Sticking plasters

An assessment of discretionary welfare support

This briefing note assesses discretionary welfare provision – a small but increasingly important part of the benefit system. It provides a detailed analysis of changes in discretionary crisis and housing support over the past 20 years, and uses interviews with local authority employees and welfare advisers to draw lessons about current practice.

Discretionary welfare support has a vital role to play in the social security system, providing ad hoc support for families facing acute needs that are not covered by the main benefit system. However, the current system has been stretched thin, and we risk undermining discretionary support by relying on it too much in place of the main entitlement-based benefits.