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Understanding street-level bureaucracy$
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Peter Hupe, Peter Hupe, Michael Hill, and Aurèlien Buffat

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781447313267

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781447313267.001.0001

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Discretionary payments in social assistance

Discretionary payments in social assistance

(p.45) Three Discretionary payments in social assistance
Understanding street-level bureaucracy

Carol Walker

Policy Press

This chapter examines the importance of discretion in the British social assistance system. While both discretion as granted from the centre and discretion as used by officials at street level were both relevant to the administration of the scheme, it was the former – in the guise of discretionary payments - which gave rise to most concern. The chapter considers the origins of discretionary payments in the British social assistance scheme, their growth and the many attempts to reduce them prior to their eventual elimination. Both the theoretical and methodological approaches are based on an historical perspective. The lessons learnt from an analysis of the development of British social assistance in the 20th century informs our understanding of the tensions inherent in many social security schemes between, on the one hand, administrative efficiency and effectiveness and, on the other, a need to be responsive to diverse individual needs.

Keywords:   welfare reform, social assistance, social security, Supplementary Benefits Commission

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