Social Citizenship in flux: rights, responsibilities and regions

Social citizenship refers to the citizen’s right to enjoy a minimum standard of living, supported by the welfare state. This is a controversial area of law, as current debates about the merits and failings of universal credit demonstrate. It is also an ideal area for socio-legal inquiry, where issues of political ideology, administrative justice, human rights, constitutional law and the impact of the law on day-to-day experiences of poverty collide. This presentation will draw on published and in-progress work to address three key areas in which social citizenship has been evolving in the 21st century UK. First, the social rights of citizenship have been contested as rival understandings of poverty and social justice underpin differing views of the appropriate level of social security provision. Second, there has been greater political consensus (at least in England) about the need for welfare rights to sit alongside more stringent responsibilities on the part of claimants. Third, as devolution becomes embedded and the constitutional settlement evolves, the question of whether citizens’ social rights and reciprocal obligations should be determined at the UK or devolved level becomes increasingly pertinent. The aim is to stimulate reflection on the both the future of the welfare state and the potential contribution of legal researchers to the study of social citizenship, a field more readily associated with sociological and political scholarship.