Vulnerability Gatekeepers

Activity: Participating in or organising event(s)Participating in a conference, workshop, exhibition, performance, inquiry, course etcResearch


Social Rights, Citizenship and the Welfare Stream at the Socio-Legal Studies Association (SLSA)annual conference 2024

Explorations of the relationship between vulnerability and public law and human rights have largely focused on how individuals are empowered or disempowered through being recognised as vulnerable in law. However, when vulnerability has been used as the basis for some legal entitlements, the disconnect between “vulnerability in law” and “vulnerability in practice” means that some vulnerable people cannot use the legal entitlements that are formally available. Here, vulnerability serves a gate-keeping function which limits access to legal entitlements. Vulnerability has served this function in the sphere of social rights, notably in relation to priority need for emergency accommodation and some minimal socio-economic entitlements under the European Convention of Human Rights. Vulnerability is, however, ill-defined. This lack of definitional clarity means that state institutions have increasingly served as vulnerability gatekeepers and in doing so determined who is – and who is not – eligible to access legal entitlements. This paper focuses on these vulnerability gatekeepers. It examines: the role of Parliament in grounding eligibility to legal entitlements on so vague and nebulous a concept as vulnerability in primary legislation; the role of the executive in enacting secondary legislation to fulfil the aims of such primary legislation; and the role of the courts both in overseeing such secondary legislation and determining vulnerability for themselves. It is ultimately argued that greater definitional clarity – and transparency in the use of the term – is required in the development of primary legislation which grounds access to legal entitlements on vulnerability.
Period25 Apr 2024
Event typeConference
LocationPortsmouth, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational