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Welfare Rights: Your Ultimate Guide

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Welfare Rights

Welfare rights are the right “to be made aware of your maximum entitlement to state welfare benefits”, and “to receive these benefits and be fairly treated by the welfare system.” These welfare rights are human rights.

Welfare Rights Centre

History of Welfare Rights

The Prussian Civil Code was enacted in 1794. The code imposed on the state a duty “to provide the sustenance and support of those of its citizens who cannot procure subsistence themselves”.

This established the legal proposition that citizens have a right against their government to subsistence. Furthermore, welfare rights are included in international human rights treaties adopted following the Second World War. The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights was such a treaty. Subsequently, welfare rights were secured in the domestic law of all developed countries.

Housing is a Welfare Right!

Your welfare rights include the right to housing. Human rights are for all people, wherever they are. Housing is essential for human survival. Hence, international law confirms the right to housing. This Declaration, adopted by the United Nations in 1948, established an internationally recognised set of standards for all persons without qualification.  

Article 25 of the Declaration says, “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including housing”. Unfortunately, turning rights into realities is difficult. So ensure you access available supports. In your country this may mean:

  • Access to public housing (often called social housing). This may be provided directly by government or a non-government body; and/or
  • A rent support payment or allowance paid direct to you so you can obtain housing in the private rental market.

It is up to you to find out what support is available.

  • Find out what government department/s are responsible for helping you with housing.
  • Correctly complete the required application forms.
  • Make sure your application remains current and is updated as required.

Your Welfare Rights, Internat-ional law & Income Support

What is income support?

An income support payment is a regular payment that helps you with living costs. However, in most countries the type of income support payment you receive depends on your circumstances. 

Make sure you know your welfare rights such as housing. Remember housing is a human right! 

The right to income support requires a social security system. As a result, a country must, within its maximum available resources, ensure access to a social security scheme that provides a minimum essential level of benefits to all individuals and families. It must enable them to acquire at least essential health care, basic shelter and housing, water and sanitation, food and the most basic forms of education.

International Law

International human rights treaties confirm the right to income support as a welfare right. Indeed Article 9 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights contains the right to social security.

The UN Committee stated authorities must implement the right to social security. Consequently, public authorities must take responsibility for the effective administration of the system. This requires that a country must, within its maximum available resources, ensure access to a social security scheme that provides a minimum essential level of benefits to all individuals and families that will enable them to acquire at least the essentials of life.

Income Support

Welfare rights include income support payments, sometimes known as social security. These payments should cover the following situations:

  • health care
  • old age
  • unemployment
  • employment injury and illness
  • family and child support, including the need to care for adult dependants
  • maternity
  • disability
income support
Income Support

Time needed: 3 minutes

How to receive your welfare rights.

  1. Research:

    Find out which government departments are responsible for welfare or social security payments and what specific payments they provide.

  2. Apply for payments:

    Look at the various criteria and complete applications for the payments you are entitled to receive.

  3. Lodge and follow up:

    Lodge your application and follow up any additional
    assessments if needed (eg. medical assessments).

Other Entitlements

Other areas of assistance, whether it relates to education, mental health, or indeed recreation, can be crucial in helping people get by. These public services help the poor to bounce back from traumatic events in life. In addition, they assist vulnerable groups, including people with disabilities and the elderly. 

With all the welfare rights mentioned above, the process is the same. 

Perseverance is often the key. That is to say, bureaucracy can be hard to deal with and often delays occur. So make sure your application is up-to-date. And persevere until you have your full legal entitlement.

In addition, some businesses may offer discounts for welfare recipients, so keep an eye out for this and other savings tips.

Future Welfare Rights Reforms

There have been calls for either a Universal Basic Income or a Guaranteed Basic Income payment to be introduced.

A Universal Basic Income is a direct payment that allows all people to afford the essentials of life. Indeed every member of the community receives it. Hence the name Universal Basic Income.

A Guaranteed Basic Income is more of an equity measure. This is a fixed amount paid to the most needy in a community. Indeed the Guaranteed Basic Income has been trialled among disadvantaged groups. As a result, it has been shown to be helpful in increasing recipients quality of life.

Indeed, it even improved recipients chances of obtaining employment, along with better health outcomes. As a result, socialists and liberals have united in campaigning for a direct income payment for those most in need.


Welfare support and payments are not charity. Indeed they are your legal entitlement. So it is important to know your welfare rights. They may come in the form of direct services such as housing, medical or other services. They may also take the form of income support payments.

In today’s world, the wealthiest 1% enjoy unimaginable wealth. However, these super-rich, look after themselves at the expense of the rest of us and the planet. So whatever form they take, make sure you claim your welfare rights. After all, they are your moral and legal entitlement.

Welfare rights are “your right to be aware of and to receive” your maximum entitlement to state welfare benefits. Know your entitlements!

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