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Law in a Complex State

Complexity in the Law and Structure of Welfare

By: Neville Harris
Media of Law in a Complex State
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Published: 14-10-2013
Format: PDF eBook (?)
Edition: 1st
Extent: 310
ISBN: 9781782252740
Imprint: Hart Publishing
RRP: £29.69
Online price : £23.75
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About Law in a Complex State

Approximately half of the total UK population are in receipt of one or more welfare benefits, giving rise to the largest single area of government expenditure. The law and structures of social security are highly complex, made more so by constant adjustments as government pursues its often conflicting economic, political and social policy objectives. This complexity is highly problematic. It contributes to errors in decision-making and to increased administrative costs and is seen as disempowering for citizens, thereby weakening enjoyment of a key social right. Current and previous administrations have committed to simplifying the benefits system. It is a specific objective of the Welfare Reform Act 2012, which provides for the introduction of Universal Credit in place of diverse benefits. However, it is unclear whether the reformed system will be either less complex legally or more accessible for citizens.

This book seeks to explain how and why complexity in the modern welfare system has grown; to identify the different ways in which legal and associated administrative arrangements are classifiable as 'complex'; to discuss the effects of complexity on the system's administration and its wider implications for rights and the citizen-state relationship; and to consider the role that law can play in the simplification of schemes of welfare. While primarily focused on the UK welfare system it also provides analysis of relevant policies and experience in various other states.

Table Of Contents

1 Complexity and Welfare
I. Introduction
II. Law and the Goals of Welfare
III. Social Security, Fundamental Rights and the Citizen
IV. The Problem of Complexity
V. The Policy Context: Simplifying Welfare
VI. Analysing Complexity
VII. Conclusion
2 The Design, Structure and Management of the Welfare System
I. Introduction
II. Design
III. 'Extrinsic Complexity'
IV. Management of Welfare
V. Conclusion
3 Rules and the Measurement of Complexity
I. Introduction
II. Complex Rules
III. Measuring Complexity?
IV. Conclusion
4 Claims and Their Administration
I. Introduction
II. Take-Up and Claims
III. Administration of Claims
IV. Conclusion
5 Challenges to Decisions
I. Introduction
II. Revision and Supersession
III. Alternative Dispute Resolution?
IV. Appeals in the First-Tier Tribunal
V. The Upper Tribunal and Beyond
VI. Conclusion
6 Obligations of Benefit Recipients
I. Introduction
II. The Relationship between a Benefit Recipient and the State
III. Managing the Relationship: Incapacity for Work
IV. Conclusion
7 Welfare Complexity in the International Context
I. Introduction
II. 'A Maze of Provisions . . .': Social Security Law and Welfare Provision in Australia
III. New Zealand's Major Welfare Reform Programme
IV. Germany: The Sozialgesetzbuch
V. Sweden: Codifying Social Insurance Law and Reforming Sickness Benefits
VI. Simplification Tendencies Elsewhere
VII. Conclusion
8 Conclusion: The Complex State of Welfare
I. Defending Complexity
II. Trade-Offs
III. Basic Income?
IV. The Claimant
V. The Law and Its Role
VI. Danger Ahead?


“In this extremely welcome and timely study, and providing numerous illustrative and pertinent examples, Professor Neville Harris uses the prism of welfare legislation (a sometimes neglected field of law) to embark on a denouement of the idea of complexity, forensically examining the concept in its component parts, and demonstrating that far from being attributable to one overall conceptual or practical legal, administrative or judicial factor, complexity is rather a multi-layered amalgam of all of these… The analysis itself brings some clarity to the definition of complexity, its existence in the UK welfare system, and a rationale for its presence. Timely and interesting, the central threads of the analysis may usefully be applied to other areas of law beset by the same complexity.” –  Dr Philip M. Larkin, Journal of Social Security Law, Issue 2, 2014

“Neville Harris's book is a masterwork…[it] is well researched, authoritative, and, surprisingly given the subject matter, very readable. It explains why complexity matters and what might be done to improve matters. It should be of interest to anyone who is involved in the design of social security rules, policy makers, welfare law practitioners as well as academics with an interest in legal philosophy or legal methodology.” –  Neil Bateman, Public Law, April 2015

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