Cooke 27).

Gradual benefits for unemployed Britons have been realised from the 1980s through to late 2008. Since the introduction of jobseekers allowance in 1990s the unemployed Britons have seen an increase in benefits such as allowance for active jobseekers. Furthermore, single parents as well as unemployed couples have had the right to an allowance provided they were active jobseekers. However, the unemployed had to fulfill certain responsibilities so as to make a claim.

For the single parents, they had to attend mandatory work focused interviews. The unemployed also had to undertake a work capability assessment if they wanted to retain the right to make any claim. The labor market also had increased its responsibility towards the unemployed in that the rights of the unemployed became a significant influence in forming social security policy for this group of citizens (Griggs and Bennett 16- 18). The issue of the rights of the unemployed is summarized in Table 1 below.

Source: Griggs and Bennett

Due to the developments made in the UK social security system the terms rights and responsibility has taken new definitions with time. Griggs and Bennett (8) see rights and responsibilities as intertwined and interdependent and assert that a claimant only has a right over social security benefits if they meet certain conditions.

On the other hand, the authorities have the responsibility of ensuring that there is a necessary environment for meeting those conditions. It thus becomes the right of Britons to access employment opportunities while every citizen has a responsibility of being actively involved in nation building through active employment. The authorities have been shouldered with the responsibility of guaranteeing that citizens’ social security is protected as well as the responsibility that comes with it.

Table 1 above reflects some of the rights, responsibilities and changes that have taken place in Britain’s social security sector from 1900 to date. The 1997 social security reforms brought with it a number of changes that have had far reaching effects.

These changes are the basis for the modernisations of this sector in UK. The reforms not only saw the balancing of rights and responsibilities between claimants and institutions but also increased social security for the unemployed (Griggs and Bennett 14, 15). Moreover, these new changes brought in the issue of governance regarding social security.

Governments’ institutions have experienced an increase of responsibilities. Social security has been contractualised whether all parties enter into a contract with each other or not. In the new policies developed by the Labor government, the treasury plays a key role in steering and developing social security into national socio-economic goals aimed at improving living standards of the citizenry and the economy generally.

These changes also entail the constant monitoring of claimants by the government to ensure that they meet their responsibilities in order to qualify for their claims. Over and above the review of social security policy by the UK treasury helped improve the performance of the social security system as well as enhance claimants focus. There is also enhanced management of social security resources to effectively meet the set targets.

Other than the treasury, the office of the prime minister is involved in scrutinising as well as prioritising objective areas. The office is also mandated with benchmarking of the performance of the socials security sector in Britain (Carmel and Papadopoulos13-16). The new Governance roles are described in table 2 below.

Source: Carmel and Papadopoulos


The social security system in Britain has undergone a sequence of changes that have not only improved the efficiency of the service but also enhanced its quality. Present UK’s social security system is the beneficiary of far reaching changes instituted throughout history especially since the 1900. However, the social security during 1900 was rudimentary and was modernized in 1980 when major reforms were instituted.

Social security cannot be alienated from the notion of rights and responsibilities in which despite having the rights to claim the claimants do have certain responsibilities to fulfill. Furthermore, current changes instituted in 1997 have demanded a new approach to the management and governance of social security by the treasury as well as the office of the prime minister together with other government departments.

This has left them with increased roles of monitoring, prioritising as well as evaluating the entire social security agenda. The intentions of making it a key factor has not only enhanced social security but also encouraged economic growth. As such, British government sees efficient social security as an important milestone in economic development.

Works Cited

Bennett, Jim and Cooke, Graeme, eds. It’s all About You: Citizen-centered Welfare. London: Institute for Public Policy Research. 2007. Print

Carmel, Emma and Papadopoulos, Theodoros. The New Governance of Social Security in Britain. TP-Publications, 2003. Web. 4 May. 2011.

Deacon, Alan. “Learning from the US? The influence of American ideas upon “New Labour” thinking on welfare reform.” Policy and Politics 28.1(2000): 5-18. Print.

De Koning, Josep; Layard, Robert; Nickell, Simmon and Westergaard, Nielson. Policies for Full Employment. March.2004. Web. 4 May. 2011.

Griggs, Julia and Bennett, Fran. Rights and Responsibilities in the Social Security System. Social Security Advisory Committee Occasional Paper No. 6. 30 June. 2009. Web. 4 May. 2011. .