The social security system of Great Britain has reached a crossroads, following the election of a Labour Government promising a 'New Age' of welfare and seemingly prepared to 'think the unthinkable' on welfare reform, at a time when public expenditure on welfare benefits has reached nearly GBP100 billion per annum. In 1985 the Conservative's Green Paper on social security reform announced that the benefits system had 'lost its way'. Attempts were made to curb benefits expenditure and reduce welfare dependency, for example through better 'targeting' of needs, the reinforcement of personal and family responsibility, and tighter administrative controls. The ten years from 1988 to 1998 saw the introduction of many new benefit schemes including income support, family credit, the social fund, disability living allowance, incapacity benefit, and jobseeker's allowance as well as the increasing influence of European Law. Yet the system 'achieves too little' according to the new Government's Green Paper on welfare reform, which promises ' a new contract between the citizen and the Government, based on responsibilities and rights'. The precise form these responsibilities and rights will take remains unknown, although we already have schemes like the New Deal and proposals for stakeholder pensions. Meanwhile, social security law continues to impact upon the lives of millions of citizens. After ten years of major legislative change, and with the prospect of a new direction, this is a time to take stock and to analyse the social and legal impact of the past decade's legislation, case law, and policy, as well as considering possible reforms. The book's approach is to organise this task thematically, particularly with regard to the social context to social security, through discrete chapters on, for example, gender and the family, disability, housing, old age, and unemployment. It is also opportune to examine the theoretical framework of state welfare and social security, particularly in the context of social rights. The book aims to provide an authoritative, contextual and critical account of how British social security law has evolved, how it operates, its substance, and its social effects.