Disabled people’s experiences of the Employment and Support Allowance Work Related Activity Group

July 22, 2019     Leave a Comment

Danny Taggart, Ellen Clifford, Jaimini Mehta and Ewen Speed report on their research which points to fundamental issues with the welfare system

In 2015, a collaborative research project was initiated between academics at the University of Essex and Inclusion London, a disabled people’s user-led organisation (DPULO). The research investigated how disabled people in the ESA WRAG experienced the welfare system as claimants, with particular attention to their experiences of processes of conditionality and sanctioning. Our study was designed, supervised, analysed and disseminated jointly by a disabled activist and policy director at the DPULO and a trainee clinical psychologist working with a clinical psychology academic supervisor. It was a qualitative study and 15 ESA WRAG claimants were interviewed. Read More

A ‘kinder’ welfare policy for New Zealand?

March 27, 2019     Leave a Comment

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

Why benefit sanctions are both ineffective and harmful

September 17, 2018     Leave a Comment

Drawing on the first major independent study of benefit sanctions, support, and behaviour change, Sharon Wright, Sarah Johnsen, and Lisa Scullion write that not only do sanctions not help move people into work, they also have a detrimental effect on their lives. This is because sanctions push recipients further into poverty and cause significant distress in the process, with potentially life-changing negative results. This post first appeared on the LSE Politics & Policy Blog

Introduction of the UK’s harshest ever social security sanctions regime in 2012 reinforced a dramatic upturn in sanctions. In 2012-2013 alone, ‘more people received a benefit sanction than a fine in the criminal courts’. While this ‘great sanctions drive’ is a defining feature of Conservative-led social reform, the ‘big stick’ version of welfare conditionality was not tested before its application. Here we present evidence that sanctions are harmful and ineffective in moving benefit recipients into sustainable employment. Read More

In-work conditionality is based on weak evidence – but will the policy sink or swim?

September 12, 2018     Leave a Comment

The public seem to be unaware of the poor evidence underpinning in-work conditionality, write Jo Abbas and this project’s Katy Jones. But research suggests that this policy is unfair and ineffective, and so once Universal Credit is rolled out, it could face resistance both from claimants and the wider public. This article first appeared in LSE Politics and Policy blog.

The government’s flagship benefit, Universal Credit (UC), sees the introduction of ‘in-work conditionality’ to working social security claimants on a low income. As a result, claimants could face penalties – such as benefit sanctions – if they do not comply with mandatory work-related requirements, including searching for and applying for additional work to meet an earnings threshold. Read More

Welfare conditionality book published

June 7, 2018     Leave a Comment

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.

The book will be officially launched at the evening drinks reception at the Welfare Conditionality: Principles, Practices and Perspectives conference on 26 June, 6.30pm, York Castle Museum. Entry to the reception is free to conference delegates – there is still time to book your place before the closing date on 11 June. Click here to book your place.

The fear factor – Bedroom Tax and benefit cuts

May 15, 2018     Leave a Comment

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

Welfare conditionality and Armed Forces Service Leavers: some first wave findings

April 19, 2018     Leave a Comment

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

Bedroom tax, benefit cuts and sanctions – the fear factor and the cumulative effects

April 13, 2018     Leave a Comment

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

Universal Credit and the legacy of JSA sanctions

March 19, 2018     Leave a Comment

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

‘No matter which way you turn they have actually got you’: Universal Credit, conditionality and discretion

February 20, 2018     Leave a Comment

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

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