The presentations include plenaries from Professor Rik Van Berkel, from the Utrecht School of Governance, Netherlands, on ‘From policy to practice: a street-level perspective of welfare-to-work,’ and Professor of Social Policy at the University of Bath Jane Millar on ‘Women, work and welfare: how does conditionality change choice?’ Read the presentations.
Our project gave evidence to the Commons Public Accounts Committee inquiry into Universal Credit, following the recent National Audit Office report.
Our evidence, drawn from our final research findings, said that benefit sanctions in Universal Credit are damaging and can be counterproductive. They are ineffective in enabling people to find paid employment, our researchers told the committee. For respondents in our study, ‘paid employment was more of a moving target than a destination’.
In addition, the researchers criticised the conditionality applied to people already in work, saying this was illogical and damaging – and in-work progression was absent.
The project is calling for urgent reform of benefit sanctions and reconsideration of the application of in-work conditionality.
Our final findings report is out today. It includes all the key findings and recommendations from our research, plus a section on methods, collected into a single volume. Read the report here
Compulsory full-time work search requirements under threat of sanctions in the benefit system can be counterproductive for service veterans, our linked project Sanctions, Support and Service Leavers said.
Its evidence to the Commons Work and Pension Committee’s inquiry into benefit sanctions said a ‘culture of compliance’ amongst veteran participants in the study got in the way of more meaningful and effective attempts to secure employment. Read More
He told MPs that welfare conditionality does not move disabled people into work – ‘so we should concentrate on support’. Benefit sanctions for this group are inappropriate, he said, and should be ended.
Benefit sanctions for Universal Credit recipients who are in work are also inappropriate, Professor Dwyer said.
Our six-university project launched its final research findings at Westminster on 22 May. A packed audience of parliamentarians and their researchers, representatives from leading campaign organisations and policy influencers heard the project’s verdict that conditionality in the welfare system is largely ineffective in getting people into the paid labour market. The event was hosted by York Central MP Rachael Maskell (pictured right) who promised to use the findings in parliament.
The findings and calls for a rebalancing of sanctions and support, review of the system and ending of benefit sanctions for disabled and vulnerable people were well received on the day and subsequently. Read More
We are delighted to invite you to our next event to discuss the project’s final findings, on Wednesday 18 July.
This free event will provide a unique opportunity to debate the research findings, and how they can feed into the work and welfare agenda across Greater Manchester.
The event includes a research presentation from Professor Peter Dwyer (University of York), Dr Lisa Scullion and Dr Katy Jones (University of Salford), followed by a panel response including Matthew Ainsworth, Assistant Director – Employment (Policy, Strategy & Delivery), Greater Manchester Combined Authority and Catherine Connors, Skills and Work Board Manager, Salford City Council.
The event will be held on Wednesday 18 July, 1.00–4.00pm at the Old Fire Station, University of Salford, M5 4WT.
Places are limited so please register your attendance via this link: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/welfare-conditionality-sanctions-support-and-behaviour-change-final-findings-launch-tickets-46525243255
We look forward to seeing you at the event.
The first in a series of books based on our project research is out now. Welfare Conditionality by Beth Watts and Suzanne Fitzpatrick from Heriot-Watt University will have its official launch during our international conference in June.
Welfare conditionality has become an idea of global significance in recent years. A hot topic in North America, Australia, and across Europe, it has been linked to austerity politics, and the rise of foodbanks and destitution. In the Global South, where publicly funded welfare protection systems are often absent, conditional approaches have become a key tool employed by organisations pursuing human development goals. Read More
Welfare conditionality within the social security system is largely ineffective and in some cases pushes people into poverty and crime, our major study has found.
Welfare conditionality links eligibility for welfare benefits and services to responsibilities or particular patterns of behaviour, under threat of sanction for non-compliance. It has been a key element of welfare state reform in many countries since the mid-1990s.
Supporters say the use of sanctions and support is an effective way of weaning people off benefits and into paid work, or addressing anti-social behaviour. However, critics argue that behavioural conditionality is largely ineffective in promoting paid employment and personal responsibility, and is likely to exacerbate social exclusion among disadvantaged populations.
Our WelCond project, led by the University of York and involving the Universities of Glasgow, Sheffield, Salford, Sheffield Hallam and Heriot-Watt, analysed the effectiveness, impact and ethics of welfare conditionality from 2013-2018. The findings are based on repeat longitudinal interviews undertaken with 339 people in England and Scotland and drawn from nine policy areas, including Universal Credit, disabled people, migrants, lone parents, offenders and homeless people.
Key findings include:
- Little evidence welfare conditionality enhanced people’s motivation to prepare for or enter paid work
- Some people pushed into destitution, survival crime and ill health
- Benefit sanctions routinely triggered profoundly negative personal, financial and health outcomes
- The mandatory training and support is often too generic, of poor quality and largely ineffective in enabling people to enter and sustain paid work
The report quotes a homeless man who says he was forced into drug dealing due to welfare conditionality, while a disabled woman said she “sunk into depression” as a result of benefit sanctions.
The authors of the report say it is time for a “comprehensive review” of the use of welfare conditionality.
WelCond Director Professor Peter Dwyer, from the University of York’s Department of Social Policy and Social Work, said: “Our review reveals that in the majority of cases welfare conditionality doesn’t work as intended and we have evidence it has increased poverty and pushed some people into survival crime.
“What also became apparent was people were focusing on meeting the conditions of their benefit claim and that became their job – it is totally counter-productive.
“You are just making people do things to meet the conditions of the claim rather than getting them into work.”
“Successive governments have used welfare conditionality and the ‘carrot and stick ’ it implies to promote positive behaviour change.
“Our review has shown it is out of kilter, with the idea of sanctioning people to the fore. It is more stick, very little carrot and much of the support is ineffective.”
Other key recommendations include:
- Reduce the severity of sanctions
- Job search support and employment and skills training need to be significantly improved
- The wider application of welfare conditionality within the benefit system for disabled people, homeless people and other vulnerable people, such as those with drug or alcohol dependency, should be paused
We’ll be launching our final research findings this month. It’s the culmination of our five-year research into welfare conditionality, involving six universities and more than 600 respondents. Huge thanks to everyone who took part, it’s much appreciated.
The findings will be posted here on our website on Tuesday 22 May. We’re also holding events in London, Salford and Glasgow:
- The London event is on Tuesday 22 May, 4.30pm, in Portcullis House near the Houses of Parliament. We are grateful to York Central MP Rachael Maskell for sponsoring this event. To attend, please email our Project Manager email@example.com.
- The Salford event is on Wednesday 18 July. To attend this event please email researcher Lisa Scullion L.Scullion@salford.ac.uk.
- For details of the Glasgow event please email us.