Interventionist and enforcement responses to rough sleeping and begging: Opportunities, challenges and dilemmas

December 19, 2016     Leave a Comment

Project team member Sarah Johnsen from Heriot-Watt University reports from a recent event on homelessness held in Glasgow

Attempts to deter people from rough sleeping and begging have generated controversy in England, where measures such as assertive outreach, ‘defensive architecture’, Dispersal Orders, arrests, ASBOs, and most recently Public Spaces Protection Orders, have been widely used.  Some stakeholders view such measures as invaluable tools lending weight to attempts to move vulnerable individuals away from damaging lifestyles.  Others worry that they displace the problem and/or make the incredibly difficult circumstances of those affected even worse. Read More

What practical, concrete steps would you suggest to put the security back into social security?

December 14, 2016     Leave a Comment

michael-ortonMichael Orton from the University of Warwick organised a series of events on this important theme recently. Our WelCond team members Lisa Scullion (University of Salford) and Sharon Wright (University of Glasgow) co-hosted two of the events. Here Michael summarises the project

Conditionality is a major issue but it can also be seen as part of more fundamental shift over the last thirty years or so, which has seen the notion of social security largely replaced by the term ‘welfare’ and the now ubiquitous ‘welfare reform’, a euphemism for cuts and increasing socio-economic insecurity. Read More

He, Daniel Blake

December 7, 2016     Leave a Comment

Newly crowned UK Independent Films Best Actor Dave Johns talked to Janis Bright about the Ken Loach film’s phenomenal impact

Last year Michael Caine won it. This year it could be one Dave Johns who claims the top acting prize in the European film awards next weekend. His starring role in I, Daniel Blake has taken him and everyone else involved on quite a journey. Clinching the Palme d’Or at the Cannes film festival was only the start for this remarkable film. Now Johns is having to fit in his regular work as a stand-up comic in the North East with requests for interviews from all over the globe. Not to mention dusting off the DJ for those award ceremonies. Read More

Benefit sanctions: the NAO report

December 2, 2016     Leave a Comment

Peter Dwyer and Janis Bright consider this week’s report

This week the National Audit Office published its report on benefit sanctions.  The NAO found that an increasingly harsh sanctions regime, extended in scope and severity, has been running for quite some time with only limited evidence on the outcomes and effectiveness of benefit sanctions leading to increased participation in paid work.

The NAO points out that government has a duty to evaluate its own rules, and to ‘balance their effectiveness in encouraging employment against the impacts on claimants and any wider costs for public spending’. Read More

Do you believe in life after leave? The EU Social Fund and welfare conditionality

August 3, 2016     Leave a Comment

In the aftermath of the EU referendum result, Jed Meers from the University of York argues that the vote’s potential implications on the domestic welfare system should not be ignored.

Before the EU referendum, Iain Duncan Smith – then the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions – clarified his priorities: “my big passion is welfare reform, but Europe goes over everything.” Though intended at the time to indicate the weighting of his personal opinion, this statement aptly describes post-Brexit manoeuvres. As the unpicking commences (or perhaps more accurately given concerns over Article 50, plans in advance of it) it is clear that our membership of the EU is indeed all over everything, welfare reform included. Read More

Attending to employment demand

July 27, 2016     Leave a Comment

University of the West of England research student Coralie Neave-Coleshaw reviews the recent UN report revealing concerns about the UK welfare system, and shows how disabled people are affected by supply-side employment policies

The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) has recently released its concluding observations on the sixth periodic report of the United Kingdom. Its conclusions in respect of social security provisions are bleak; it is ‘deeply concerned about the various changes in the entitlements to, and cuts in, social benefits’ since 2012, and makes several recommendations. These include: reviewing entitlement to social security; reversing cuts; restoring links between benefit levels and the cost of living; and reviewing the use of sanctions. Read More

What can be done about benefit sanctions?

July 18, 2016     Leave a Comment

Our latest guest writer Michael Adler from the University of Edinburgh explores ways to ameliorate the effects of sanctions

photo - IMG_0205In an article entitled ‘A new Leviathan: benefit sanctions in the twenty first century’, which appears in the current issue of the Journal of Law and Society, I draw attention to the spectacular growth of benefit sanctions in the UK that took place between 1998 and 2013. I noted that, in 2012 and 2013, the number of Jobseekers’ Allowance (JSA) and Employment Support Allowance (ESA) sanctions imposed by the DWP, which was more than one million, actually exceeded the number of fines imposed in the criminal courts. Read More

Bank account conditionality leaving some without funds for several days

July 7, 2016     Leave a Comment


In her latest guest blog for us, disability rights advisor Laura Welti raises an issue of practicalities for some welfare benefit recipients


I have recently been approached about the arrangements for those without a bank account to access their benefit payments.

The government, albeit reluctantly, contracted a high street chain to pay out benefits monies to individuals without bank accounts upon the provision of certain evidence. The chain has a presence in many areas of Bristol where I am based (and I assume elsewhere too). But there is a fundamental flaw in the arrangement that has been resulting in people having no cash whatsoever for several days after they should have been able to access their benefit payments. Read More

Tackling Britain’s misleading benefit sanctions statistics

April 12, 2016     Leave a Comment

IMG_7809A DWIn this guest opinion piece, David Webster from the University of Glasgow gives his critical view on the presentation of sanction figures

After their election in 2010, ministers embarked on a campaign of ‘sanctions’, that is, withdrawals of benefit, against claimants of Jobseeker’s Allowance. They inherited a level of 533,000 a year, but drove it up to a peak of over one million in the year to October 2013, while also increasing the length of the penalties. Numbers of sanctions have since fallen, but only to a rate which is similar to the highest seen before 2010. Employment and Support Allowance sanctions have also increased. Britain’s voluntary sector has produced a forest of reports documenting the huge negative impact of the sanctions campaign on their vulnerable service users. But throughout, the government has tried to minimise it. It happened without any announcement, taking claimants and voluntary organisations by surprise. While official statements since 2013 have frequently highlighted the falls that have taken place, during the run-up to the peak they always denied that there was any clear trend. And the DWP routinely claims that ‘sanctions are only ever used as a last resort,’ ‘in a small (or ‘tiny’) minority of cases’. Similarly, it has persistently denied that sanctions drive people to food banks, in spite of  the evidence. Read More

Battling the bedroom tax: the wider implications of the Supreme Court hearing

March 10, 2016     Leave a Comment

Following the recent ‘bedroom tax’ hearing in the UK Supreme Court, Jed Meers from the University of York considers the potential implications of the upcoming judgment for policies relying on elements of conditionality

The much litigated Removal of the Spare Room Subsidy – more commonly known as the ‘bedroom tax’ – has limped its way to the UK Supreme Court.* Many will understandably assume the case has few consequences beyond the claimants involved. The policy is fairly narrow in scope and to some extent has been superseded by the upcoming lowering of the benefit cap and changes to Local Housing Allowance (not to mention the ever-imminent Godot of social policy, Universal Credit). There is, however, more here than immediately meets the eye. Read More

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