The first book from the Welfare Conditionality project has now been published. Welfare Conditionality by project team members Dr Beth Watts and Professor Suzanne Fitzpatrick charts the rise of behavioural conditionality in welfare systems across the globe, its appeal to politicians of right and left, and its application to a growing range of social problems. Crucially it explores why, in the context of widespread use of conditional approaches as well as apparently strong public support, both the efficacy and the ethics of welfare conditionality remain so controversial. As such, Welfare Conditionality is essential reading for students, researchers, and commentators in social and public policy, as well as those designing and implementing welfare policies.
Jeanette Smith (not her real name) lives in the south of England. In this second of a two-part blog post she discusses how housing issues interact with other benefit conditions to create a ‘perfect storm’
In my last blog post I wrote about ESA and my fears of the consequences of a move to Universal Credit – including my rent payments. I have now been put in the ESA Support Group which gives me some respite and time to concentrate on my health. How long this will last before the cycle starts again I don’t know. I feel that I am at the mercy of a very impersonal and inhumane system that takes no account of the impact of its policies and procedures on the mental and physical health of individuals who are already at their lowest ebb and very vulnerable. Read More
Katy Jones and Lisa Scullion give some early findings from this exciting new project
The Welfare Conditionality project has demonstrated the varied experiences of different groups in an increasingly conditional welfare system. In this blogpost we share some interim findings from a new, linked project: Sanctions, Support and Service Leavers, in which we explore the experiences of former Service personnel in receipt of Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Universal Credit (UC), as they attempt to navigate the transition from military to civilian life. Read More
Jeanette Smith (not her real name) lives in the south of England. In this first of a two-part guest blog post she discusses the pincer effect of different conditions in the benefit system – and the mental and physical burden on benefit recipients
I am currently in receipt of ESA (Employment and Support Allowance) and I am due to have a home visit by a ‘Healthcare Professional’ to assess my claim. I requested this due to the fact that I do not feel able to travel to the Assessment Centre in another town. This process took over a month, as they said they had not received the letter from my doctor. I had to keep making new appointments to allow time for this. Read More
Researcher Evan Williams shows how the rise of sanctioning in UK social security has transferred to the new system
Much of the recent media, think tank and parliamentary debate surrounding the controversial rollout of Universal Credit (UC) has focused on the harmful six week wait for UC claimants to receive support. One core feature of UC that has been largely overlooked in this discussion, however, is the disciplinary role of sanctions and the various adverse impacts that they have on individuals. This short piece provides some context to the current UC sanctions regime by focusing on sanctioning policy for Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) claimants – one of the six existing means-tested benefits that UC replaces – under the previous Coalition Government (2010-2015). Read More
Specialist welfare rights advice practitioner and trainer Sarah Batty outlines her 2017 research into the impact of welfare reforms on social tenants in the North East
I am particularly interested in the interaction between increasing conditionality and increasing discretion within the social security system. One aspect of this is the discretionary powers of Jobcentre work coaches who administer the ‘personalised conditionality’ within the new Universal Credit (UC). I wanted to explore the perspectives of claimants, and among the people who talked to me were two women with health conditions who had also experienced benefit sanctions. Their stories illuminate the emerging tension between discretionary conditionality and support for vulnerable people. Read More
Dr Jens Foell is a GP and teaches at Imperial College London. Here he reflects on encounters with patients needing Personal Independence Payment reports
‘I need a report stating exactly what’s wrong with me,’ is her opening statement. It is the beginning of my afternoon surgery and I have seen her plenty of times, but never had the opportunity for a thorough and meaningful encounter. I am aware of the long back story including various mental health diagnoses and encounters with all sorts of state organisations. I am also aware of the various interlinked conditions, ranging from obesity to high blood pressure to interactions between the side-effects of antipsychotic medication, their effects on weight and the risk of developing diabetes. And the aching knees. And the poor sleep. And the precarious financial situation.
I could press a special button and the printer would deliver a piece of paper with the main disease codes including a fairly recent statement about her frailty. But she is only 45! The code has been applied by the invisible hand on the basis of her unscheduled care encounters. Read More
Researcher Ruth Patrick examines the flawed assumptions behind policies intended to incentivise benefit recipients to take up paid work – and calls for a rethink
In a brief radio appearance recently, I was involved in a discussion about the role of welfare conditionality in today’s welfare state. One of the participants defended conditionality’s role, citing what he described as a wealth of evidence that suggests that conditionality does work in supporting transitions from ‘welfare’ into ‘work’. I responded emphasising the punitive edge that conditionality brings to encounters at the Job Centre or in employment ‘support’ provision, and how this can harm relationships between claimants and their advisers. But that was all I had time to say.
Originally designed with the intention of “making work pay” by smoothing out transitions between paid work and welfare, Universal Credit is now being widely criticised for failing to deliver on its promises. Despite calls by a group of Conservative MPs for the next phase of the welfare benefit’s rollout to be paused, in early October the work and pensions secretary David Gauke said it would go ahead as planned. Read More