The areas of enquiry covered by the four papers are concerned with issues of social policy and social welfare related to young people, children and families, minority groups, and the unemployed. Although ranging over such wide areas, the issues addressed by the authors are similar in many respects. The common theme that can be discerned in the four papers is the concern with the perceptions of the Welfare State and of the functions performed by various social welfare services. In particular, the authors note the dual role of the Welfare State: the maintaining function which entails financial support and related services provided for 'dependent' or 'disadvantaged' social groups and which at times involves elements of social control; and the facilitating or, enabling, function which enhances people's social functioning. This dual function may be identified in most areas of social welfare but it is rarely recognised in the currently prevalent approaches to research or in public debate. In each of the four papers the perceptions on issues in social policy and social welfare as well as policy responses come under critical examination. Examples drawn from the various areas of service provision illustrate how the two roles performed by the Welfare State tend to affect the lives of different sections, or different strata, of the population; some positively, others often in a negative direction. The issue of inequality is thus addressed in a number of areas of social policy and social welfare.