2017-2018 / DROI3025-1

Social Aid Law


30h Th

Number of credits

 Master in law (120 ECTS)6 crédits 
 Master in political sciences : general (120 ECTS)5 crédits 


Jacques Fierens

Language(s) of instruction

French language

Organisation and examination

Teaching in the second semester

Units courses prerequisite and corequisite

Prerequisite or corequisite units are presented within each program

Learning unit contents

The course is given every other year. It will therefore be organized during the academic year 2016-2017 during the second term; it will not be taught during the academic year 2015-2016. The course opens with the presentation and discussion of real files that have led to legal proceedings between social aid applicants and CPAS. In the first part, the right to social assistance is explored and its main aspects are discussed both on a theoretical and practical level. In the second part, the course examines the different facets of poverty in 2015 Belgium, it attempts to explain the development of social assistance since its creation and looks closely at how this ties in with human rights.

Learning outcomes of the learning unit

The course aims to provide a critical introduction to social aid in the broadest sense. By looking at the development of social assistance from the particular (concrete cases) to the general (current law) the course aims to provide a legal, historical, sociological and philosophical overview of the way the law tries to deal with the social wound that is poverty.  
The course attaches importance to the study of the organic law of public social aid centers (law of 8 July 1976), and the law concerning the right to social integration (the law of 26 may 2002). The international context is dealt with through the study of the impact of treaties concluded with regard to fundamental rights. The consequences of a right to social aid having been added to Article 23 of the Belgian Constitution are also discussed.
The course assumes that anyone regardless of their professional or social status will be confronted by poverty at some point in their lives on a national or international level. Teaching will be done at the end of study cycles and will also focus on  technical knowledge as this cannot be overlooked in the context of more and more complex legal matters.

Prerequisite knowledge and skills

No special requirements other than what was learned in the previous years. Students who do not read law should however be careful about some notions in international or constitutional law such as direct effect. They will all have to remember what they learned in philosophy and history in order  to understand the first chapter.

Planned learning activities and teaching methods

There will be no workshop or contribution beyond the course and the examination (see below).

Mode of delivery (face-to-face ; distance-learning)

Ten three hour classes during the second term on Friday 15:30 to 18:00. Ex-cathedra lectures. Interaction with students will depend on their number and on their personalities. Students' responses and questions are highly appreciated. Guest speakers are invited to introduce their field of activity - for instance representatives of the "Centre for equal rights and the struggle against racism" or representatives of civil society. For the past three years videos have been shown to highlight what it means to be poor in Belgium today. Soon we will undoubtedly have the direct testimonies of poor or formerly poor people.

Recommended or required readings

Reference works: A syllabus, which is becoming more complete every year. The professor gives clear references to the books, articles and websites he has used.

Assessment methods and criteria

Before the oral examen students can prepare their answers using any reference work they can get hold of for at least an half hour. Any document can be useful but there is nothing one cannot do without. Every student picks a very general question (for instance: What is the status of wage labour in the issue of social aid? Provide examples from history and in legal texts). The question can include a concrete case but the answer can never be merely technical. (Another example: Your 18 year old son wants to leave home and turns to the local social aid centre - "C.P.A.S." - to subsidise his studies. Will he receive any help? What do you think of the legal solution?).
Possible annotations for codes and legal texts are allowed as the exam is open-book.
Some questions are wide open. The professor expects students to contribute an original approach to the issue, either in the selected perspective. In the structure of the answer, in the use of information that was not mentioned in class, in a comparison with other legal fields, in an ability to synthetise, or in a reference to the student's own experience.
This open and free preparation does not prevent the examiner from asking secondary questions during the oral presentation. This means students must have understood and integrated the main points of the course. It turns out that many students are put off by this unusual form of evaluation. While they do not have to memorise the course, they certainly should not discover what the course is about when taking the exam. A preliminary comprehensive understanding is absolutely necessary.

Work placement(s)

Organizational remarks

The course is held every even year (2016-2017, 2018-2019,...).