This pilot study aims to explore employer responses to proposed new requirements placed on working Universal Credit (UC) claimants to increase their pay through progressing and/or taking on additional hours of work (UC replaces Working Tax Credits). It is led by original WelCond team member Dr Katy Jones at Manchester Metropolitan University.
Whilst policy specifics are developing – trialling is underway – the DWP’s ‘Employer Guide to Universal Credit’ states that workers in receipt of UC may be expected to:
a) increase their hours
b) look for ways to progress in their current workplace
c) search for additional work with a different employer (take on multiple jobs)
d) take up alternative work elsewhere (move jobs).
A new guest blog from Danny Taggart, Ellen Clifford, Jaimini Mehta and Ewen Speed discusses their research which points to fundamental problems with the welfare system.
They report on a collaborative research project was initiated between academics at the University of Essex and Inclusion London, a disabled people’s user-led organisation (DPULO). They found that conditionality and sanctions are ineffective in incentivising disabled people to engage in work-related activity. Instead they create a range of punitive and often perverse incentives that can be detrimental to health. Read the blog
The WelCond project is delighted to be cited in the final report of UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston being presented in Geneva today (27 June). Professor Alston’s hard hitting report on extreme poverty in the UK strongly criticises the welfare benefits system and concludes: ‘Much of the glue that has held British society together since the Second World War has been deliberately removed and replaced with a harsh and uncaring ethos.’
Tom Boland & Ray Griffin from Waterford Institute of Technology reflect on the difficulties of achieving policy change
Stasis is not the same as inertia; it is the state where opposing forces cancel each other out, like a car skidding on ice; the wheels spin but the car doesn’t move.
New Zealand’s current welfare system is no longer fit for purpose and needs fundamental change, according to the government appointed Welfare Expert Advisory Group.
The group’s report says the current social security system ‘was set up in a different time and no longer meets the needs of those it was designed to support’. Successive governments have implemented changes to the system with intended and unintended consequences. Read More
Our project findings on the negative effects of benefit sanctions were cited in two major newspapers recently.
In The Guardian, Social Policy Editor Patrick Butler reported on the Department for Work & Pensions’ decision to stop imposing three-year benefit sanctions by the end of the year. Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd said she agreed with the Work & Pensions Select Committee (to which WelCond also gave evidence) that three-year sanctions are ‘unnecessarily long’. She also said three-year sanctions ‘are counter-productive and ultimately undermine our goal of supporting people into work’. Patrick Butler’s article cited the WelCond finding that ‘sanctions were ineffective at getting jobless people into work and were more likely to reduce those affected to poverty, ill-health or even survival crime’.
Meanwhile, in the New York Times columnist Courtney E Martin raised the question: ‘Does anyone deserve to be poor?’ Writing her series on enduring economic inequality in the United States, Ms Martin considers the advantages of a guaranteed income. She moves on to cite WelCond’s finding that placing conditions on receipt of benefits did not improve the lives of those it was intended to serve, did not increase motivation to work and pushed people further into poverty and negative consequences.
A new study linked to WelCond has revealed that ex-Service personnel with physical and mental health problems are struggling to navigate a ‘baffling’ benefits system and should not incur sanctions.
Researchers from the University of Salford and the University of York conducted 120 interviews with ex-Service personnel and found the need for greater understanding of veterans’ complex needs and suggests that sanctions are not the answer.
Participants in the study were found to have insecure employment, with several struggling with debts and rent arrears, and some resorting to foodbanks or ‘going through the bins’. Others live with embarrassment, shame and resentment at a system they call unfair and bewildering. Read More
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
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.