Published in 1997, the is the report of a study commissioned by the Department of Social Security (UK). The aim of the study was to provide detailed information about the social assistance systems of four European countries which, to a greater or lesser extent, are delegated to local levels of government. The study distinguished between policy-making, finances, delivery and accountability. The strengths and weaknesses of each system were evaluated and common and divergent trends noted. There is growing interest in social assistance schemes internationally and this publication provides original information about European schemes. It follows an earlier study, also commissioned by the DSS, on social assistance schemes in 24 OECD countries.