Understanding Social Security

Book Cover - Understanding Social SecurityEdited by Jane Millar.
Policy Press in association with the Social Policy Association
ISBN 186134419

This thought-provoking and stimulating book is one of the first that the Social Policy Association has produced as part of the “Understanding Welfare” series.

Millar and her colleagues have produced an accessible and challenging volume. All of the 15 contributors (bar one) have tutored at the summer school run by the Department for Work and Pensions (and formerly by the Department of Social Security), and the book is a series of intense and empirically based debates.

Understanding Social Security is not intended as a user’s guide to the social security system, although it does contain some up-to-date information. The book provides instead a wide-ranging yet detailed analysis of the issues facing social security.

The chapter “Street-level implementation of unemployment policy” describes the previously unrecorded (and in some cases unprintable) views of claimants that were expressed by job centre staff during a research exercise. Unemployed people were routinely categorised as wasters, nutters, useless or genuine and it is good to see an acknowledgement of how this stereotyping influences policies towards the unemployed.

Gary Vaux is head, money advice unit, Hertfordshire County Council.

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