In the Fair Hearing Room: Resistance and Confrontation in the Welfare Bureaucracy

Lens, Vicki A.

This article explores how welfare clients use and experience the fair hearing system, the administrative mechanism for challenging denials or reductions of aid in public welfare bureaucracies. Drawing on data from in-depth interviews with clients, it explores how old-style procedural protections like fair hearings are being used to challenge new-style welfare reforms. This research found that clients use fair hearings as a form of resistance and self-assertion, hoping that it will protect them from a bureaucracy perceived as arbitrary and capricious. Like many citizens, they are as concerned with being heard by their governmental institutions as they are with the outcome of their case and want to find within the machinery of government a forum where they can obtain recompense and respect. However, the legalistic and rule-bound nature of hearings makes it difficult for clients to present their claims, and meaningful participation is often denied them.


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Law and Social Inquiry

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Social Work
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December 18, 2012