This paper examines the role of categorical benefits; i.e. non-means-tested and non-contributory cash benefits, in Great Britain and Israel. After introducing a more rigorous definition of the term and differentiating between various types of categorical benefits, it looks at the role and recent development of these benefits in the two countries. It finds that they play a growing and significant role in the social security systems of Great Britain and Israel. An examination of the decision-making process surrounding the adoption of these benefit programmes indicates why this is so. On the basis of these findings, initial conclusions relating to changes in the nature of social security are presented. International Social Security Association 1998.