Dr Claire Gray from Canterbury University, New Zealand, spent a month as a visiting fellow at our University of York base. Here she reflects on her research and the New Zealand welfare system
The Early Career Research Fellowship has given me the opportunity to contextualise welfare provision in New Zealand within international debates on the theory and practice of welfare conditionality. There are many similarities between welfare provision in New Zealand and other anglophone nations. In this post I outline some recent policy that has established welfare conditionality in New Zealand, while also explaining my own theoretical approach to welfare research.
Welfare conditionality began to emerge as a feature of social security in New Zealand from the 1980s onwards. It was under the Fifth National Government (2008-2017), however, that conditionality became a significant aspect of New Zealand’s welfare system. Shortly after coming to power, then Prime Minister John Key heralded his Government’s planned welfare policy changes with the statement that these would “give [beneficiaries] a kick in the pants when they are not taking responsibility for themselves, their family, and other taxpayers”. This was followed by the passing of the Social Security (New Work Tests, Incentives and Obligations) Amendment Act (2010) imposing a number of conditions upon the receipt of welfare. Read More
We welcomed 35 delegates from the UK and overseas to our first international seminar in York from 31 January to 2 February 2019. Here is a selection of presentations from the event.
Kate Andersen, University of York, UK
Dr Tom Boland and Dr Ray Griffin, Waterford Institute of Technology, Ireland
Dr Philip Finn, Maynooth University, Ireland
Dr Claire Gray, University of Canterbury, New Zealand
Professor Matthew Gray, Australian National University, Australia
Dr Louise Humpage, Auckland University, New Zealand
Professor Willem Maas, York University, Canada
Victoria McLauchlan, Treasury, Isle of Man Government
The third and final video in our fantastic new series talks about our research into disabled people and the welfare benefits system. Featuring Professor Peter Dwyer from the University of York and Professor Lisa Scullion from the University of Salford, the film calls for benefit sanctions on disabled people to be ended. The failing Work Capability Assessment must be replaced, the researchers say. Instead the priority must be to offer high quality support to those who want to work.
‘Support not sanctions helps disabled people into work‘ features animated stories from participants in our research.
Our new video ‘Universal Credit – mending the fatal conditionality fault‘ is published today. The film includes animated stories from participants in our research, with a commentary by WelCond Director Professor Peter Dwyer and UC lead researcher Dr Sharon Wright.
Many participants in our study experienced harsh, punitive sanctions under UC that left people in great personal difficulty. There was particular injustice for UC recipients who were already in work.
The film calls for unconditional support for recipients, and an immediate end to sanctions on disabled people, households with children, vulnerable people and those already in work. A fundamental review of the sanctions system should follow.
Our project’s fantastic new video ‘Benefit sanctions are far too harsh. Here’s why supporting people works better‘ is released today. Featuring team members Professor Lisa Scullion from the University of Salford and Dr Sharon Wright from the University of Glasgow, the film also includes animated segments telling the stories of welfare service users in our study.
Here’s a short clip.
Based on our research findings, our team is calling for – as a minimum – a rebalancing away from sanctions and toward support. More generally, it is time for a fundamental review of the continued use of welfare conditionality. Our findings
A book written by WelCond project early career researchers will be out on 27 February. Published by Policy Press, the collection is edited by WelCond Director Professor Peter Dwyer.
Dealing with welfare conditionality: implementation and effects considers how conditional welfare policies and services are implemented and experienced by a diverse range of welfare service users across a range of UK policy domains including social security, homelessness, migration and criminal justice.
The book showcases the insights and findings of a series of distinct, independent studies undertaken by early career researchers associated with our ESRC funded project. Each chapter presents a new empirical analysis of data generated in fieldwork conducted with practitioners charged with interpreting and delivering policy, and welfare service users who are at the sharp end of welfare services shaped by behavioural conditionality.
This is the second in our WelCond series of books. The first, Welfare Conditionality by Beth Watts and Suzanne Fitzpatrick, is available from Routledge.
ABC’s Paul Barclay
Our project’s Director Professor Peter Dwyer challenged the idea that sanctions and conditionality help people into work, in a panel discussion broadcast by Australia’s ABC Radio network. The panel members, recorded at the recent Australian Council of Social Service national conference, said that conditionality failed to have the results governments expected. Professor Dwyer said our UK study found that not only did sanctions not help people into work, but they worsened people’s illnesses and impairments. ‘We need to challenge conditionality wherever it raises its head,’ he concluded. Speakers from Australia echoed the findings from their own research and experience.
Does conditional welfare help the jobless find work? was hosted by journalist and broadcaster Paul Barclay.
EU migrants are caught in ‘a constellation of conditionality’ in the UK, our project finds. As research team member Professor Lisa Scullion says in our newly released video, the situation of EU migrants is especially hard as the reduction in their social rights in the UK collides with the increased and intensified conditionality of the social security system.
Other migrants to the UK are also disadvantaged. Conditionality, our team found, did not help migrants to find work, and actually hampered their efforts. Our project finds there is a need to ensure not only that migrants are aware of their rights but for those administering benefits to fully understand the rights of migrants. Read our final findings
An academic paper by team members Professor Peter Dwyer, Professor Lisa Scullion, Dr Katy Jones and Dr Alasdair B R Stewart highlights and explores how conditionality operating at three levels (the EU supra-national level, the UK national level and in migrants’ mundane ‘street level’ encounters with social security administrators), comes together to restrict and have a negative impact on the social rights of EU migrants living in the UK. View our video explainer.
A longer video gives highlights of our ‘Brexit: what welfare, what rights?‘ event from March 2018.
Our project’s final findings have been cited in a highly critical interim report on the UK by UN Special Rapporteur on on extreme poverty and human rights, Professor Philip Alston. He referenced the catalogue of harsh, punitive and counterproductive sanctions detailed in our work, particularly under Universal Credit. In his conclusions Professor Alston recommended:
‘The Department of Work and Pensions should conduct an independent review of the effectiveness of reforms to welfare conditionality and sanctions introduced since 2012, and should immediately instruct its staff to explore more constructive and less punitive approaches to encouraging compliance.’ Read More
Our project welcomes the Commons Work & Pensions Committee’s landmark report into benefit sanctions, published today. The report, which extensively cites our evidence, calls on government ‘urgently to evaluate the effectiveness of reforms to welfare conditionality and sanctions introduced since 2012, including an assessment of sanctions’ impact on people’s financial and personal well-being’.
The report contrasts government statements on the purpose of sanctions in motivating people to move into work, with extensive evidence that they are ineffective in achieving this. It cites our evidence that Jobcentre Plus’ focus on recipients fulfilling their mandatory conditions, plus recipients’ fear of sanctions, led to ‘counterproductive compliance’. In fact, our independent research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council found that stasis — a lack of significant, sustained change in employment status — was the most common outcome for welfare service users in our study. Read More