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.
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.