Public participation, responsive regulation, and other policy formulations are intended to draw governments down from their ivory towers and into engagement with the people. However, they paint at best, a hazy picture of who “the people” are. This superficial representation is felt, among other collectives, by people living in poverty, who not only face hunger, often accompanied by poorer health and lower life expectancy, but whose social exclusion typically goes unrecognized by the authorities. The legal framing of poverty—and, as a result, states' policy approaches to its alleviation—focuses on the material core, representing a very thin conceptualization that fails to address the social dimension. Furthermore, practical avenues for incorporating citizens' views into lawmaking—which might enrich understanding—are lacking when it comes to people in poverty. Combined with a blatantly hegemonic stance, the resulting ignorance around poverty and “the poor” generates welfare laws that are woefully out of touch with reality, and legislative thinking that perpetuates, rather than alleviates, poverty. This paper seeks to make a twofold contribution: (i) to demonstrate this situation with a deep empirical inquiry into the legislative process of one legal provision within the Israeli welfare law regime, juxtaposed against qualitative field-research findings and (ii) to introduce the inventive and groundbreaking “poverty-aware” paradigm, constructed in social-work discourse, to illuminate and explain the empirical findings and point to potential procedural–institutional reform, to pave the way for poverty-aware legislation.
- evidence-based rulemaking