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welfare rightsthe legal entitlement to services provided for in SOCIAL POLICY. Welfare rights stand in contrast to those arrangements where GATEKEEPERS have the discretion to determine which people will receive a service and who will be denied. An examination of the British social-security system shows that, historically, both welfare rights and welfare discretion have been promoted at different times. Supporters of welfare rights argue that having legal entitlements is a means of ensuring that claimants are not at the mercy of the subjective value-judgements of the people who have control over welfare resources, such as social-security officers and housing managers. Critics of welfare rights have argued that claimants often do not know their rights and are placed in a demeaning situation by having to find advocates, such as the Citizens Advice Bureau. They also argue that the legal definition of entitlement cannot foresee all the circumstances when a need may arise and this may lead to some needy people being excluded from help when they could have been afforded support in a discretionary system.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000