How Social Security Works

Paul Spicker

How social security works is a book by Paul Spicker, published by the Policy Press.

“At last! a good, critical and up to date introduction to social security. It will be of enormous assistance to students, academics and indeed anyone interested in social policy.” Jonathan Bradshaw, Professor of Social Policy, University of York
The book is an accessible, broadly based and sometimes controversial text which can help readers to make sense of the system in practice. It explains the guiding principles, outlines the social context, considers the development and political dimensions of benefits, and reviews how the system operates now. there are detailed discussions of the types of benefit, and the contingencies covered by the benefits system.
“a comprehensive account of the principles of British social security delivered in bite-sized chunks beloved by students.” Robert Walker, Professor of Social Policy, University of Oxford


Part One: Introductory principles: What is social security?

Social security and the welfare state
Social security and society

Part Two: The development of the system

The origins of social security in the UK
The politics of social security
A unified system?

Part Three: Benefits: National Insurance

Means tested benefits I: the basic minimum
Means testing II: income supplements
The provision of non-contributory benefits
Discretionary benefits
Universal benefits
Claiming benefits
Understanding complexity

Part Four: The principal contingencies

Benefits for people with disabilities
Children and families
Lone parents
Unemployed people
Benefits for the poor

Part Five: Issues in social security policy

The cost of social security
Fraud and abuse
Responding to poverty
Social security and redistribution
How social security in Britain compares to other countries.
Social security: a programme for reform

Appendix: Sources of data

Click here to see a sample chapter from the text. This is Chapter 24, Fraud and abuse (PDF, 171Kb).

The appendix to the book, giving links to sources of data, is available here. The book can be ordered from the Policy Press's website. Lecturers teaching relevant courses of more than 12 students can order an inspection copy here.

Updating and commentary

This blog includes updates on social security policy and comments on new developments.